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Artists have often used the mirror as a means of hypnotizing or deconditioning our perception. By blurring the boundaries between the real and its double, the here and the elsewhere, the self and the other, these specular devices allow us to experience the intoxication of an ego that escapes from its body, while closing its gaze on itself. These intermediate spaces took a singular turn when, for the first time in human history, Louis Daguerre succeeded in retaining fleeting images on a copper plate coated with a thin layer of polished silver. Because of its shimmering, metallic surface, the daguerreotype became known as the "mirror that remembers", speculum memor. From then on, as Charles Baudelaire commented, "foul society rushed, like a single Narcissus, to contemplate its trivial image on metal". Not only did the invention of photography popularize the art of portraiture, once reserved for the elite, but sun worshippers experienced a double capture: face and reflection were reified and multiplied on metal, seemingly doomed to lose all aura. As reproduction techniques became increasingly industrialized, the faces of the crowds were thrust into an economy of flows and signs, whose exchange value, typical of all commodity circulation, was coupled with a fetishization that never ceased to increase people's taste for their images.

Thomas Devaux's Totems demonstrate the return of the repressed phenomenon of the large-scale externalization of faces that first appeared in the mid-19th century. In the age of selfies and Facebook, what we experience as commonplace is, in fact, a singular invention whose power to stupefy and stupefy us is unmeasured. Devaux exposes us to this narcosis, of which Narcissus was a victim. The ruse is all the more formidable in that, continuing his research into rays, he transfers a series of consumer products onto dichroic glass, diffracting the color of their packaging to create a contemplative abstraction. Like a daguerreotype, the viewer experiences his own reflection before perceiving the photographed image, which he then blends with it to become one. Melted into the blur and shimmer of marketing strategies or the apathetic faces of shoppers, they experience a double narcosis. Between self-capture and libidinal impulses, these obscure objects of desire are traps, fetishes erected towards modes of perception-consumption that seem to leave no escape or critical distance. For it is no longer faces or landscapes that write themselves into the imprint of the sun, transforming them into simulacra, but the simulacra of our consumer societies that become the supports of our own reflexivity. Caught up in their reflections, the light, the gold or the intensity of the royal blue, the individuals no longer seem more than the residues of a self in need of otherness. Transfigured into contemporary icons and bathed in radiant light, viewers nevertheless recover the illusion of a fallen aura, experiencing the passage from the present to the image's past, from color to monochrome, from self to infinity. Devaux's Totems both flatter and ensnare the viewer's eye, but in so doing they replay the primordial scene of our own rapture.

​Marion Zilio, critique d'art et commissaire d'exposition

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