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Memory Holloway


Time and its footprints are the topic of Piel’s film and photographs. This interest veers in two directions. One, the momentary effects of time, in which he records the minute by minute changes that occur in human life….. These are the residues of recent moments, small instances of time that mark the minutes and hours of the day.

There is that other, slower movement of time, the longe durée, through which the photographer charts the incremental effects of time on the human body,the slow but palpable process of aging, as well as the effects of time on a community and its inhabitants…..p Brief moments on one hand, time over time on the other. In either case, his method is to move in close to the sitters that he records. He comes to know them and their habits. He converses with them and asks them personal questions. He takes an interest in the events of their daily life, and he is as alert to what they leave behind as to what they embody. Finally, he chooses the arrested moment through which the story is told.

….. in the Facescapes, Piel has turned away from the commodified body towards the socialized body. The clue to his newest photographs lies in the films that run parallel to them in form and content. His cinema project is ambitious, where he is in search of some larger overarching meaning that he seeks to know….

Seen together as a whole, these photographs constitute an archive that functions between two poles. One is abstract…. The other pole is figurative and points to a specific person that we might identify….There is a ‘grotesque’ factor in these photographs that resides somewhere between intense realism and abstraction. This uncertainty between modes is a key to the attraction of the work.

…… “Our skin,” writes Diane Ackerman “is what stands between us and the world. It imprisons us but it also gives us individual shape, protects us from invaders, cools us down or heats us up.”

…. These photographs are the modern analogue to the medieval memento mori, as if to say, take note, though you are young, you too will suffer the ravishes of time. We may not believe that we are old, Baudelaire observed when he was 34, but we will be arriving there very shortly.

“Scapes,” the root on which Denis Piel’s titles are based, are views of scenery of any kind--- of land, of water and cloud, of mud or moods….

“What we see of the things are the things,” writes Fernando Pessoa in an appeal against seeing symbolically. Things must be felt as they are. “Why would we see one thing when another thing is there?”

What these photographs require, is that we look at the thing that is there, and in doing so, recognize that the currents of contemporary photography are perfectly real---more real than we have ever imagined possible.

1 Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses. (New York: Vintage), 1991, 68. 2 Je ne suis positivement vieux, mais je puis le devenir prochainement. Charles Baudelaire, as a young man of thirty-four. 3 Alberto Caeiro (Fernando Pessoa) 13 March 1914 Richard Zenith, trans. Fernando Pessoa &Co. (New York: Grove Press), 1998, 24.

Memory Holloway teaches contemporary art history at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where she is on the executive board of the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture. She has written Making Time: Picasso’s Suite 347 (2006) and Paula Rego: Open Secrets (1999), exhibited in Massachusetts and Paris at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and has worked as art critic in London, New York and Australia. href="">FACESCAPES PART 1- AGING

FACESCAPES PART 1- AGING from denis piel on Vimeo.

FACESCAPES explores the human condition concentrating on the many fundamentals of life that we all share. FACESCAPES is made up of both photos and film used together and separately, each FACESCAPE to be done in a different village in various countries.

Whilst we have all these differences there are some fundamental truths and fundamental similarities between all of us and if we can identify and take those similarities and expand them and make them work together exploring them amongst the different cultures we could maybe see that having all these similarities that should bring us closer together rather than argue using our differences as our base.

denis piel - photographer - filmmaker

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