Station, a series which Vincent Debanne began in 2005 and completed in 2006 during his residency at the Centre Photographique d’Ile-de-France, plays on registers that encompass the various meanings of the term “station”. The principle? A photomontage, created systematically in two stages.
On the platforms of Gare Saint-Lazare, Debanne photographs travellers, stationary during their daily journey, seeking direction. With these portraits he combines suburban landscapes: prefabs apparently made of millboard, pieces of concrete architecture often topped by skies that herald imminent disaster. When recontextualised, the travellers’ posture plays on the semantics of the term “station”: a brief moment on the platforms of the “station”, it hovers between prayer and revelation.
Station combines the idea of suburban landscape, perceived as a generic globalised image, with the idea of the “world-landscape” (Weltlandschaft) of Renaissance painting. In both cases, the landscape is characterised by an allegorical, reinvented place. In Vincent Debanne’s work, the landscape – a thing of activity, impermanence and accumulation – makes itself “the world’s future”: closely linked to the socio-economic fabric, it tasks itself with charting a future direction. These landscapes – in which one space-time continuum overlays another, unreal and visionary – and the guidance-seeking figures attached to them, engender doubt and questions in the manner of Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical and anachronistic paintings.
Onirism impregnates these images, which feign reality by transfiguring it. It becomes absurd. One then feels an ambivalent, paradoxical desire: to see the individual regain affiliation to a tragic fate or collective imaginative realm. Out of shot, an event seems to be going on; but to the viewer it remains indeterminate. Is it disaster, revelation, or advent?
The photomontage aims for a fictitious reconstruction which loses its ideal and univocal character – as when used for propaganda – and creates an ambiguous, dystopian image. Thus, Station acquires a new connotation: a futuristic dimension, in which the term is akin to the mythology of science-fiction. The characters wear looks of amazement and incredulity, with open mouths and stiff gestures – ushering the image into a collective adventure, which is being played out but whose representational artifice invites us to keep our distance. This series invents the tableaux of a kind of contemporary history.
In Station one finds the same tension between present and future that Jean-Claude Guillebaud describes in Le Goût de l’Avenir:“Man can only live and think ahead of himself. (…) Human consciousness takes the initiative to hurry what awaits us (...) ceaselessly endeavouring to change the material of the present by metamorphosing it: through our efforts, slowly coaxing the face of the future to appear in it. In the final analysis, the words expectation, desire, worry, hope and willpower all define the same thing: our humanity.”
In Guillebaud, Jean-Claude. Le Goût de l’Avenir. Le Seuil : Paris, 2004