Artist statement



With the architecture of offices today being more transparent, in 2007 I decided once again to explore this area as an extension of my work of social urban archaeology.

These photographs capture the reality of individuals who are closer linked to modern architecture.  They dig into the world of the service sector through the glass openings of modern office towers.  Open spaces become completely accessible then and reveal the details of a standardized world which usually escape us.

In architectural chaos, it is the recurrence and obsessive repetition which finally lead to the crumbling of unknown beings.

Jean-Pierre Attal

Paris, France 2008



Empty architecture – Dubai – Benidorm – Paris – 2010

The graphical and colorimetric esthetics of this series jumps out at you. One can find it pleasing or not but it’s obvious that this is a work that leaves behind the notion of concept, it’s emancipated from the domineering need of a search for meaning.


Here the photography uses perception more than concepts. The buildings are dispossessed, giving a sculptural effect. We are immersed in a new alphabet built with signs. On the frameworks or structures we can decipher an artistic language borrowed from reality.


These images represent an instant in architectural space, they offer up an inventory of the buildings, a sort of ‘buffer’ stage in the middle of construction.


The photographic object thus drifts towards an artistic alias. From empty architecture emerges “ex-nihilo” a photographic sculpture.




Modeling the urban stereotype – 2000-2001

It was in 2000 that I started to work on a representation of urban society. I imagine the final work made up of a multitude of photos. The shots lead me to isolate several moments of the same urban scene, which by digital editing form a single large-format photographic painting.

These urban landscapes invite a double reading: from afar, a human mosaic, up close, the thousand and one details of the cells that cross it, thus approaching their unique stories. Fake or real, these compositions feature random crowds.

Observed in their daily movements, human tides flow in redundant waves and end up forming a mirage, a « mirror of alienation ». This putting reality into perspective thus sets the scene for a freeze-frame of the supercharged megalopolis.



« Monograph of the social masses » © 2001-2002

This series suggests a certification, a kind of social coring of urban layers. I try to decipher reality by revealing its multiple facets and, finally, I ask myself what is the relationship between individuals and their social landscape.

These photographs show the furniture, dress codes, schedules, which rule life and identify each of the actors of this world. The towers saturated with employees evoke the frenetic activity of an anthill. Does man find himself in these labyrinths, infinite, everyday and imaginary?



Social consulting vol.1 – 2004

Passing back and forth in front of improbable dwellings, most of them on the immediate edge of the Paris ring road, at the very heart of noise and pollution, eventually reached my consciousness. It suddenly becomes obvious to me that we must see the extent of the damage, get out of the trivialization that alienates our appreciation of reality.

It is through a paradoxical visual plastic that brings together opposing entities that I want to recall the depth of social trauma. This radical comparison parodies an advertising campaign. “Social consulting” can therefore be read like a brand, the title like an advertising catchphrase. Familiar with these codes and these plastic signs, the viewer does not perceive the shifted subject until after a time of hesitation.

Here, prosperity rubs shoulders with survival, as if some sort of economic fatality imposed it. The « structural deficit » goes from economic to social. This short-circuit of reality highlights the abyss that separates these egocentric beings from these sets testifying to a desperate human presence.




Point of view



In the heart of cities, the façade of one of those office blocks in a commercial center often appears, especially at night, as the page of a still indecipherable grimoire for which we’ve lost any closeness. The modern city keeps people more and more distanced from its functions and its authorities. The plastics artist Jean-Pierre Attal has armed himself with the photographic means of reducing or trying to destroy these distances by creating an intimacy through <em>trompe l’œil </em>.

Its corpus of urban spaces, in their diurnal appearance, has given a new presence to places of circulation and transit of city crowds. Pedestrian crossings, streets, boulevards, subways and towers undergo the digital treatment of the painting. They thus rediscover a physicality that they had lost in their trivialization, having become these “non-places” of which the sociologist Marc Augé speaks. Jean-Pierre Attal claims it: « This putting reality into perspective sets the scene for a freeze-frame of the supercharged megalopolis. »

If the operational dimension of these office spaces, of these places of the tertiary economy, remains difficult to read, it is because the image of work remains mainly non-iconic. By reconstructing the space of these exchanges in a flattening or in a simulated volume adjustment, the author offers us a rhythmic transcription of this social score. In this he extends digitally and as a European colourist a tradition opened by the American photographer Ray K. Metzker whose work was already in resonance with the jazzistic improvisations of his time as with the geometric abstraction developed in painting. In the case of our artist, we cannot refer to the exercise of collage or editing, terms that are overused today. We would prefer to evoke cloning, that of the cells of salaried defectors: where power praises the individualization of tasks, in truth only the standardization of attitudes can be read.

Jean-Pierre Attal’s mark on our time is linked to transcodings which he likes to steer starting from scenes of urban life and which we see appearing in his « elementary particles », i.e. his images of crowds rendered in barcodes, a symbol of humanity on the road to commercialization. When a genetic DNA-model grid is added, like an extra sense, the artist further enriches our approach to his work.

As this requires a progressive unfurling, Jean-Pierre Attal uses large formats so that the observer must choreograph his own discovery of the work’s scenic space, entering into his own dialogue with this dance of static workers. The most innovative character of the work lives in this movement, in this multiplicity of interpretations. As this is already felt a frieze, the design and understanding is further enhanced on the Internet site which provides a series of horizontally or vertically moving images just like the exhibits.

In this social archeology, he first of all demystifies the places of the societal co-presence of the exercise of power. In search of “monographs of the social masses” he then transcribes the concomitance of economic exchanges and bodies at their service, these bodies to which a fictional space of conviviality is given back and which thus find, in these “cells”, the places in which to practice. their singularity, if not their identity.

Christian Gattinoni

Art critic, professor at the Ecole Supérieure de la Photographie d’Arles and co-artistic director of the European Image Weeks