On Earth as It Is in Star Wars
December 13, 2011
“Guys, what about these Star Wars collages from 2009? The Times is on it!“ After enjoying a long run in the blogosphere before going into virtual hibernation, Cédric Delsaux‘s fantastic series of photographs have resurfaced, thanks to a new profile published by the New York Times this past weekend. As the paper reports, Delsaux’s photos have been collected in a recently published monograph entitled ”Dark Lens,” and which will soon begin circulating in galleries in cities far and wide, from Hong Kong to Paris to Moscow. Regardless of the time passed since their initial exposure, we’ll take these and any other, preferably witty and critical (see Graffiti Lab‘s Carbonite Gehry), Star Wars-related news items any day. Click for more!
In Delsaux’s hybrid world, Darth Vader stands amid the grey of Parisian postmodernism, the emperor convenes meetings in the belly of concrete blocs, and stormtroopers mounted on dewbacks patrol a deserted garage. These juxtapositions make up the content of Delsaux’s images, whose dark, “post-postmodern” aesthetic was borne from circumstance. As Delsaux tells the Times, “My first intention wasn’t to produce a series on ‘Star Wars,’ but to photograph locations that are the makeup of our modernity: parking lots, peripheral zones, wastelands, forgotten places, of both beauty and ugliness, common and mad.” However, his photographs lacked critical depth and appeared as “déjà vu,” in the sense that they were formally identical to, and thus, derivative of the contemporary ruin porn frenzy. At some point, Delsaux had the idea of inserting Star Wars iconography into his hyper-real landscapes, creating fictional scenarios that reinvigorate the franchise and augment the original photography.
The resultant images depict a society in the throes of economic collapse, political instability, and asymmetric warfare. City spaces have been abandoned, but remain heavily guarded, while the constant construction of ships and citadels hums in the air. The (dark) forces in charge have wielded popular anxieties to consolidate their own power over events and the public realm. Swap the stormtroopers or gamorreans for militant governments or even Bloomberg’s “personal army,” and you’ll quickly see Delsaux’s message.
It isn’t surprising to learn that George Lucas can be counted among Delsaux’s many fans, but describing the former as the Star Wars series’ “No. 1 fan” [as the Times does] may be overstating things (see Darth Vader’s “Nooo!”moment). The Creator even provided the introduction to Delsaux’s book, writing that “One of the most unique and intriguing interpretations that I have seen is in the work of Cédric Delsaux, who has cleverly integrated ‘Star Wars’ characters and vehicles into stark urban, industrial — but unmistakably earthbound — environments.” Lucas’s endorsement inadvertently points to the most salient shortcomings of the prequel trilogy, whose wholly digital landscapes sacrificed the material conditions of the ground (i.e. planetary-bound environments) that populated the original films for lush, pictorial tableaux utterly devoid of grit and gravity. Delsaux’s appropriation of the prequel-era characters (Jango Fett, General Grievous, battle droids, etc.), then, fully contextualizes them within the Star Wars universe–at least, the one most of us, perhaps conservatively, limit to the scope of the original films.