Isabelle Detournay - 'La classe A008'
Tue 23 January 18:00
Cité Fontainas, 4 A - 1060 Saint-Gilles
+ 32 (0)2 538 42 20
Photographic subjects often take us elsewhere, beyond that which we could have imagined. At the beginning of 2013, I was preoccupied with the idea of entering the gates of a vocational secondary school. It seemed evident that it would be l’Institut des Arts et Métiers in Brussels. The building resounded with my profession as an art teacher in Higher Education while its facade glared at me every time I walked by. Those young people, of varied ambition, I wanted to meet them, to confront the preconceptions. I had the memorable film Le Fils by the Dardenne brothers at the back of my mind. In other words, respect.
The doors of the institution did not open straight away. I had to convince, reassure, and outline the project to an entire hierarchy of officials before it could see the light of day. And yet, this was only a civic initiative after all. The audacity of the timid can sometimes move mountains.
Then the time finally came for taking photos. At first, I flitted joyfully from students to teachers, teachers to management, discovering basic principals as regards refrigeration, electricity, plumbing and welding... Each time with new possibilities, new people and an incredibly authentic and aesthetic setting. I had not yet found the path I would follow.
And then, I started to focus on the mechanics class, down on the ground floor, in wing A, perhaps not so spectacular, but with a palpable collective energy. The welcome I received from the teachers was cordial and straightforward without frills. Nothing could be taken for granted.
Just boys together. Blue overalls, some tools, old bangers, car engines and parts. An endless choreography replayed. A relationship was delicately built up between myself and the students during each second semester over four academic years, in the same place. This space is made of two interconnecting rooms: classroom and workshop. For me, getting to know the universe of the groups was like disentangling and intermixing fibres before spinning wool, with the aid of the camera.
My images, unrushed, taken and developed with 120mm film using a square format, have, in the end, tried to capture the energy of the bodies, the blurriness, the static, as well as the group of young people in this confined school environment, their workshop and the relationship with their impressively generous teacher to boot.
Occasionally, a remote control with shutter- release, would be handed over to students. The resulting creations can be seen in the digital photos of the poster forming an integral part of this book.
Through this dynamic process, an intuitive cooperation could come into being between each photographer of the moment and his models. Suddenly, the relentless sound of the camera shutter would be heard. These short sessions, rare, so as to disrupt neither the lesson nor any spontaneity, would take place on the sidelines, with the complicity of the teacher.
Class A008 is so-labelled in small lettering above the door, in line with a classification system covering each and every room in the school. Behind this code, lies all that I have wanted to remember:
non-codable, human, inexpressible, futile, banal and above all invaluable.