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Korean Dreams: Nathalie Daost November 13, 2018

Posted by bohdan.warchomij in : Metaphor Online , trackback

Daoust studied photography at the Cégep du Vieux Montreal (1994–1997). Upon graduating, she moved to New York City, where she spent two years inhabiting and photographing the uniquely themed rooms of the Carlton Arms Hotel. These images comprise her first book, New York Hotel Story, published in 2002. New York Hotel Story introduces many of the themes she grapples with in subsequent works, including identity, gender, sexuality, time and memory, and escapism.

Her photographs focus on exposing hidden desires and dreams, frequently as manifested in the margins of society. Too often this margin is inhabited by women, as many of her projects attest. From portraits of female sex workers in Brazil and Japan, to the role of women in contemporary Chinese society, Nathalie explores the darker side of the construction of female identity.

Nathalie is led by her desire to understand the human impulse to construct experiences that allow us to live, for at least a moment, in a fictive world. From female dominatrices at a Japanese S&M hotel in Tokyo Hotel Story, to one man’s decision to discard his own identity in favor of another’s in Impersonating Mao, her work inhabits the liminal space between fiction and truth. Her most conceptually complex project to date, Korean Dreams, explores the meaning of fantasy itself. While traveling through North Korea she observed the manipulation of reality on a national scale, capturing the layers of forced illusion perpetuated by the North Korean government.

Employing a variety of means to address her subjects, Nathalie’s technique plays a crucial role in communicating content. She employs non-digital techniques so that the process of creating the image itself contributes to her conceptual explorations.

New York Hotel Story

In 1997 Nathalie was invited to decorate a room in the Carlton Arms Hotel in New York City – a hotel that, over the past 30 years, has invited foreign artists to transform single rooms. Nathalie created a child’s dreamland, painted in crayola-bright colors and crowded with games and plush animals. After completing the room she stayed on for another 2 years, living in and photographing each room. The resultant images explore the interaction between subject and closed environment, engaging with the uncertainty of self as each room becomes a microcosmic world.

These photos were published in a book of the same name in 2002.

New York Hotel Story, USA Nathalie Daost

Tokyo Girls

This portrait series captures thirty beautiful exotic dancers from around the globe, brought to Tokyo to engage in a multicultural striptease. Captured using Lenticular technology – a technique that imparts the illusion of movement – the women seem to dance in front of our eyes, writhing and gyrating in an endless loop. While this fate could seem melancholy, the dancers have a certain lighthearted frivolity, epitomized by the woman who winks coyly at us while performing striptease.

Though united by their shared occupation, each portrait presents a unique individual. Photographed against a white backdrop, the women are able to tell their own stories, communicating via movement and expression. Nathalie does not allow them to become stereotypes, but lets them reveal the conscious artifice of their trade.

Tokyo Girls Nathalie Daost

Impersonating Mao Head On Festival Australia 2011

The work of Montreal-born photographer, Nathalie Daoust, maps the blurred boundary between reality and imagination to explore ideas of fantasy and escape. For her new project, ‘Impersonating Mao’, Daoust focuses on the interior world of an impersonator who assumes the appearance and bearing of Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China. Daoust’s portraits record her subject’s desire to flee reality and take refuge in a dream world of half-truth and illusion.

When Daoust first met her subject in 2008 – posing as Mao in Tiananmen Square as an act of personal homage – she was intrigued by his construction of an alternate identity from the iconography of his country’s troubled past. In 2010, she returned to Beijing and photographed the impersonator extensively, both in a domestic setting and at sites of historic importance. The juxtaposition allowed Daoust to interrogate communist China’s complicated relationship to Mao’s legacy, echoed in the internal negotiations of the impersonator as he transformed into Mao.

Shot on a stash of old Chinese film uncovered in Beijing, Daoust physically manipulated the negatives in the darkroom to create a dreamy mood of memory and illusion. Each print is sealed in amber-like resin; the resulting portraits combine a 21st century handling of perspective with a visual timelessness, reflecting Daoust’s preoccupation with the borders between contemporary reality and an imagined past.




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