Commissioned work based on the archives of the Usinor steel factory in Trith (France) and on the records of an amateur photographer - CRP/ Douchy -les-Mines

Mixed Media, 60 x 600 x 6 cm

A flat-plan is what one calls, in the lingo of printing and publishing, the lay-out of a book, double pages aligned one after another to reveal its architecture, its editing. In French, the word is chemin de fer – which in reference to transportation means railway. Le Minh produces a series of images which, literally placed on a metal rail running the length of the exhibition wall, follow one after another just as train cars do – or the frames of a roll of film. This train of images, reproduced on various media – Plexiglas to reference the transparency of the original photographic substrate (the glass plate and flexible film), oxidized steel to reference the material produced by Usinor under the alteration of time, as well as brushed aluminum and mounted baryta paper – conjures up at once the materiality of analogue photography, its evolution from the copper of the daguerreotype to the nitrocellulose of 35mm film, and the industrial processes which facilitated its expansion over the course of the 20th century. Le Minh's installation also constitutes an attempt to reconstruct a bygone era from its relics. A close-up of iron rail, a stereoscopic view of a locomotive coughing up its fumes, plans for buildings or machines, the portrait of an anonymous family – perhaps that of a factory foreman? – miscellaneous documents, photographs of prototypes...Placed end to end one after another, these visual artifacts offer us a shattered, a piece-meal but evocative vision of what, perhaps, was once Usinor. They make us reflect on the nature of archives, so often de-contextualized and riddled with lacuna, which help us rescue an immaterial form of patrimony from oblivion but always require decoding – drawing upon deductive logic or our imagination.

Sonia Voss