Palazzo Strozzi

Olivier
Quartier Vienot,
Marseille, France, July 21, 2000
On loan from The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection


Rineke Dijkstra
Installation view, Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina,  Firenze
Photo: Valentina Muscedra

A crucial feature of Dijkstra's photography is her desire to show the true personality of her subjects, as opposed to any simulated one. Up against the contemporary mystifying quality of the Internet and digital manipulation, her images illustrate in a very convincing way how photography is still capable of transcending the surface of subjects to grasp their deeper and constantly evolving identities. Her series feature, for instance, young bullfighters immediately after a bullfight, young mothers with babies born only a few minutes before, and portraits of boys and girls from various parts of the world at the beach. Her work method, whereby subjects are given very few directions and are usually portrayed frontally, leads to the creation of bare and detached pictures in which people display an inevitably fragile and vulnerable air. The Olivier Silva project, which the artist has developed over the course of more than three years, centres on the figure of a young man who in July 2000 voluntarily enrolled in the French Foreign Legion. Dijkstra portrays crucial moments of his intense training in France and Africa - from the day of his enrolment, in Aubagne, near Marseille, to the missions he was sent to fulfil in various parts of the world (Gabon, Ivory Coast and Gibuti) in 2003. The photographs clearly illustrate the metamorphoses the young man underwent over the course of the years: the innocent looking boy becomes an energetic and professional elite soldier enlisted in one of the world's toughest and most controversial army corps. The centrepiece of the work is the artist's interest in Olivier as an individual whose personality evolves in the course of his training, as is clearly revealed by his attitude and the look in his eyes, as well as by the very way in which his facial features change. The training imparted in military units of this kind is aimed at annulling the recruit's personality in order to then recreate it according to new parameters: the youngster draws closer and closer to the prototype of the soldier as we progress from one photograph to the next. Just as all new recruits of the Foreign Legion are assigned a new name and identity, after three years Olivier no longer looks (even physically) like the same person as before. Like an accelerated film sequence, this series shows the dissolution of the original identity of a man subjected to the conditions dictated by an apparatus of power. Every soldier is at the service of the country he fights for and becomes one of its official public representations, embodying its military power. The same power he now wields is that which in a few years has conditioned him - or even produced him, one may say. Through her aesthetically minimalist photographs, Rineke Dijkstra illustrates the paradox of opposition between individual values and those of the community, between identity and conformity.


RINEKE DIJKSTRA (The Netherlands, 1959)
Olivier - The French Foreign Legion, 2000-2003

Rineke Dijkstra has carried out profound research in the field of photographic portraiture. Her subjects are adolescents who are still searching for themselves and who are incapable of acting in front of a camera, as well as adults caught in decisive moments in their personal development. By portraying these subjects, the artist explores the theme of identity and its representation.


Olivier
Quartier Monclar,
Djibouti, July 13, 2003
On loan from The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection

 
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Tina Barney
Christoph Brech
Fabio Cifariello Ciardi
Clegg & Guttmann
Nick Danziger
Rineke Dijkstra
Jim Dow
Bureau d’etudes
Francesco Jodice
Annie Leibovitz
Helmut Newton
Trevor Paglen
Martin Parr
Daniela Rossell
Wang Qingsong
Jules Spinatsch
Hiroshi Sugimoto
The Yes Men
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1.10.2010 – 23.01.2011