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Photography: the burlesque register of inventions

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"Gas Mask, Oxygen Mask" (1917), silver-gilt print. NATIONAL ARCHIVES – 398AP / 41

"The more we miss, the more likely we are to walk", said the Shadoks, those imbecile birds that marked television in the late 1960s. A maxim adopted by some inventors in the course of history, if one Judging by the astonishing and sometimes disappointing images presented at the Rencontres d'Arles in the "Saga of Inventions" exhibition. There are leeches powered by electricity, pre-historic tanks or anti-crushers for taxi among other creations much more efficient and perennial, like the spear -flames or the dishwasher. "The history of innovation, it's also a story of failure", summarizes the historian Luce Lebart, curator of the exhibition.

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We would not expect the study of CNRS photo archives to release such an exciting, aesthetic and funny exhibition. Luce Lebart immersed herself in the images commissioned by the National Defense Invention Directorate, an organization created in 1915 to encourage innovations that can protect or better arm soldiers. Very quickly, she was struck by the surrealistic tone of these utilitarian photos: exaggerated mimicry, staging of objects in incongruous spaces, interest paid. © framing and aesthetics … | "When we see these images, the burlesque side seems obvious, findsshe. But I did not want to project. In fact, one of the operators came from the comic film, and he left his paw on these archives, tinting them with fantasy. AT"

Indeed, Alfred Machin (that does not invent) was a funny character. We see him in an incredible self-portrait where he poses in full action, surrounded by his cameras and projectors, and in colonial dress. Passionate about hunting, this pioneer filmmaker and adventurer had been known before the war for his films shot in extreme conditions – for example by plane – or for grant for the first time wild animals. He signed books with talking titles as Gunshots and targets across Central Africa. Ironically, before integrating the Directorate of Inventions turned to the war effort, Alfred Machin made a pacifist anticipation film, released in 1914 and titled Cursed be the war : visionary, he showed that future fights would be based on airplanes and airships – at that time, the air force did not existâ € |

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