Falling: A Part at The Wapping Project
Falling: A Part is a collection of photographs by Thomas Zanon-Larcher, currently on display at The Wapping Project Bankside. The work is compelling, dark and rich; it sits well within the austere, industrial space. Though an art opening surrounded by people seems the wrong context for taking in Zanon-Larcher’s work, we nevertheless manage to feel a connection with these vivid photographs, so evocative and familiar are they. All of the images are of women engaged in various activities: resting, travelling, waiting for a train, showering. At once remote and intimate, the images show us ourselves, our partners, our sisters, in quiet moments of reflection, weary repose, or urgent action.
This is a narrative-driven project, with Zanon-Larcher having set his subjects into action, often basing his scenarios on existing dramatic work or grounding them in a filmic modality such as film noir. It’s a very solitary exhibition – the experience of looking in on these private moments very much voyeuristic. The subject, often completely alone, is apparently unaware of being observed, as in Julia, Bankside, London, February 2012, in which we are literally looking through Julia’s window into her flat, where she sits sipping tea, or in the end-of-the-day ruminations on the metro of Isabel, Métro 8, Paris, October 2009. The layers of presumption and social convention each reveal a new personal insight as we are aware both of looking at something which doesn’t belong to us, and of the theatricality of the image and the implied permission that such performed moments carry intrinsically. Additionally, the intimacy of many of the scenarios (Madame V, Richmond Theatre, Richmond, May 2009, for instance, in which a half-undressed performer takes a moment of preparation backstage) makes us further aware of the presence of other people, and of the possibility of our being observed as we look.
In all cases, the infrastructure within which these women find themselves is very present – the metal and fluorescent of the underground, the pavement and girders of Smithfield, a series of marching cement columns in Oslo. These are private, organic moments within the vast impersonality of the urban landscape. There is a quiet, a post-apocalyptic emptiness to these pictures; a loneliness which, far from cathartically freeing us of our own feelings of isolation, rather sets into the bone, like winter coming on, and reminds us that we are, after all, islands.