"In seventy years one has gathered ten thousand souvenirs, one has a sort of attic in one’s head. Piled-up things which end up by suddenly re-emerging”, explains the photographer Gilbert Garcin who seems to have decided to profit fully from his retirement by tidying his own attic. With the face of a tranquil father, a respectfully unadorned cranium, a discreet tie over a striped shirt, dark grey gabardine, dark trousers and black slippers, this former owner of a lamp factory has the air of a perfect septuagenarian free from all care.
Debris saved from his son’s mecano set, bits of string and small building blocks, armed with glue, scissors and his camera, he constructs miniscule models, for which he uses artificial lighting “to make more real”, and photographs in this way, day after day, the different acts of his small indoor theatre. Playing with his auto-portraits and cloning without complex his figure of “man-of-all-the-world”, he proceeds to place himself in the most surreal situations. Take for example Sisyphus pushing his enormous boulder or a pitiable man behind a pendulum “Running after time”, “The egoist” playing leapfrog with himself, until he is lost to view, or “The peacock” displaying tail feathers which depict his own effigy.
“We are all more or less on show, is it not?”, comments with a malicious tone the charming gentleman who lightly manipulates the absurd and the auto-derision, with a naïve zest, a distinct taste for surrealism and a Hitchcock-like sense of his own presentation.
“I take notes, I accumulate, I leave it to stew a bit, then I decide which paintings I will realise”, he comments while simultaneously removing from his pockets stuffed with small pieces of paper, the notes of his future compositions. He will spend two or three days arranging the decor of each small scene. “There should not be too big a gap between what I imagine and the definitive image. But now that I have more experience, I make fewer mistakes”. The bug of disassociation, often linked to the art of photography, infected this Marseillais of origin during a period in Arles in the 80s, while working with the photographer Pascal Dolémieux, himself a master illusionist, who initiated him in the secret charms of microscopic landscapes constructed with two nails, three matches and some cubes of sugar.
Ever since, this distant cousin of Tati, this spiritual son of Magritte, has created with humour and a touch of disquietude common in works featuring parody, not hesitating at mocking himself, and all of us at the same time. “’Do not turn around in circles’, ‘Know your limits’, ‘Be master of yourself’, profiting from maxims such as these, Gilbert Garcin elaborates pedantically, not only a sort of fictitious autobiography, but also a whole philosophy of the human comedy”. Without forgetting his latest idea: to propose to other photographers to place their own effigies in all the most inaccessible corners of the world. A way of being everywhere at once, including in the work of others!
Armelle Canitrot, Mr Garcin’s small theatre
in Pour Voir n°4, septembre 2000