Kunsthalle LAB presents a surprising exhibition by the French writer, and also photographer, Michel Houellebecq. Viewers have been able to see his visual work e.g. in the Rester Vivant exhibition at the prestigious Palais de Tokyo in 2016. The launch of the Kunsthalle LAB exhibition, whose curator is Florence Bonnefous, will be held on Thursday, May 17, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The exhibition will last until June 24, 2018.

Since the 1990s Michel Houellebecq (1956) has been one of the most translated and most widely read French writers. Even before embarking on his literary career, he had studied photography at the École Nationale Louis Lumière in Paris. He exhibited his photographs for the first time at Pavillon Carré de Baudoin in the French capital (Before Landing, 2014); further exhibitions followed at Palais de Tokyo, also in Paris (Rester Vivant, 2016), and at Manifesto 11 in Zürich (2016). The exhibition at Kunsthalle LAB comprises a selection of 17 photographs, which were originally presented at the exhibition Rester Vivant in Paris.

Houellebecq in general regards words as concepts and literature as uniquely a conceptual art, because nothing can be refuted, affirmed or ridiculed without a concept and words. Apart from being a literary phenomenon, he also well-known for his films and photographs, which the current exhibition in Kunsthalle LAB is focused on. Despite the fact that poetry enables him to do what is beyond the capacity of photography (to express feelings), their common feature is the creation of undeniable testimonies. This artist regards the “framing” of society as the key moment of photography. He cuts fragments from the world in such a way as to make it seem that nothing else exists around him. His philosophy is a total negation of everything outside the shot.  

The leitmotifs of his photographs are peripheral urban zones, industrial suburbs, or railway stations, but never people. To describe and express the human being he gives preference to literature. Again, to capture a landcape he will reach for the camera. In the works exhibited we often find even places which are usually thronged with people, but here they are deserted. It takes the viewer a while to realise that they are not entirely empty. Houellebecq uses the simple but effective trick of long exposure, hence we see only the “remains” of the presence of people and life.

This artist thinks of photography in a remarkably complex manner. According to him, the person behind the camera is a medium through whom the world presents itself. He is not the subject who decides where the camera is to be situated or when he is to press the shutter button, not to mention the current potential for additional digital manipulation and postproduction. The photographs presented here offer images which not only correspond with one another, or alternatively contradict one another; above all, in our “window gallery” they communicate with the world around.  


Florence Bonnefous is a French gallerist working in Paris. With Edouard Merino, in 1990 she founded the Air de Paris Gallery in Nice, which later (1994) moved to Paris. The first exhibition in the gallery was named Les Atelier du Paradise and conceived as a spontaneous film occurring in the gallery in real time.



Curator: Florence Bonnefous

Opening: Thursday, May 17, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Duration: May 18 – June 24, 2018

Venue: Kunsthalle LAB