Stéfan Piat shows the multi-layered perspective of a panoramic photograph wherein a single male protagonist ‘walks’ through a natural-seeming landscape under The Bridge (2010), as he moves between two urbanscapes. It seems as though Stéfan Piat first made a short film and then cut and pasted every single image from it together to create a photograph. The man seems to walk from right to left. First he looks out from a bridge across the landscape to gain an overview, then he walks down, and sits ‘for a minute’ - as if coming to some insights or simply absorbed in a wandering, present absence. Then he walks on further under the Bridge and disappears from sight on the left side of the photograph. This work could be called ‘narrative photography’, in which the movement of the protagonist’s gaze triggers possible imaginations for the gaze of the viewer. Both are alone, lonely with their view, confronting different gazes and different/similar (in/out)sights. The viewer gets the opportunity to experience a loss (of memory). The protagonist can’t look ‘back’, while the viewer who is looking at the photograph can almost grasp it as a single overview. However, the panorama doesn’t function as an overview in the strict sense, because the complexity of the different perspectives undermines and displaces any and every grasping behavior on the part of the viewer. One can’t grasp the gaze, nor the experience/concept of time, nor the image and its imagination. It seems like the wandering walker knows something that the viewer doesn’t know, even something s/he can’t know. It seems like ‘the presence of the present’ has to be discovered on the left side of the image, while the ‘past presence’ can be detected on the right side. However, time collapses into the ‘eternal time’ of the photographic image. Somehow, one experiences this photograph not at all as an urban scape, but rather as a landscape that escapes from city life by focusing on those ‘natural’ margins that can still be found within the city. Time, the landscape, the solitariness of the (walking/motionless) wanderer, the activity of observing and wit(h)nessing (Ettinger) can also be discovered in other works by Stéfan Piat, for instance, Soliloquy (2011), Brabantwijk (2011), Isola (2010) and Six sound sequences (2010). In Stéfan Piat’s poetic and beautiful interactive video-piece Isola, the viewer decides from how close or far away s/he sees the moving image. Coming too close means losing ‘the image’ – causing the performer to turn his back on the public – while seeing it from too far away means losing the ‘image’ - and the performer - too. So, is there an ideal spot, a time-space where and when the viewer won’t lose either the image/the gaze, or its possible imagination? The mysteries of the gaze, movement and time don’t give away their secrets in the work of Stéfan Piat. The performer and the viewer engage in dialogue in their aloneness, both continuing to live on their own islands. Even if there may be a desire for contact, communication or, on the contrary, to escape ‘social life’ through a rather untypical situation and choose instead an uncertain “freedom” (or prison), it is not sure why this performer (and maybe even the viewer) find themselves in this situation of aloneness/loneliness, which are two different some-things: is it a choice, is it selection, is it a consequence of consequences, what is it? In the meanwhile, the sea seduces and haunts both the performer and the viewer. In Six short sound sequences (2010), it’s rather the observing of linear time and sound which is “on view”, and made visible by six different landscapes in which almost nothing seems to happen. The viewer is invited to meditate in front of a passing (and actually past) presence of almost stilled images and, in doing so, discovers an intense listening to images. Stéfan Piat also creates independent sound-pieces like Maasweg (2011), a river-road crossing the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. Can you actually hear a border/ a limit? In his most recent work Soliloquy (2011) he shows a performer in two different landscapes (or situations): ‘A soliloquy is a device often used in drama whereby a character relates his or her thoughts and feelings to him/herself and to the audience without addressing any of the other characters, and is delivered often when they are alone or think they are alone’. However, Stéfan Piat doesn’t take refuge in a nostalgic (or utopian) classical romanticism, but rather seeks to confront the (contemporary) mental states of aloneness/loneliness a person can find themselves in, questioning and shifting the limits of these states.
Sofie Van Loo, 2011