Showing yourself / narrating yourself
a reflexive photography
At a very early stage Modi introduced herself in her photographs. Physically : an arm gets into the frame or else a personal object : an item of clothing. But no face, at least at first. And yet even without a caption, the image suggests this bond between the subject of the photograph and is author. Some angles hint that is a part of her own body and by extension a moment of her life. Straightaway in the work she is constructing Modi installs this joining of what in on each side of the camera lens. But at the same time the photographer masks her real identity by adopting a pseudonym. Phonetically, Modi can be understood as " mots dits" (words said), leading us towards the truism : an image is worth a thousand words. Said otherwise, the content of the image cannot be exhausted by a group of words ; there always remains a meaning irreducible to verbal language.
If Modi links image and word and puts photography in a complementary relation with thought, it is because the artistic work she pursues cannot be disassociated from her intellectual quest. A quest leading her to read philosophers like Paul Ricoeur or writers like Hermann Hesse. And quote them in parallel with the presentation of her images. To say the last word about words, we should point out that sometimes they invade the picture itself, like this "muette" (mute) whose letters are spread over a photograph of the Face series. This again raises the question of the dissimulation of identity. Modi presents herself in rear view, or when she faces the lens an open book covers her face. In La face cachée de la lune (the Hidden Face of the Moon) the series consisting of three images - better said sequence because of the reference to the lunar calendar - shows the back of her skull on which the tonsure draws the form of this celestial body and its successive changes. But this sequence also speaks of a certain violence inflicted on the body, all the more pronounced that it involves hair, the female attribute par excellence. Modi's process has something to do with Actionism : expose yourself, make yourself uncomfortable, approach danger. Daring characterises this work, if only by the gesture of being naked in the landscape. (In the Viennese Actionists' performances, often extremely violent, the photography recording it is only to provide evidence, a trace of the action engaged. The body itself and the actions upon it are the artmaking.)
Modi as for her, conceives the action on her body and with her body from the angle of a photographic shot. Her attention never flags as regards the components of the image such as light, rendering of colour and texture. Thereby the work is split in two : Modi is both actress and maker of the representation of the staging she imagined. And the two aspects of the process are approached with equal intensity and generate the same tension. Modi insists that if she stages herself it is not for the sake of convenience ; she decided to personally experience the situation she invented. She believes, to use her words, that " experiencing the shot from inside changes the image".There is a kind of necessity in the fact of proceeding this way, she herself dialoguing with the landscapes, with the elements of Nature, grappling with them. In some of her first series, such as Le choix (The choice), the body was like an element placed in the midst of an immense landscape. Establishing with it a geometric relation : a verticality in front of the horizon. Then the dialogur developed more substance. Modi "was embodied" in Nature, as the subtitle of one of her series of nudes indicates. She grew nearer to vegetal or mineral elements, doubtless stimulated by the wilderness of Corsica which she recently adopted. From the status of being a plastic object she became the subject of an action. Even burying her body under the sand, as if she wished to experience-make believe- a form of disappearance. In the sequence Sous le sable (Under the sand) the face gives itself to photography just as it seems on the verge of being buried...Stepping back from 2004 to now, we observe successive movements of unveiling and dissimulation, preence and absence of the face. We have a feeling we are in front of an author who unceasingly questions her identity, her Self. Modi describes her work as "articulated around the self-portrait". If the self-portrait is taken in its narrowest sence : photography as mirror, then Modi's work diverges from it. Conversely, she is obviously telling us something about herself. Something other than her face, than the presence of her body. Step by step her compositions reveal a being who doubts (is this not the dawning of philosophy ?) and silently seeks itself. She is the one who defines her images a "silent" language. Rather than a self-portrait, what she gives us is the gradual elaboration of an autobiography. But rebounding on the title of a book by Philippe Lejeune, a specialist of literary autobiography : is I not another?