Mar 092023

It’s the last few days to see Jean-François Bouchard’s Exile from Babylon at Arsenal Contemporary in NYC. The film in the back room of the gallery gives you a chance to see the people who are missing from the photos. Alone or in groups, they drift between the three screens among the vast open space of the desert.

From the press release-

For this new body of work, the Canadian artist documented a squatters’ camp in California. Driven by homelessness, drug addiction or libertarianism, some Americans choose to reject modern society – Babylon as they call it – to form unlikely communities of squatters and wanderers seeking collective refuge. On a decommissioned military base in the desert, the community photographed by Bouchard lives without any form of local government and without any basic services such as running water, electricity, or garbage removal. On inhospitable grounds, they established themselves in shanties, makeshift tents, shipping containers, crumbling recreational vehicles, and even dens dug into the ground.

For Exile from Babylon, Bouchard has elected to represent the community’s grueling reality metaphorically through a series of still life photographs of trees. Each is adorned with garbage and debris that were either thrown at them or carried through the harsh desert winds. Collectively, these surreal postapocalyptic scenes testify to vast disparities that exist in our modern societies and the quest of fascinating characters for a sense of fulfillment derived through absolute freedom and how it is acquired at a great personal sacrifice.

This exhibition closes 3/11/23