Camille Bardin, independant art critic
There are texts that are written in one go, some that are laboriously delivered and others, like this one, that don't want to come out. (...) I've been nitpicking for three weeks now and I'm forced to face the facts: Julia Genet's work challenges our certainties, it questions the accuracy with which we apprehend the world and the way we inhabit it. My status as an art critic did not allow me to be exempt from this. I was confronted with my own doubts.
It must be said that if Julia Genet thus endeavors to highlight the fallibility of our senses, it is because she has experienced it in her own pulpit, in 2019, when she was informed that a brain tumor was spreading in one of her cavernous lodges and that her sight, the first one, was suffering. It becomes obstructed and deteriorates as time passes and the growth spreads. If the tumor is benign, it will still have taken its visual acuity with it. But it seems to me that in what some would call an ordeal, Julia Genet has chosen to take a stoic approach. She decided to make this new sight her own. To do this, what could be more natural than to do what she has always done? Pictures. A way to sublimate the trauma and with it, a way to weave a link with others, to make them understand what she now sees.
The artist then gleans from her memories, she selects old shots and takes new ones. Then she enlarges them or chooses fractions of them in order to upset their aspect. So much so that it seems that from them wisps of smoke escape, or that cosmic views have been projected onto them. But here there is no photographic editing. The images are her materials and she works on them like a sculptor caresses clay. She applies minerals or all sorts of obscuring materials such as marble powder, wax or gofun. Here we can distinguish a half-open eye, there a neck that bends. The images are blurred, dripping, it shows and disappears. These layers are as many separations between the viewers and the subject. I would even say that these layers are the subject of these works. Of course, all of these photographs are from Julia Genet's personal archives and the people in them are all women that the artist has known or knows. Obviously, she had to have seen them. But they do not matter more than that. What matters here are these covers, these screens, these obstacles that disturb our vision and forbid our access to what is covered.
Julia Genet confronts us with the deficient capacities of our senses. What if our reality changed overnight? What if, even when rubbing our eyelids, shapes kept slipping past our retinas? And then, would it be our perception that would have mutated or the things themselves that would no longer be similar to what they were the day before? These tensions are not exclusive to our time. Even today, we still cling to the cogito ergo sum as best we can. The most conscientious among us will notice the titles of these works. The sum of them is a sentence: "This is how it appeared to them. Those who disagree about this are in doubt. They have no certainty and follow only conjecture." It comes from verses 157 and 158 of the fourth sura of the Koran. A text that despite its sacred nature does not escape the doubts of the laymen. It appeared to them as such. But what does it mean? That it was a decoy? That their eyes have deceived them and misled them? Are they the only ones who are lucid? Don't look for it. Julia Genet's work does not provide answers. On the contrary, it raises a multitude of questions that left me stunned.