La fête est finie




This photograph was taken in Africa – in Senegal, to be precise – on the outskirts of a perfectly ordinary provincial town. One of those towns that looks like so many others nowadays. For that matter, what it shows us is so un-picturesque, so un-anecdotal that it could have been taken on any continent, almost anywhere in the world. As he often does, Paolo Topy has chosen a frontal view that is heightened by the image’s complete saturation. The subject represented has taken over the field of vision entirely. No other point of reference. We are facing a reality that overwhelms us and that we cannot escape from. We have been caught in the trap of a landscape-format view whose huge size emphasizes its monumentality. Its enormity, we might be tempted to say. The image, which is both appealing and ordinary, shows us a heap of all sorts of litter: paper, plastic bags, bottles and a range of other kinds of refuse that is as varied as the artist’s view of this surprisingly brightly colored, shimmering trash seems infinite. This is no authorized garbage dump – nor even an unauthorized one. It’s simply an accumulation caused by the wind. It doesn’t allow us to identify a particular place. It’s just there, in front of us. It’s here, and, if truth be told, it’s now everywhere. The highly colorful mage seems oddly beautiful. An impression, a feeling that the use of the present in the very affirmative, even imperative, title that Paolo Topy has given it brutally tempers and even confounds. It sounds like an order and cuts things short, as singularly as a guillotine. A kind of unease sets in, a sadness too. The party’s over. But what party is he referring to? The one that we’ve all been enjoying for decades. A party that we’ve managed to export to every corner of the world, a party that has gone global, a care-free, totally irresponsible party whose sinister end is garbed in a thousand venomous colors here. The awakening in front of an image like this is as brutal as the one the day after a party when you overdid things. As long as it lasted, we consumed without asking questions, without worrying about our environment, without thinking about taking care of others or even ourselves. We have established that model of unbridled consumerism as a way of life, an absolute model. So appealing and even fascinating that it was all the easier to impose it around the world. Having turned into the easy vehicle for a sub-culture that swept everything away in its wake, it has left nothing behind but disaster – both ecologically speaking and in other terms as well. Traditional lifestyles that respect a balanced relationship with nature, and sometimes even millennia-old cultures, have been reduced to the state of trash and swept away by the powerful winds of overflowing, unconscious optimism. What used to be so lively because it respected life is now dead or dying. We’re reeling, yet we still hesitate to do anything about it. You have to admit; it was one hell of a party! And then, there’s the doubt that engulfs us. The awakening that worms in, despite everything, and, truth be told, a certain anxiety about having to feel guilty. Besides, isn’t it too late already? Blind euphoria keeps tempting us over and over, like a last refuge from an upsetting reality. Our gaze, the one that has landed on this image and been seduced and hypnotized by its colors, has to change. That is the effort the artist is inviting us to make. What’s beautiful here isn’t what we can see, but Paolo Topy’s ability to make us experience the ambiguity of the image to the bitter end, all the way to a consciousness raising.
It is the experience of awakening, of our newly rediscovered consciousness, that truly announces the end of the party.

Yves Peltier

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