Paul Mpagi Sepuya Alexandria, Alexandria (Wound #2), 2007, color photograph, 16×20 inches. Courtesy of Envoy Enterprises.
ALEXANDRIA (2007 – 2009) is the 2nd project in my exploration of the artist as subject and his attempt to situate the relationships around him through his practice.
The project is titled for the books of Lawrence Durrell’s so-called Alexandria Quartet (1957 – 1961): Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea. The quartet presents four takes on one love story; that of artist Darley, who is unable to make sense of his experience with Justine in pre-WWII Alexandria, Egypt, amidst the flood of revelations provided by a constellation of lovers and friends, who all are too searching for peace against the backdrop of the romantic, spiritual and social upheavals in which they are involved.
Each fragment of Darley’s memory is an image, enveloped, torn, altered. It is a pragmatic process. Reconstructing these images is a tool unlike my camera. Sometimes, though, foolishly, I mistake the images I make for the answers. I do not wish to be like Barthes’ Discourse anymore. It throbs, it aches, because the amorous subject does not let the beloved object go.
My Alexandria strips the narrative from the novels and presents prints of the pages of the four books of the Quartet: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea, from the 1961 Penguin Edition. Each page refers to an emotional state or revelations in the shifting relationships between the characters but without including any plot development. The text becomes an echo chamber, a meditative rosary for contemplation. We are left with a set of experiences, framed, and illustrated. The texts are complimented by abstracted figurative photographs (Wounds), a single snapshot (Moeurs) and related portraits that emphasize the idea that before another portrait can be made, the comforting idea that that portrait will offer the final truth must be abandoned for the sake of a personal peace.