On the occasion of the inauguration of the Briqueterie, The Val-de-Marne’s new Center for dance development, the MAC/VAL (Museum of Contemporary Art of the Val-de-Marne) is holding an exhibition of work by the photographer Charles Fréger.
Situated somewhere between mythology and medieval vestige, dressed in animal skins and plant matter, the « wild men » photographed by Charles Fréger praise the seasons and celebrate cycles of life. Together, they draw a map of ancestral European customs. Carnival, masked rituals, the feast days of Saint Anthony, Saint Nicolas, mardi gras, the full moon, the first Sunday of the year, and the eve of Easter are all occasions for celebrating the cycle of the seasons in religious or pagan settings, with figures ranging from the apotropaic to fertility symbols.
From its beginnings, the work of French artist Charles Fréger (born in Bourges in 1975) has long been anchored in representations of the social body and in the construction of identity and self-image. Since 1999, his « Portraits photographiques et uniformes » have covered diverse categories of individuals and, from time to time, their group portraits, notably in the publications Majorettes (2002), Légionnaires (2002), Bleu de travail (2003) (on ‘blue collar’ workers), Rikishi (2005) (on sumo wrestlers), and Empire (2009) (on royal and republican guards). Uniforms and work clothes, masques and disguises, the costumes and clothing – each of these second skins is endowed with a particular, unifying character captured in Fréger’s typical full-length and frontal compositions.
To create his most recent publication, Wilder Mann ou la Figure du Sauvage (2012, Thames & Hudson), Charles Fréger crisscrossed European continent, visiting 18 countries with an anthropologist’s eye in search of the various contemporary incarnations of « wild men ». Every year, from France, to Bulgaria, from Finland to Sardinia, from Portugal to Greece, without forgetting Switzerland and Germany, men literally get into the skin of the ‘savage’ the time of a secular masquerade.
By becoming a bear, goat, deer, or boar, a straw man, devil, or monster with jaws of steel, these men celebrate the seasons and the cycles of life.
Their costumes, created from plants and animal skins, decorated with bones or belts of bells, their headdresses with horns or deer antlers, astonish with their extraordinary diversity and remarkable beauty.