EBW 001 flat LD

In a poem dedicated to the Etienne Bertrand Weill and written in 1963, Hans Arp describes Weill’s photographs as « an activity of light forged with the supernatural ». For Etienne Bertrand Weill the body of work entitled Métaforme represents the achievement of his photographic research:

… we can imagine that the film wouldn’t have the time to grab the object’s contours any more. A static aspect is replaced by a new image; crystallization of an object’s movement in space and time. All that remains from shape is a new transient appearance; métaforme is the name, which seems to best define it. Its medium is photography”. (Etienne Bertrand Weill in Aujourd’hui, art et architecture, 1962) » 1

E.B. Weill’s pioneering work holds an important place in photographic art’s history, as we are reminded through the retrospective organized by the French National Library in 2012 (Vertigo of the Body), all the previous individual or collective international exhibitions and projections of the « Music for the Eyes ». His works can be found in museum collections in France (Pompidou Center, Museum Reattu, French National Library), in USA, Canada, UK, Germany and Israel.

EB Weill, a member of the Resistance – and a French freedom-fighter, graduated in 1938 from the National School of Photography and Cinema (Vaugirard). It was only in post-war France that he begun his artistic journey: his first period is dedicated to humanist subjects and to architecture. In 1947 he encountered Marcel Marceau through whom he entered the world of performing arts. His wide palette included theater, dance and mime. He formed close working relationships with artists such as Hans Arp, Jean-Louis Barrault, Etienne Decroux, Laurent Terzieff, Maurice Bejart, becoming for many of them their favorite and sometime exclusive collaborator.

His attempts to suggest the energy and dynamics of the stage in one still image led him to personal research and creation: the Métaformes. In 1957, he started building mobiles, made of simple materials such as wood, glass, plexiglas, wire. He studied and conceived them specifically to generate certain families of images that he obtained by submitting these mobiles to simple or complex movements and miscellaneous lights.

« Of course, my first film was bad but I realized that I had touched something fascinating and probably inexhaustible. »

According to Jean-Claude Lemagny, then curator at the photographic department of the French National Library … « it’s about a preparatory elaboration of the « being photographed » – … Etienne Bertrand Weill invented « abstract » images through the fabrication of mobiles, which being animated in front of the camera results in beautiful imaginary volumes, illuminated bodies in a dark skin. » E.B. Weill knew how to push the limits of his art without trespassing them. Before him, Etienne Jules Marey, Eadward James Muybridge, Norman Mac Laren had explored the movement but Weill, through patient, quasi scientific research, provided photography with a lyrical, rich and experimental vocabulary.

« it’s true, science came and took over from magic and, with help from this science that can be a subject of concern as well of hope for human beings, artists have to try to comprehend tomorrow’s world »

With his audiovisual work, the « Music for the Eyes », the photographer searches further the correspondence between music and pictorial art. The constantly evolving artist participated in the development of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total art). He was ahead of his time in how he sensed that projections can become stage set and even characters themselves.

He invented a new kind of photography, born from the confluence of sound and light, matter and movement.
« Like music, métaformes are elaborated out of a repartition in time and space of miscellaneous vibrations or modulations. When an object is moving during a certain period of time, it generates a modulation that the camera makes perceptible to the eye. This modulation turns to an object and creates a succession of modulations, which become like elements of a visual music, through their sequence, metamorphosis, oppositions, fugues, breaks, rhythms, etc. »

Quotations are from Etienne Bertrand Weill

Etienne Bertrand Weill (b. 1919 – d. 2001, France)

1954 Galerie Palmes, place Saint Sulpice, Paris (13 au 29 janvier) : Ambiance de théâtre et autres photographies
1955 Festival de Salzbourg, 17 photos de théâtre et de mime
Galerie d’Orsay, Paris : Le monde du théâtre, trois photographes de théâtre
1957 Librairie « Al ferro di Caballo », Rome et Centre Français d’Études et d’Information, Milan
1960 Expositions itinérantes en France et en Autriche organisées par une conférencière du Ministère de la Culture, V. Faugère
1962 Maison des Beaux Arts, Paris : Métaformes, première exposition
1964 Institut Français de Cologne
Université de Sarrebruck, Allemagne
1965 Ambassade de France, Tel-Aviv
Institut Français de Haïfa
Institut Français d’Eilat
Maison de la Culture de Beersheba, Israël
Collège Culturel de Merzé, près de Macon
1966 Maison de la Culture, Le Plessis Robinson
Sarrebrueck, Institut français
Edinburg, festival
1967 Cloître de la Cathédrale de Vaison la Romaine
Musée de Louviers (14 au 28 octobre)
1968 Exposition itinérante autour du Havre, Centre Culturel des Dombes,
Châtillon / Chalaronne, Bourg en Bresse
Semaine Culturelle de Bobec, Lillebonne et N.D. de Gravenchon Nouveau Centre Culturel d’Yerres
1969 Palais de l’Europe, Menton (15 au 23 février)
1971 Secrétariat des Clubs, Paris
Théâtre Récamier (Compagnie Renaud-Barrault), Paris
Section d’art photographique de Wervicq-Sud, Châtillon sous Bagneux
1972 Musée d’Holstebro, Danemark
Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture,
Malakoff Festival de Collias
1973 Galerie Knoll (octobre), Nîmes
Librairie Lamartine, Paris
Centre Alsthom, Paris
1974 Maison de la Culture, Colombes
Maison Jean Vilar, Marly le Roi
Rencontres de la Culture du Parti Socialiste, Cité Universitaire
1975 Inauguration du Nouveau Centre Culturel du Vésinet
Galerie Cottache, Paris
Centre Culturel de la ville nouvelle de Cergy-Pontoise
Centre Rashi, Paris (13 octobre au 15 novembre)
Paris, parti socialiste, rencontres culture
Chälon sur saône, aspects recherche
1976 Galerie Saint Roch (17 septembre au 4 octobre)
Centre Rashi, Paris
Aéroport d’Orly
Galerie Lilienhof, Fribourg en Brisgau
Bibliothèque Municipale de Troyes
1977 C.A.E.S. – C.N.R.S. Meudon-Bellevue (5 au 9 décembre)
Centre culturel de Garches
1978 Ambassade de France New-York (18 mai au 16 juin)
Musée Guimet, Paris
Musée de Poitiers
1979 Club Méditerranée, Neuilly
1980 Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie, Besançon
1980 Exposition dans les Universités américaines de Georgie, de Murcie, du Kansas de Pennsylvanie, de l’Etat
de New-York, dans les Centres Culturels du Maine, de Caroline du Nord, de Californie et du Wisconsin
1983 Le mime Étienne Decroux et son École et quelques Métaformes, Cinémathèque de Montréal et Théâtre de
1986 Centre Rashi, Paris (18 février au 6 mars)
1988 Centre Yaïr, Jérusalem
1989 Théâtre de Chicago (mime et théâtre)
1992 Alliance française, Jérusalem
1993 Festival du Movement Theater International et Galerie Esther Klein, Philadelphie (mime)
2001 Hommage à Étienne Bertrand Weill, Théâtre Gérard Béhar, Jérusalem
Centre de la Danse Suzanne Dellal, Tel-Aviv
2005 Mimos, 23ème Festival International du Mime : Exposition de 34 photographies de Decroux et de son
École et 2 Métaformes, Centre Culturel de la Visitation, Périgueux, France
2007 La librairie de la photo, Paris
2008 Galerie Hautefeuille, Paris
2012 Bibliothèque nationale de France – Site François Mitterrand – Vertige du Corps

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Cabinet des Estampes et de la photographie, Paris
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département des arts du spectacle, Paris
Fonds national d’art contemporain, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie, Toulouse
Musée Nicéphore Niepce, Chalon sur Saône
Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie, Toulon
Musée Réattu, Arles
Galerie Nationale de Prêt Photographique, Paris
Collection Pierre David-Weill, Paris
Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie, Besançon
Hôtel de Ville, Fribourg-en-Brisgau, Allemagne
Musée d’Art Moderne, New-York, États-Unis

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