Julie Chapallaz invites us on a surreal journey deep into the dreams of an unknown sleeper. The protagonist, who remains anonymous throughout the book, struggles in this mysterious world where the characters he meets all turn out to be more bizarre than the other. He then embarks on a kind of existential and initiatory quest, sinking into territories whose eccentricities he discovers. Everyone seems transformed or struggling against a dreamlike power that moves this subverted reality.
The narrative development is very well done, leaves enough mystery to give rise to the desire to move forward in the story and to understand the different issues of these astonishing sequences, while installing a subtle and omnipresent humor which contributes to a real reading pleasure: there reigns in these pages a joyful atmosphere carried in part by a main character playing the different facial expressions wonderfully well.
Julie Chapallaz’s images participate fully in this singular impression that grips us in the course of the book. Their realization proved long and tedious but this work allows to deploy an original and immersive aesthetic. Cut out, colored, recomposed, they have a particular aura because each portion preserves its adherence to reality (photography) while collectively presenting more plastic qualities: in short, from portions of reality, the author composes paintings. It then cancels the dichotomy of two distinct semiotic regimes to enter into a more complex and stimulating aesthetic experience. Indeed, this tension between these variations of image regimes constitutes a reservoir for the imagination which allows all the most baroque deformations or interventions to arise with delicacy.
The author thus installs a figurative poetics that may seem disconcerting but which, on the contrary, turns out to be most stimulating. We feel good in these images and the various semiotic clashes enrich dynamic compositions. The chromatic atmosphere, reduced to a few nuances, completes this plastic work with great sensitivity.
Responding to narrative needs as well as graphic requirements, the colors clash as much as they assemble: the shades collide as much as they cut out the image and compose it. In doing so, they adorn the story with a disturbing strangeness. Even more, the opacity of the scenario responds to the darkness of the images. This reduced brightness unfolds a visual atmosphere that is perfectly suited to nocturnal wanderings in the misty undergrounds of dreams, and encourages one to physically approach the book, to carry it closer and thus makes the reading experience all the more immersive.
With The deflagration of the bushesJulie Chapallaz produces a very beautiful book, original, funny and touching, and offers a dense and refreshing reading experience as we rarely experience.
We cannot end this presentation without pointing out that The deflagration of the bushes opened the year of the photo-novel for the publisher Flblb. Indeed, the photo-novel has always been discredited, invariably considered from its romantic angle (even openly silly) conveyed among other things by the dazzling success of the newspaper We both.
But that would be to forget that Harvey Kurtzman practiced the photo-novel extensively in his diary. Help!, photographing some future figures of the underground; that of course Hara-kiri spearheaded this means of expression in France, but by exploring its poetic potential (how beautiful were Gébé’s first drawn photo-novels) and subversive, the merry band having wild fun in shooting sessions memorable views; that the new novel has also taken hold of the photo-novel, by Alain Robbe-Grillet with the photograms of Resnais for theLast year in Marienbad or even the albums of Benoît Peeters and Marie-Françoise Plissart, of incredible formal beauty and great literary subtlety; that academic works, mostly from the pen or the coordination of Jan Baetens, have made it possible to endow this artistic practice with a history and an aesthetic, an enterprise which was even crowned with success during the exhibition at the Mucem in 2018 accompanied by an equally admirable catalogue; and of course that Flblb has been publishing remarkable photo-novels for several years that truly work on the possibilities of this practice by offering works of constantly renewed formal originality, of particularly effective humor, and of a literary singularity that disconcerts , so much so that we close each of their publications by saying that the very form of the photo novel has been perfectly invested.
After the two years of comics (2020 and 2021), the publisher is further intensifying the promotion of the photo novel by offering several particularly promising titles (including Gaston in Normandy by Benoît Vidal, to be published in a few weeks and then others during the year) and by highlighting heritage titles or creations that have already been published. This company could not be more commendable as it transpires the love of the photo-novel, and as it constitutes today in France (and more widely still) one of the only creative spaces around this hybrid medium which never ends. not to amaze us. Long live the photo novel!