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A Closer Look - Myriorama

Myriorama by Estelle Hanania
Myriorama is a monograph from Estelle Hanania published by Gottlund Verlag on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name at FAT Galerie in Paris. Meaning a myriad of pictures, the title refers to a series of illustrated cards that could be arranged and re-arranged to make a variety of different scenes, allowing for the creation of imaginary landscapes. In this context, the title removes emphasis from the sequencing. Some have commented on the unexpected juxtaposition of Hanania's images, but while the images in this book jump between a number of her photographic series, there is continuity to the construction. Associations can be drawn between images paired within the layout of the book, however one also gets the sense that a reshuffling would tell a new fascinating story.

The images are not arranged according to bodies of work. Starting with a few shots of the strange costumes from her series Parking Lot Hydra, the book swiftly moves into the Dondoro series, a collaboration with puppet artist Hoichi Okamoto. The images in these series are very different -- the long fur and feathers of the festival in Europe is not just geographically far away from the quite and refined puppets. But the projects are bound together through the otherworldly transformations depicted in these images. Capturing a variety of masks and costumed figures, carved stone faces covered in moss and a few images that feel a bit more random -- a puddle, a burnt out car -- Hanania presents a dark humanity, one metamorphosed by ritual, a connection to a world we seldom see.

From Myriorama
From Myriorama
 There is a strangeness to this book -- not merely because of how unusual Hanania's subjects are. She captures them subtly, with a mellowness that belies the oddness of the scene, somehow making the images feel more off because of her composure. Traditional costumes find themselves in modern landscapes, the ancient characters stand in sneakers on asphalt. Humans are depicted in many of these images, but they are almost unrecognizable, seemly otherworldly -- like the eerie shadow-like man, almost more peculiar than the puppet he is controlling. Piles of masks and carvings have a certain life to them, but also bring the viewer back to ponder the invisible human behind these creations. Aside from a partial face peaking out from a costume (that somehow feels more costume than human), the most tangible human appears at the very close of the book after the colophon, one of the massive furry creatures stands with his hood down, wearing a beanie and smoking a cigarette. A glimpse at the humans inside, bringing us back down to earth as we close the back cover.

Even the letterpress-printed soft cover, each unique in its delicate embossing, ties to one of the images within the book's pages. The book includes two essays -- one in French and one in English -- as well as lyrics presented as a poem by Hungarian black metal vocalist Attila Csihar. The English texts (my French isn't good enough to read the other essay) add layers to this book while not explaining the images, preserving and enriching the mystery and magic. -- Sarah Bradley

From Myriorama
From Myriorama

Purchase a copy of Myriorama here.
For more of Hanania's striking images from Parking Lot Hydra, see the publication from Decathlon Books.