• Charles Fréger, Marin avec collier de fleurs de tiaré, Toulon, mars 2013
  • Légion étrangère, Djibouti, 2011, Charles Fréger
  • Porte-avion Charles de Gaulle, 2012, Charles Fréger
  • Marine Nationale, Nouvelle Calédonie, 2012, Charles Fréger
hyères 27
Charles Fréger Outremer horaires
Toulon Museum of Art
27 September - 17 November 2013

Villa Noailles, Hyères
21 November 2013 - 12 January 2014





1998, Rouen, Charles Fréger takes photographic portraits of sailors from a French naval vessel. Thus, sailors were to be this emerging photographer's first subject. Over the following fifteen years, this military influence would reveal itself as a leitmotif, regularly featuring within the artist's Ïuvre: from Finnish sailors (Merisotakoulu) to the workers and sailors of the Cherbourg arsenal, through Legionnaires, and right up to a tour of Europe and its republican guards which he united within the corpus Empire. In Outremer, Charles FrŽger continues his exploration of the military, now focusing upon enlisted members of the French Navy.

This time the Legionnaires are photographed upon the volcanic lands of Djibouti and are joined by naval officers from Toulon and NoumŽa. The glare of the sand, the smell of the spray from the harbour, the scorching heat of the desert: beyond these uniforms, is the concept of displacement, of these men and their mindset, and finally the exoticism that the artist wishes to portray. He thus confirms the elaboration of his artistic process which was so evident in his previous major project: Wilder Mann. Herein, Charles FrŽger surpasses decisively the strict framework of the uniform, which has increasingly asserted itself within his practice as a starting point, a canvas upon which the artist embellishes his own imagery.

Clothing is a second skin, "skin" because the individual makes it their own, "second" because it clothes another self. Clothing thus becomes a projection of self into a historical, geographical, or cultural elsewhere. The artist has therefore projected himself within this elsewhere, creating his own uniforms (for a republican guard in his project Empire, and even for a character for Chinese theatre, created for a project which took place at the Beijing theatre). Outremer follows in the wake produced by Wilder Mann, as the artist leads his desire beyond the clothes and the community for which it is emblematic, in order to develop it within the sphere of the image and to embrace it entirely. Model, uniform, but also environment, colour, space, are harnessed and orchestrated until they encounter a mental image and give form to the mind's vision. The project started in Toulon, that southern extremity which points towards a fantasised elsewhere, before heading on towards the object of desire, Africa, then Oceania, making a stop, like a counterpoint to these vast horizons, in the closed and incandescent interiors of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

Through this project, the artist addresses the concept of exoticism, in the largest sense of the term, interpreted as alterity, or Diversity. It was Victor Segalen, a naval doctor posted to French Polynesia, writer, and ethnologist, who at the beginning of the twentieth century cast aside all of the clichŽs from this notion, in order to redefine exoticism as the evaluation of the distance between the self and Diversity. Exoticism is not therefore a search for assimilation, but a delectation of difference which is a source of sustenance for desire. It is not by chance that the navy comes and goes as one of the artist's subjects: between these sailors and their Elsewhere, is the sea, a deep blue colour; the same waters amongst which this photographer navigates, pursuing his own white whale with a tenacious desire.

Charles Fréger entitled his project Outremer, in a single word, which in French refers to the colour navy blue; an adjective which, in order to describe a quality of depth, reflects "beyond the seas", and within this space Tahitian mermaids dance, like in the artist's video installation, answering the call of the portraits shown within the exhibition.

Raphaëlle Stopin, June 2013.