Jean-Marc Bustamante Biography

Toulouse (France) 1952

Jean-Marc Bustamante has been working intermittently on a series of photographic projects since 1977. His first series of works, titled 'Tableaux', made between 1977 and 1982 are large color prints of semi-urban sites around Barcelona, taken in areas which he selected precisely because they were derelict and without interest: areas 'where there has been a lot of destruction, where nature is no longer wild'. The series includes more than 120 individual landscapes, photographs that are fragments but aspire to a whole, banal subjects which are classically composed but also reminiscent of commercial advertising.

In 1995 Bustamante started a new body of works titled 'Something is Missing'; these photographs were exhibited in groups of between 2 and 12 images. They claim no reference to specific locations or chronology, which obliges the viewer to find ways into the work at a forensic level, in the hope that the work itself will provide all the information. Most of the time his work is about piecing together, about scooping knowledge out of the slightly familiar. What is missing is frequently as important as what is included, though there is usually a nagging familiarity about something in the work. Often there is a no-man's land of indeterminate foreground that may appear random, but which actually acts as a precise clue to the importance of the work's framing and composition.

In 1983 Bustamante began collaborating with the sculptor Bernard Bazile, and showed work under the name BazileBustamante. These collaborative works were based entirely on visual codes and sign systems, and were about the ways in which art is presented. After the artists split up in 1987, Bustamante made his first sculptures in which he incorporates photography into large, site- specific installations, with sculptural and relief components. His photographs (or 'tableaux', as he refers to them) are not so much landscapes as views, in which notions of stable aesthetics are up for grabs, as in Umberto Eco's idea of an 'open work'. The viewer can ignore ideas of documentary and treat the work as a meditative, reflective thing. Bustamante explains: 'I am not one of those artists who think that a work must deliver a message or be the expression of an author giving an order, a virtuous work, a unique universe that people do not know and should enter. I focus things to the point of a situation which is almost nothing.'

At the same time Bustamante started a new series, 'Lumieres', which are large black and white photographs, silkscreened onto plexiglass, and hung with four metallic hooks which maintain the image at a distance of about 10cm from the wall. The effect obtained is that the image is both projected onto the wall and reflected in the plexiglass - hence disturbing the viewer's vision. The viewer is confronted with an inderterminate space which cannot be focused on properly. In the most recent series 'Aerogrammes'(1997) and 'Panoramas'(1998) the artist begins to explore a similar effect of uncertainty between space and surface - architecture and photography - with monochromatic colours and drawing.

Another influence on Bustamante is Robert Musil's novel The Man Without Qualities. He positions himself as very much a spectator of his own work: 'The spectator knows neither less nor more than the artist . . . I am trying to produce work without qualities.'