Week Forty Two
Beat Streuli (1957-)
Swiss artist Beat Streuli is known for his images / portraits of people seen on the street. For over twenty years he has documented people in cities all over the world – Tokyo, New York, Birmingham (UK), Frankfurt and numerous others – as they go about their daily routines, be that shopping, working to work or just dawdling. By picking out certain individuals – identified as contemporary flâneurs – from the crowds, he highlights how different or similar we are to each other. The images are then shown large scale (often using light boxes), on billboards and windows, as photographs, projections or videos, mirroring the person back to themselves. The work is usually seen in series; a snapshot of who lives in a particular place at a certain moment, be they office workers, young people, mothers, fathers, joggers.
Using a telephoto lens means he literally removes himself, remaining objective and able to capture each individual unawares. His work therefore hints at surveillance, of being watched and then being the watcher. It seems a natural progression to shift from and between photography and video; and a number of writers have commented on Streuli’s influences being cinematic.
What he says:
I want to have installations that are big and beautiful just as the movies are, or great billboards, and without selling stupid products.
Above all, the slide projections allow me to work on the borderline between the static and the cinematographic image. This pivotal position makes one fully conscious of the structures inherent in the two media; what’s more, the succession of images reveals by indirection the spaces that surround my ‘characters’- the actors of my photographs – and it emphasises the intervals that slip between two movements, two moments suspended in time.
What others say:
For Streuli, ‘the man with the movie camera’ absorbs ‘the man in the street’ by transforming the flâneur. The observer inserts himself into the movement captured by the recording device. He doesn’t penetrate the crowd to take its portrait. Rather, he tries to grasp its rhythm, its modulation [ … ] His solution hangs on one method: a method of photography and montage that allows his work to fall between the instant of photography and the duration of cinema, by associating the sequential modulations of a movement with the suspension of gestures and attitudes.
Jean-François Chevrier , art historian and critic
Why I like him:
He has taken something so obvious as the human face, and reminded us how interesting it is. We are all endlessly fascinating. And the work has the potential to say something about how we act and dress, in different cities and cultures, marking a moment in time.