Charlotte Bonjour

Exhibition View, After the Butcher

Exhibition view
Charlotte Bonjour

Exhibition View

Charlotte Bonjour

Exhibition view

ATB NadjaAbt CharlotteBonjour exhibitionview04 1

Exhibition View

ATB NadjaAbt CharlotteBonjour exhibitionview05 1

Exhibition View

Charlotte Bonjour

Smartphone wandering in a sentient forest having lost his network

etching Chine-collé on C-print, 24 x 30 cm, aluminium frame, 2023

atb #101, Nadja Abt & Charlotte Bonjour, 2023
October 27 – November 26 2023, After the Butcher, Berlin

(You will find the full documentation and the complete ping pong Q&A on the website of After the Butcher)

Q & A between Charlotte Bonjour and Nadja Abt, October 2023

NA:How do you approach the process of working on a special topic, like the personification of a phone?

CB: I think it comes from an early conviction that objects are alive. I read somewhere that bonding with objects is a sign of trauma, but it could also be a sympathy for animism.

I’ve worked on and around the camera for many years, and as the smartphone now is the most dominant camera on the market, I began to imagine what this object might feel like. Schizophrenic, guilty, conflicted. Built with components from dubious trades, assembled in exploitative conditions, a consumer gadget that is so close to its user but is also just a shell, the content on the heavy cloud ready to be passed onto the next modeI. Anthropologists are wont to say that the way a society treats its dead says a lot about the way it treats its living. It could be the same about the way we treat objects.

NA:In your work, we often see the phone lying on the analyst’s couch. What kind of “inner struggle” are you engaged in here? Why does the phone seek out the psychoanalyst?

CB: Smartphones also do yoga, swimming or work out on a regular basis. They go to clubs and cafés too, generally with friends of the same generation.

I’ve got the images, but I haven’t downloaded them for printing yet.

Smartphones are growing up and evolving within the society we live in. They are confronted with the fears that inhabit us, with the narcissism that energizes our creative and neoliberal capitalism. They understand very well the limits of growth, and are all aware of their impotence.

Like us, they seek to be free and self-determined. It’s only logical that they lie on the couch. They have a fragile psyche. When they first appeared, they were huge objects of desire. Now their banality, the speed of the market and new sensations like chatGPT makes them anxious. They already dream beyond their borders.

NA:Would you say, your phones have a soul or work like fetish objects for humans, so they get their own characteristics and life?

CB: Each new model comes with the promise of the next upgrade. So it’s more a question of optimization than of relationship. The phone’s fetish character has become almost non-existent over time. The aim is to make them indistinguishable from us, to create a continuation of our being in the digital world. For me, personifying phones clarifies the boundary; from a tech point of view, it would probably be read as an iconoclastic gesture.

NA: In contrast to the new phones being produced daily, cash seems to be slowly disappearing. Can you say something about the dollar bills with holes in them? Is a dollar no longer worth anything?

CB: America is probably the most indebted country in the world, but pension funds, insurance companies and foreign countries own its debt. All these interdependencies mean that a dollar is still a dollar.

Punching holes in dollars is a very simple gesture, but it generates complex images. For example, you say that cash seems to disappear, but at the same time perforated dollars create lots of coins. This reminds us that once a certain rate of accumulation has been reached, money multiplies itself, the trick being to have the right legal system.

But maybe the perforated dollars turn into confetti and celebrate waste, or it’s a hallucination of the smartphone who feels squeezed by the speed of time.

NA: In your imagination, what would be a great day in the life of your phones?

CB: In my imagination phones have – and I think it’s the same for us – a really good time when they are switched off!