Les rythmes circadiens (Circadian Rhythms)

Spring 2023

By Marie-Pier Bocquet, translated by Christopher Squier

Rachelle Bussières has been developing a singular practice of the image derived from photography, located at the crux of process-based artwork, a sensitivity to the effects of light, and a materialist approach inscribed in time, space, and experience. Recent works form an inventory of this evolving corpus marked by new explorations within larger format compositions.

The images invite us immediately to question their methods of production. Their ethereal and enveloping color palette recalls the representation of natural light in painting; however, they are lumen prints, photograms produced by exposing photosensitive paper to the sun or studio lights anywhere from a few minutes to several days’ duration. The surface retains the imprint of light and shadow, that which has been there, left by masking tools and other objects placed in sculptural compositions. If the indexical nature of photography is one of its ontological foundations, then the photogram is the perfect example, as underlined by Krauss; this does not mean that Bussières’ work rests on this definition alone. Her inclination for formal abstraction and her abandonment to the course of chance, as informed by her materials, expands toward a redefinition of the photographic act.

The notion of chance in photography comes from what Cartier-Bresson called the decisive moment, a means of capturing an instant, circumventing its fleeting nature by fixing it forever in the work. Bresson’s concept springs to mind because Bussières pursues its opposite, capturing the flow of time rather than truncating it. This creates a dialog between creation and sensory experience, notably through methods of embodiment, which reconnect the sensations of doing and thinking. She positions this embodied practice in response to the dominant and masculine photographic traditions of control and technical mastery. Instead, Bussières’ approach values intuition, repeated work, and long durations of time, during which light breathes life into particular visual effects: the work’s gradations emanate an impression of incandescence and aura, while evoking the movement of the sun or moon (by the recurrence of circular forms, which recall the language of cosmology) and the vibrations of the sky’s colors from which the work is literally printed. Despite being rooted in the everyday, to which the title Les rythmes circadiens refers, the images’ allusive visual qualities make it difficult not to feel as if one is in the presence of something more than reality, something celestial or metaphysical.

“Each print is a record of its most essential truth,” Robinson writes of Bussières’s practice, affirming its ideological connection to photography, while exposing its greatest paradox: the truth of photographic images is absolute in its essence, but incomplete faced with the “continuous fabric” of the real, to quote Krauss again. In Bussières’s latest series, the work’s materiality functions as an indexical trace as well as a form of truth of experience: the universal corporeality of being in the world among the fluctuations of time and space, which Bussières’ work continues to embody.

Broadside, published by Melanie Flood Projects

Spring 2022

Conversation between John Opera and Rachelle Bussières


sipping air

Summer 2021

By Rel Robinson

In the darkroom, photographers are trained to filter the world into a codified spectrum of greys. Light is allocated with precision, and deviating from this code means untethering an image from its place in a more common reality.

In the interplay of time and light that is the production of a photographic print, one might ask where if not when does the image happen? While an instance of light may be captured within the four edges of a print and the authority of a frame, light is infinite by nature. Sight is simply a negotiation between shadow and reflection. Light rebounds through matter. It is never still, it doesn’t age. We, in contrast, are finite and the photograph offers a remedy for our deeply human susceptibility to time. But light is fickle, the camera is just an instrument, and seeing is just our best guess.

Rachelle Bussières makes photographs without a camera or a negative, exposing silver gelatin paper directly to light; revealing a surprisingly pastel palette. The images in these lumen prints are colored by unfettered access to the sky, the wattage of an incandescent bulb, the brightness of the day, and the clouds in the sky outside her New York City studio. Each print is a record of its most essential truth, a unique impression of its own place in time and space, of the light outside. From dusky tones to the color of the sun seen from behind closed eyes, her images present hues the way a magnolia tree blooms, all at once—making evident the withheld promise hidden in plain sight.

This body of work is more akin to memory than artifact, something flickering in the periphery of vision, or as a specter of a place without a name. 

In Light. Conditions of Time

Winter 2020

by Jackie Valle

In Light. Conditions of Time develops an understanding of the limits and possibilities of seeking out, seeing, and knowledge-production. The exhibition provokes the image-reader to negotiate one’s relationship with the “here and now” in lieu of the “far and out” by placing one before phenomena that lighten/darken, kindle/cool, bind/part, and dis/engage before the eye. Bussières describes her practice as “a combination of materials, documents, and transfigurations of assembled sculptural forms that depend on my conditions of time, material access, and state of being. These things are at the core of my formal decisions and central to my practice.” Driven by an alchemical process of allusion, the works appear in varying magnitudes of incandescence; together, the light formations incrementally pulsate, creating a palpable atmospheric field. The images do their work via un/settling shifts—quivers, trembles—that ever so softly nudge one beyond the ocular, toward a place where the psyche and senses meet.

Drawing from her early background in sculpture, photography, and material research, Bussières uses the lumen printmaking process to compose sculptural arrangements that later become photograms. The images are created by using objects such as studio remnants and formal constructions; as the objects are left on paper and exposed beneath lights for minutes, hours, and days, their shadows are impressed onto the surface. Some of the forms appear sliced in geometry, others in soft, simple form, and several come together and shift apart, gently undoing themselves in gradients. Here, light and time hold court as the exhibition’s primary materials. As the eye moves over the cuts and glides across cool/warm spectrums, one is invited to lean into speculative considerations on the processes that make something visible, the visual itself, and the space between the two. Further, by using actual light and light’s refractions as medium, material, and thing in representation, the exhibition’s works surface the facticity of something (dis)appearing. Phenomena of luminescence and time come together in the form of visible matter; and, by shedding conventions of looking and knowing, the image-reader is able to be imbricated in the spectral textures of light’s movement through the atmosphere.

In Light. Conditions of Time makes no claim toward a specific referent, nor does it build a case for meaning. Rather, the exhibition’s works perform as allusions—spectral matter, suspended at once by obscurity and exposure. Further, by articulating themselves in lucent/opaque terms, they point one toward photography’s technical essence. As a practice of seeking out and holding light to create optical illusions, photography’s work moves throughout, placing one directly within the fissures existing between sight and perception. 

Shadows Are Formations, risograph published by Night Diver Press


by Aaron Harbour

Photography is a place where light and its control hold primacy. It can operate as a mostly automated system in which a picture of the world is captured and reproduced with fealty (but not blind obedience) to truth, the way things are. Or its tool sets – lenses, lighting, printing, digital manipulation etc. ­– can be utilized with varying degrees of freedom to complicate, improvise, complicate the image. A fake ‘or’: more likely it is like most things: a bit of both.

In Rachelle Bussière’s works the capture of place typical of photography is forestalled to that final stage in which light and paper and shape and time push against one another; she creates a delicate rendering of simple forms carries something of the place. The chemistries at play do their part, harnessed to interact in real time with the artist in the dark room without the intermediary of a negative’s recording fixed at another time and place. The light of the site of the works’ making also participates, with the air and sun slipping into the lab and onto the paper’s chemistry charged with peculiarity, personality, simultaneously captured in the work and an accomplice to its making. There is an alien purity to the shapes and colors which surface, subtly but confidently, into the worlds captured and created by Bussière. Heavenly architecture, dawn and dusky skies are drawn sometimes sharply, sometimes in a haze, in pale intermediate colors, in not quite oranges or purples or blush pinks, making a spectral portrait of this particular sun’s travels through this particular atmosphere, these clouds.