Pictorialism and Négritude in the Work of Mirtho Linguet

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In “Pictorialism and Négritude in the Work of Mirtho Linguet,” Natalie McGuire (for ARC Magazine) underlines how this artist from French Guiana explores the tenets of pictorialism and Négritude through his manipulation of images, particularly in his Poupées Noires series. See excerpts with a link to the full article below:

Discourse involving photography and realism has been generated ever since the concept of Pictorialism arose in the late early 20th century. The focus of that movement was a shift of photography as a[n] ethnographic tool to a method of creating art. Mainly this was done through manipulation of the image, pre and post capture, something that nowadays digital photography encompasses completely. In regards to presenting figures and portraitures, this manipulation generated an authorship over the image, the subjects becoming characters created by the artist.

[. . .] The photography of French Guyanese artist Mirtho Linguet – “MIRTO” – exemplifies this, through constructing an ethereal sense of surrealism in the lives of the local characters he presents. Bodies painted to the blackest black are framed in backdrops of ‘natural habitats’, whether that is the engagement with nature or the material environments they live in. The grotesque is sexual, and beauty is revealed as unexpectedly rough in its features.

For instance, looking at the Poupees Noires (Black Dolls) series, the main discourse could be said to be around possession of visual consumption of the female figures as well as the notion of cultural identity. Based on the poem Limbe by Leon Damas, the women stand semi-clothed confronting the gaze of the viewer. (figs 3-4). The poem speaks of “my dolls”, referencing the women as objects, something owned and that can be touched, played with when desired. “Rendez-les moi mes poupées noires; qu’elles dissipent”. What is intriguing about this reference are the circumstances in which Damas wrote this poem. At that time Damas was forming Négritude in Paris, a French movement that aimed to reject western ideology in favour of a ‘black’ post-colonial viewpoint. This movement extended through the literary arts and also philosophy. In a constructed manifesto for the movement, Damas wrote in Poètes d’expression française 1900–1945 that “the time of blocking out and inhibition had now given place to another age: that in which the colonized man becomes aware of his rights and of his duties as a writer, as a novelist or a story-teller, an essayist or a poet.”

So in that context of post-colonial duty in representation, the women portrayed in Linguet’s images seem completely in control of their presence, the viewer can observe but the connection of the gaze prevents any further consumption of the figures. Linguet has not ‘captured’ these women in his images, he has created characters of a contemporary French Guyana woman, one who, in a Damas-esque fashion, is not under the thumb of western societies but generates a unique ideology that is equally as powerful and captivating.

Mirtho Linguet, known as Mirto, was born on October 25, 1968 in Cayenne (French Guiana). After his studies at the school of photography MI21 in Montreuil, he lived and worked in Zurich, Switzerland. Today, Mirto lives and works in French Guiana.

For full bio, see http://arcthemagazine.com/arc/2013/06/mirtho-linguet/

Read full article at http://arcthemagazine.com/arc/2013/07/pictorialism-and-negritude-in-the-work-of-mirtho-linguet/

See more on the artist at http://mirto.fr/

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