“We can consider the entire body of Antoine d’Agata’s extreme art as a wide-ranging variant of Hölderlin’s reflection on the modern tragedy, which is, to borrow the conclusion of Reiner Schürmann, the pathetic condition of being.
Prisons, summary executions, bordellos, soulless buildings, secular mysticism evoking Artaud or Bacon, convulsion (salvation by sensation, even that of agony): each of d’Agata’s photographs is shorthand for a form being placed in a box, a ‘wandering beneath the unthinkable’ to use the words of Hölderlin again, an administration of an infinite death, even if it is delivered in the most executive manner possible. Modern death is an impersonal, interchangeable compartment: ‘the coldest, most trivial death, which is no more important than a sip of water or a head of cabbage,’ as Hegel, Hölderlin’s childhood friend, once remarked.
… Like Artaud, d’Agata seeks to portray, ‘the bones of the soul’s music as they lie recumbent within Pandora’s box, bones that exhale beyond their own box and blow upon the conjoined earthen boxes (…) that beckon for the soul that is still nailed through holes in both feet.’
The anonymous death rattle, whether of a militiaman with a bullet in his head, a Mexican prisoner, or a Cambodian prostitute screaming her distress in orgasm, this is what d’Agata’s pictures depict. Boxes all over the world are moaning. Objects are animated by a lifeforce that is nothing other than the death of beings. It is this paradoxical life force that d’Agata explores with his art.”
Mehdi Belhaj Kacem