The series of twenty large photographs depicting the Toyota assembly plant in Valenciennes, France can be distinguished in many respects from previous works that Stéphane Couturier has carried out on urban work sites. While previously he transformed buildings under construction into veritable refined geometrical pictures, with careful rigor in regard to the composition, the images of the current series on the contrary are flowing, mystifying and teeming with elements; invertebrate, so to speak.
The technical and visual protocols put into play as a matter of fact obey a visual and deliberate conceptual orientation—to divert the documentary aspect of photography, to shift and transcend its narrative dimension, to question its reputation as beholder of truth.
Stéphane Couturier’s works at the Valenciennes Toyota factory are in a flagrant break away from photography’s documentary system of verity. But, the break away is not a total one. Somewhere between digital and gelatine silver technique, between detachment from the reality of things and persistence of close adherence to them, the works propose a kind of ‘figurative abstraction’—a combination and shock of forms, of realities, of systems of verity, of the nature of the imagery, photography and painting.
In front of the Toyota factory assembly line, that is say – confronted by a veritable metaphor of movement that is perpetual and implacable as is today’s technological world, rationalized, disembodied, automated and increasingly subject to the silent and ruthless profit logic – Stéphane Couturier knows that reality is no longer made up of isolated things, of fixed geometrical shapes, but that it has become a reality of flux, in continuous movement and transformation.
The images by Stéphane Couturier visualize this major phenomenon in today’s world whereby the domains of expertise and rationality, the most emblematic of 20th century Western civilization, cede place to the new logic of flux.
Thus it is necessary to unbridle photographic fixedness, to melt it, to abolish its perspective framework, to enable it to be able to gather (and not seize) content and forms in fusion within an accelerating and evolving world.
But, that comes down to deviating photography outside of itself. Such is the reasoning and pertinence behind the process conceived by Stéphane Couturier. Not to explain, inform or document anything whatsoever, but to have us experience visually, at the nerve center of the world, some of the forces that are driving it.