Pascal Greco, Place(s), Chambre Noire, 2021, book cover.
Swiss-Italian photographer Pascal Greco examines the changing notion of place, space, and travel in the age of video games and lockdowns. His latest project, Place(s) is an investigation of the photographic potential of a video game’s landscapes through the lens of its photo mode. With a curious catch: the resulting images are presented in the traditional square-sized Polaroid format rather than the more "cinematic" format of gaming. By adding a level of mediation - or rather, remediation - Greco applies a unique approach to the growing practice of in-game photography and merging the vestiges of "photography" (which climaxed with the emerge of "instant" photography) with the new normal of "post-photography" (Greco has used this format before, including the ambitious Polaroid 664 Project). Like several unplanned projects that eventually became iconic and perhaps also ironic (Michael Wolf's A Series of Unfortunate Events comes to mind), Greco's Place(s) is the outcome of a catastrophic event. Greco originally planned a trip to Iceland for a photoshoot, but his plans were derailed by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The journey was meant as a continuation of his 2013 project No Cliché, which aimed at conveying an unusual imagery of much-photographed Iceland. Stuck at home, he began exploring the potential of the so-called photo mode within Hideo Kojima's groundbreaking Death Stranding. The game offers a sophisticated tool for taking and manipulating "photographs", allowing the player to manage most parameters of a "real" camera ( aperture, zoom, focus ) and some basic post production tools (e.g., contrast and saturation). The rest is history. The video game constraints and affordances led Greco do rethink his approach to photography. Place(s) is a photographic documentation of landscapes evocative of a mystical and idealized Iceland, questioning the very notion of place in the digital age but also the very notion of travelling in an age where globalization is finally collapsing and boundaries have multiplied. As Greco writes:
In March 2020 I had planned a trip to Iceland to continue my photographic project started with my book No Cliché, which aimed at conveying an unusual imagery of much photographed Iceland. Due to travel restrictions, I was unable to set out on the journey. During the lockdown I discovered the game Death Stranding, on PlayStation 4, with its landscapes reminiscent of Iceland and instead started taking pictures in the game. This unexpected turn of events gave a new dimension to the project. Using the game and its constraints as a playground for experimentation, I undertook a meticulous yet playful photographic process, translating my approach to photography to the making of digital images. In the same way my polaroids had previously challenged the stereotyped representations of the country, the images that have emerged frame aspects of the landscape that usually remain unseen. But where No Cliché goes against the dominant imagery emanating from the island, Place(s) embraces its codes and plays with the ambiguity of an anonymous landscape made familiar. As digital images, they question both in-game and traditional photography by setting a point where the two meet and intertwine.
Pascal Greco, Place(s), 2021
Pascal Greco's Place(s) will be published by Chambre Noire and is now available for pre-order both on the artist's website and from the publisher. Designed by Ann Griffin, it will be sold in limited edition of 300 copies on October 18 2021 (40% of the profits will be donated to Choose Love). Place(s) includes 55 photographs and is printed in a bilingual edition (French and English). Greco discussed his project with Marco De Mutiis, Digital Curator at Fotomuseum Winterthur and co-curator of the exhibition How to Win at Photography - Image Making as Play, on September 11 2021. The book launch will take place at the Centre de la Photographie Genève on October 14 2021.
Greco's fascination for video games is not new. In a sense, the artist has been exploring the pervasive influence of gaming on culture and society for at least a decade. One of his most fascinating projects is the multimedia Hong Kong Neon (2021) which comprises a book and a film. An homage to the now disappearing neon signage in Hong Kong, the book is evocative of an age, the Eighties, marked by the emergence of electronic music and video games.
Pascal Greco, Hong Kong Neon, 2021
Pascal Greco is a self-taught filmmaker, cinematographer and photographer, living and working in Geneva. Among his most celebrated projects are Shadow, which was presented in 2017 at the LU in Nantes and at the GIFF in Geneva, a magnetic, intense and hypnotic film with actress Asia Argento and her daughter Anna-Lou Castoldi, that he codirected with Philippe Pellaud. Shadow was released in a limited vinyl edition with the film inside on a private streaming, in January 2019, on the label Pamela and Poor Records. His first feature length documentary, The Scavengers (coming soon), describes the older community living Hong Kong, with insufficient or no retirement to cover their basic needs and expenses, and who, to meet their needs, collect all day long, paper, cardboard or sagex, to resell them by the kilo at a ridiculous price. His photographic work focuses on architecture and its place in the landscape. As of today, six works of his photographs have been published. Kyoshu, nostalgie du pays (Infolio, 2007) presents moments of life across Japan. Seoul Shanghai Tokyo (idpure, 2010) brings together photographs that reveal the contrast between modern architecture and the dilapidated architecture of these three big cities, RATRAK (Verlhac, 2012), with Gabriel Mauron, reveals the ski resorts, at night, with the machine’s beam of light. No Cliché (Jane & Jeremy, 2013) offers Polaroids of architectures lost in the vastness of Iceland. Hong Kong - Perspectives, Prospectives, Typologies (Infolio & Mccm Creations, 2018) describes the typology of Hong Kong’s atypical and unique architecture. In April 2021, Greco released his book & film Hong Kong Neon (Infolio & Mccm Creations, 2021), which he produced between 2012 to December 2019, which ended his diptych on Hong Kong. His work was exhibited internationally at Espace abstract, Lausanne, Musée Alexis Forel, Morges, Guillaume Daeppen Galerie, Basel (solo) and La Ferme de la Chapelle, Geneva and in Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne (group) among others. Gis work was featured in several publication, including The Guardian, Vice, Monocle, Fast Company, Bloomberg CityLab, GUP, Polka and Fisheye.