The Artist Forum

Fractal Architectures
By Julia Purcell, February 25, 2016

When walking into the Claire Oliver Gallery, Fractal Architectures positions you as both a viewer of the art and active participant within it. Soulier’s surreal photography of miniature homes takes on a new life when elements from the photos leak into the gallery space: accent walls in the gallery are covered in same geometric wallpaper featured in her photographs; physical 3-D models, sister spaces to the ones in the photographs, are dotted throughout the room, using the gallery-goer’s gaze to mimic the human element in the photographs.


Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots Sculpture, 2015, Mixed Media, 51 x 39.5 x 39.5 inches | 129.54 x 100.33 x 100.33 cm

In this way, we are taken back (or forwards, depending on the viewers age) to a time when we were moving dangerously close to adulthood, when playing house turned into real-life. We become the lips in The Matryoshka Dolls 3, the eyes in The Matryoshka Dolls 1, reflecting on shoes and prams we left in our childhood.

The models and photographs in Laetitia Soulier’s Fractal Architectures look both painstakingly intricate and effortless, with hundreds of tiny details coming together to form an organic – sometimes literally, a few pieces depict nature invading the rooms – snapshot, a complete tableau fit for a movie still.  Soulier’s human touch is not immediately evident within this perfection, and one wouldn’t necessarily be able to guess that she constructed each set by hand, without the use of 3-D modeling.


Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls Sculpture, 2015, Mixed Media, 48 x 72 x 34 inches | 122 x 183 x 86 cm

The human touch comes from the figures within the photos, bright-faced children entangled in the environment, adding extra whimsy to the images. Several structural elements and specific set pieces are repeated throughout the works in the exhibition, adding in a layer of slight déja vu when walking throughout the exhibit. The photographs also evoke feelings of nostalgia, yet the sets feel too real, too lived in to be mere dollhouses. Square Roots 3 dances on the brink of adolescence and adulthood, with nature infiltrating the shots indicating a passage of time and growth.

Soulier sucks us into her world, then allows is to make it our own.

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Eyes Towards The Dove

Laetitia Soulier’s Suspended Stories in Fractal Architecture
By Sarah Walko, April 25, 2016

Laetitia Soulier’s Suspended Stories in Fractal Architecture “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being several ages.” – William Shakespeare As You like It, Act II, Scene VII. Exits, entrances, peep holes, rooms inside rooms, characters evolving through generations in one pictorial plane; these are the elaborate worlds inside the photographs and sculptures made by Laetitia Soulier in her recent exhibition Fractal Architectures at Claire Oliver. Each sculpture is a constructed set and each photograph is a staged activation of the sets. She uses the sets to play with scale, creating micro and macro worlds in the architecture and timeless layers in the narrative.

When first entering the exhibition, one might think of other works from M.C Escher to Wes Anderson to Franz Kafka to Lewis Carol to J.R.R. Tolkien. The theatricality and mixture of mystery and absurdity, the false perspective and metaphorical grounds, the clues and detailed points of intrigue — all create a reference to a story I want to read. Another association that came to mind is the shortest story Ernest Hemingway wrote “Baby shoes, for sale, never worn” This famous six-word story provides just enough information to grab one’s attention inquiring — what happened? Or as Henry Green once said of stories, “The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.” Soulier’s works will make one wonder, yet I immediately had a strong sense of how, by simply looking and being active within this architecture, I was already involved, simply by just walking into the gallery. It’s as if, someone else of some other time and scale is peeking through a window I cannot see, writing my character in, writing how I just quietly closed the door behind me and walked up the stairs.


Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots 3, C-Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm


Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots 3, detail, C-Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm

Process and Pattern

Soulier’s process is as fascinating as the result, beginning with a research phase where she conceptualizes the series, deciding on a specific fractal geometric pattern and designs a wallpaper with that pattern. She uses the pattern as the basis for the architectural floor plan of each model and the creation of the furniture, makes a character for the set  and builds it based on their qualities such as size, shape, and hair color. The set is also built from the perspective of the camera, which is on a stand during the entire construction. Every single object in the photograph is built at the studio and once all the props are in place, she lights and photographs the set. Due to the very detailed quality of the architectural model and the large number of lights needed, she divides the photograph into sub-tableau and lights them independently before recomposing them in Photoshop. This last phase of post-production helps to nuance the colors and contrast of the image. The final photographs are large scale and all the images in one series are printed at the same time, so that the light and color dynamics are coherent throughout.

The repetition of fractals, also known as expanding or evolving symmetry, can be used for describing, measuring and predicting natural phenomena and defining the world using mathematical equations. Soulier uses this as her building blocks and then plays with subjective narrative in between this solid framework. An individual’s gravitation towards geometric patterns and the history of this in the collective unconscious in differing cultures also arises when viewing her work. The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung pioneered exploration of the unconscious through research and his own art making. He wrote observations on the motif of the circle after he found himself drawing patterns of circles in his own artwork. Familiarity with the philosophical writings from India, Jung began to study the geometric patterns of the mandala and re-introduced them into modern Western thought. In Indian religions they are a spiritual and ritualistic symbol that represents the universe and serves the purpose of restoring a previously existing order but it also serves the purpose of creatively giving expression and form to something that does not yet exist, something unique and new. Soulier’s work also references this unseen structure of the universe that is underneath all of our worlds.

Often working with child subjects, Soulier does so symbolically portraying the physical and psychological collective growth process. Explaining, “The fractal architecture mirrors the children’s transformational process as the rooms and objects appear in different scales within these spaces which are at once [representative of] their toy, their home, their childhood, the space between their past and their future. Children begin formulating logical reasoning at eight years old, their minds having reached a critical place between the rational and fantastical. This is also reflected in our collective development; the age of reason historically appears in the 17th Century with Descartes and the development of science. This is an age when our conception of the world collectively shifted. This paradox is always at play in my work, which is systematically and logically composed, yet reveals a fantastical dimension.” The work brings out how this geometry can come from both a logical understanding of the universe and from a pure place of the individual imagination.


Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots Sculpture, 2015, Mixed Media, 51 x 39.5 x 39.5 inches | 129.54 x 100.33 x 100.33 cm

Story in Architecture

The work in Fractal Architecture conjures visions of  intriguing architectural structures like the panopticon or the labyrinth, like palaces or hotels, large residential edifice abounding with chambers, nooks, alcoves and stories. They are symbols of homes and metaphors referencing the idea of a home rather than homes themselves. The voyeuristic nature of the panopticon, built so its inhabitants can be observed without being able to tell whether or not they are, specifically shapes their experience inside this anthropomorphic architecture. The name is derived from a reference to Panoptes, a giant watchman with a hundred eyes in Greek mythology.  The labyrinth is an elaborate structure designed by the legendary inventor Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. It is a unicursal path of classical design without, unlike a maze, any branching or dead ends and therefore there is only one path to the center. A labyrinth is not difficult to navigate yet it is often used as an architectural metaphor for our experience of place as both objective and subjective.

The architecture in her photographs and sculpture, forces the viewer to navigate around in their own individual way. In The Square Roots a sculpture from 2015, one might have gravitated towards some of the live plants and terrarium sections immediately and in doing so may realize that the experience of the story had unfolded backwards. Each experience of returning to particular works, could expand upon an original story or started a new one, reflecting on how the architecture shapes us and how we shape the architecture.


Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls Sculpture, 2015, Mixed Media, 48 x 72 x 34 inches | 122 x 183 x 86 cm

Suspending Disbelief

This exhibition elaborated upon a new normal. The intriguing part is how the work takes a definitive structure and forces it open, again and again upon itself until we are left with the most subjective and indefinite things — our perspective, our experience, our point of view. It is that symphonic scale of this work that does justice to the complexity and interconnectedness of our world with all of its logical ground and all of its magical mystery. Author Philip Pullman wrote, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland stated “No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” Soulier’s worlds deliver all of the above plus whatever you, as your own character bring to the tale, table, mirror or window.


Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls 1, detail, C-Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm


Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls 3, C-Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm 

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Delirious Architecture Filled with Fractal Trickery
By Seph Rodney, April 4, 2016

The old saying “God is in the details,” connoting that paying attention to small things can have great rewards, resonates powerfully in Laetitia Soulier’s The Fractal Architectures, now on view at Claire Oliver Gallery.  There’s a rare quality of genuine wonder in these photographs and set models. When I visited the gallery to talk to the artist about her work, I saw people animatedly gazing into her Matryoshka Doll sculpture, talking to each other, pointing out particular features: the spiraling wooden staircase that winds through the work’s core, the tiny vanity with its art nouveau curves, the anthropomorphic clock shaped like the doll figures on the cardinal-red wallpaper that lines the entire room. The work is earnestly charming, but this endearing feel is achieved because it’s persnickety in its material details, layered in its meanings, and visually bountiful. You need to spend half an hour looking at one photograph to gather all of what’s happening inside it.



Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls Sculpture, 2015, Mixed Media, 48 x 72 x 34 inches | 122 x 183 x 86 cm, & The Matryoshka Dolls 3, C-Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm

The exhibition’s title references fractals, which, according to the Fractal Foundation, are “never-ending, infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales.” This comes into play with the mechanics of Soulier’s construction of the sets as documented in the large-scale color photographs that make up the larger part of the exhibition. It’s all repetition of objects and motifs — some beneath the threshold of easy notice.

In “The Square Roots 3”, the green wallpaper is a pattern of alternating nested boxes. The central figure in the scene, a young boy, sits on a cross-sectioned staircase that is also essentially a series of boxes within which are further elaborations on this theme: small rooms that contain square cubbyholes for books, a partially laid floor foundation that reveals a lattice of rectangles beneath it, a drawer spilling out building blocks. Even the boy’s belt contains the wallpaper’s pattern in reversed colors. The work rewards your looking: upon closer inspection, the fractal trickery seems to play out almost infinitely, making delight verge on delirium.


Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots 3, C-Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm

Soulier achieves her effects by playing with scale. Most of the photos feature models that vary between a one-to-one scale and one-twelfth scale. Like the matryoshka dolls, chambers are nested within rooms nested within other rooms. It takes Soulier several months to build these sets — in one case (“The Square Roots 3”) it took an entire year.

Often the works include a glimpse of a child, a being more open to the imaginative adventures that adults tend to refuse, one who is always on the threshold of becoming something new and different. The child’s physical presence within the image frame and his metaphorical status as a liminal being helps to illustrate the paradoxical nature of Soulier’s worlds. The artist told me that she studied logic and epistemology, gravitating toward Lewis Carroll, creator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, because with his paradoxes, Carroll pushes rationality into a corner.


Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots 1, C- Print,  40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm

The fractal interplay in these pieces focuses the viewer’s gaze, but there are other ideas percolating. In “Fractal Architectures: Square Roots 1” (2014), Soulier has included a tree at the basement level growing up right through the floorboards. It’s as if she’s saying that the natural world models endlessly proliferating cycles of growth that, like a child, will always grow out of carefully constructed frames.

Soulier has created a unique set of visual enchantments that, as the poet Andrew Marvell wrote, “grow vaster than empires and more slow.”


Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls Sculpture, 2015, Mixed Media, 48 x 72 x 34 inches | 122 x 183 x 86 cm

Square Roots Diptych

Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots Sculpture, 2015, Mixed Media, 51 x 39.5 x 39.5 inches | 129.54 x 100.33 x 100.33 cm


Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls 3, C- Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm


Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls 2, C- Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm

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Musée Magazine

February 2016

At first look, the viewer may feel they have fallen into a Lewis Carrol novel; Laetitia Soulier’s works of art offer up a world where fantasy and reality intertwine not only to defy common logic, but also to expose the constant fluctuation in human perceptions. Upon closer examination, we see we have been invited into the artist’s fastidious architectural world, a wondrous place of never-ending fractal recurrence. Incorporating her signature large format photographs, handmade wall paper, sculptural dioramas, live topiaries and mechanical vignettes, Soulier’s first solo exhibition gives the viewer more than a little peak into the artist’s studio practice.

The large scale photographs of Matryoshka Dolls and The Square Roots are under the umbrella of a larger project called The Fractal Architectures. The hyper-realistic models, conceived for the unique point of view of the camera, are built in the toy scale of 1/12 to life size and above, following a fractal logic. Within the interlocked spaces, body parts such as a foot, a thumb or a face appear to reveal the multiple scales incorporated in the model. Young characters unfold within these fractal architectures, which are at once their toy, their home, their childhood, their adulthood, the space between their past and their future. After the photograph is realized each of these miniatures is deconstructed. The conception of each model begins with a simple geometric figure; the circle for the Matryoshka Dolls and the square for the Square Roots. These elementary forms repeat at different scales to create an intricate pattern, which weaves together the infinitely small and the infinitely big. This never-ending fractal motif spreads across the wallpaper, and is the basis of the model’s floor plan and interior design. The Matryoshka Dolls, the first chapter of the Fractal Architectures unfolds the archetype of the circle. The wallpaper for the Matryoshka series is made up of nested dolls woven in a circular dance, each impregnated with this repeating pattern. Similarly in the model, the circular archetype puts everything in rotation; the hardwood floor grows in concentric circles, the doors bend in arches, and the staircase swirls to the higher alcoves. The walls undulate organically, folding and refolding in a womb-like interior where the exterior seems to no longer exist.


Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots 1, C-Print, 30 x 60 inches | 76 x 152 cm

Conceiving her hyper-realistic sculptures for the unique point of view of the camera, Soulier’s “sets” are built for the monocular perspective of the lens. For every photograph she takes, a new “stage” is created. Each small book, basket or hat box is constructed by the artist; 3D modeling is never used in creating any part of her work. From concept to construction to the final printing of the photograph, the process can take from 3 month up to a years’ time, depending on the complexity of the particular piece. The architecture of Soulier’s spaces is at once vast and claustrophobic; each room not only offers a glimpse of its recurrence elsewhere, but is also endlessly divisible into its component parts. The viewer senses that the only limits to the system are those imposed by his or her own field of vision.


Photo by Sang Ha Park, at Claire Oliver Gallery

The artist’s inspiration begins with the geometry of a wallpaper design and the structure of the “set” sculpture then follows that fractal logic; Soulier weaves together microcosm and macrocosm all the while keeping in mind there will be a human interaction confined within the sculpture. Creating nested spaces in which the viewer can glimpse a foot, an eye or a face, Soulier uses adolescents to reinforce the multiple scales and meanings incorporated within the work. Stories unfold within these fractal architectures, which are at once the subject’s toy, home, imagined childhood and promised adulthood; this world is the space between their past and their future.


Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots 2, C-Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm

Within Soulier’s work we see mathematical perfection. Using interplay between scales of 1, 1⁄6 and  1⁄12  the artist creates a false perspective. We question our own sense of scale; we are voyeurs to the world behind the production of the photographs and Soulier’s deeper interest: the subjective experience of reality. “In Fractal Architectures, Soulier’s remarkable craftsmanship, exacting eye, and attention to the theoretical concerns in her work have combined to produce a truly provocative multimedia experience” writes Allison Grant, Assistant Curator at the Museum of Photography in Chicago.


Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots 3, C-Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm

“Unlike sculptures, which you can explore from various angles, the photographic sets are built from the monocular perspective of the camera. My research in fractals to model structure naturally translated as sculptures and installations,” says Soulier. “While the photographs offer a constructed and layered time frame within one image, the installations allow the viewers to encounter multiple viewpoints, and to explore my photographic process in a more immersive experience.” 

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Laetitia Soulier
By Ali Soltani, March 9, 2016

I am reminded of the perspectival loom of the Quattrocento period in early Renaissance when viewing the pictures of Laetitia Soulier as though experiencing a subliminal stroboscope that rapidly alternates between a still shot and it’s underlying mathematical lattice-work on which it is constructed. The viewer is plunged into a kinematic rotorelief of pulsating fractals and figures that through a juxtaposition of contrasting scales is effectively internalized, subject to the same perceptive inquisition it employed to examine things. The installation serves as a threshold to an un-folding itinerary from where one emerges like a charged Baudlairean kalaidoscope gifted with consciousness.

The Matryoshka Dolls 2/3

Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls 2, C-Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm

The Square Roots 3/3 - From The Fractal Architectures series

Laetitia Soulier, The Square Roots 3, C-Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm

self portrait untitled2

Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls Self Portrait, C Print, 40 x 80 inches | 102 x 203 cm


Laetitia Soulier, The Matryoshka Dolls Sculpture, 2015, Mixed Media, 48 x 72 x 34 inches | 122 x 183 x 86 cm

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Logo ill 500 wide

Projective City Contemporary Art

Laetitia Soulier – Fractal Architectures
By Ben Evans, January 15, 2015

Perhaps the greatest error of western philosophy occurred when, in the early modern period, philosophers began conceiving of reason and human rationality as not only a replacement for God as the giver of truth, but also as something universal, pure, and given in complete form to all persons equally. Some, like Johan Gottfried Herder, tried to point out this error, arguing that “reason” is actually learned, conditioned, and culturally nuanced. Herder sought to understand the obscure wellsprings from which reason was able to develop, which meant delving into early childhood psychology, anthropology, and the most fundamental of human feelings. He named this ambitious interdisciplinary project “aesthetics.”

Laetitia Soulier, through her complex and layered process, suggests a strong affinity for this project. Soulier typically constructs extraordinarily meticulous, labor-intensive scale models with which full-sized children interact in an unsettling and paradoxical way. The walls are covered in fractal-patterned wallpaper, and the layout of the spaces is similarly suggestive of order, symmetry, and cascading rooms within rooms. Like a Matryoshka doll (the basis of one of her projects), Soulier’s work suggests an infinite vertical movement, interiors always full of ever deeper interiors. Yet such mathematical rigor is offset by the presence of docile, possibly dreaming children. Are they creating these spaces through the imaginative act of dreaming? Or are they in some sense being created by these incubator-like spaces into which they only marginally fit? The best answer is clearly “both,” as the spaces function simultaneously as playground, hiding place, mysterious fantasy, and possibly even prison.


The Square Roots diorama, detail, created for Paris-Scope , 2015

For her Paris-Scope project, Soulier has taken full advantage of the space to turn the entire gallery into one layer of a “fractal architecture”: A hexagonal room inside a hexagonal room, and so on into infinity. Working on-site with table saws and construction tools to duplicate the interior, she has then even duplicated scaled versions of these tools, emphasizing the material process of the construction of interior spaces. Visitors in Paris will be able to play the role of the children in Soulier’s photographs, eerily occupying spaces of multiple scale simultaneously, while viewers in New York will take the place of Soulier herself, peering into the Paris-Scope as though through the lens of her camera.


The Square Roots diorama, detail, created for Paris-Scope, 2015

Laetitia Soulier holds a BFA from the Art School of Cergy, Paris; MFA from l’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris; and a degree in philosophy from the University of Paris. Her work has been exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Beaux Arts de Paris, the Musashino University in Tokyo, and at the Aperture Foundation in New York. She was also selected as New York Photo Festival’s Multimedia category winner and won the Exposure Award grand prize. She lives in New York.


This is Mixed Greens’ fifteenth installment of Paris-Scope — a series of peculiar, collaborative exhibitions that give visitors to Mixed Greens a glimpse into French-based Projective City’s gallery space. The unique series provides a new possibility for the practice of exhibiting aesthetic experience, and allows artists unprecedented control over the gallery space. Through this alchemical experiment into the possibilities of “action at a distance,” the viewer is able to peer into (but obviously not enter) the space both thousands of miles away and inches from his or her nose — to mystically be both HERE and THERE simultaneously.

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Aperture Foundation

By Allison Grant, Curator at the Museum of Photography of Chicago –  July 2012

It is a mistake to think of Laetitia Soulier’s sensuously constructed images as fantastic imaginings that merely nod to their deceptions of scale and form. In her work, she uses symmetry, scale, order, and balance to create images that play with perception and turn the familiar into the foreign, but these tricks of the eye really serve to engage us in Soulier’s deeper interest—the subjective experience of reality. Much like Lewis Carroll’s alluring fairytales, Soulier offers up a world where fantasy and reality entwine not only to defy common logic, but also to reveal the constant fluctuation that marks human perception.

Soulier makes this point in the Matryoshka images from her series Fractal Architectures (2007–12). She builds and photographs hyperrealistic models of quaint rooms and hallways, which feature young women who appear larger than life in comparison to the miniature objects that surround them. The girls are at once stand-ins for characters in a dark fairytale and playful children caught at that unique age when the mind can move freely between rational thought and fantasy. In Soulier’s words, the environments are “their toy, their home, their childhood, their adulthood, the space between their past and their future.” Each room is wallpapered with fractal patterns adapted from the shape of Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls, which were an original inspiration for the project. This repeating motif, from a mathematical formula that causes patterns to telescope in and out like stacking dolls, confuses the scale of the images, and Soulier uses it to effectively suggest that consciousness and identity are always in flux.

Forms also repeat in Palindromes (2008–09), a series of diptychs that pair symmetrical pictures of urban settings with images of identical twins. Here, children and architecture once again stand in for the human psyche, requiring the eye to skip across the picture plane and compare the small details of corresponding forms. As with Soulier’s other works, she finds a duality between our outer and inner worlds, this time using mundane settings and children to create uncanny binary pairings that seem both familiar and alien.

Through all of her work, Soulier brings us back to childhood, when our sense of self was most malleable and the boundaries between reality and fantasy easily blurred. Her photographs compress space and time, jarring our adult sense of the world and awakening levels of consciousness that are within us all, lying just beyond our lucid reasoning.


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Les architectures fractales de Laetitia Soulier
By Julien Verhaeghe, June 4, 2014

The red and winding spaces of Laetitia Soulier’s “Matryoshka Dolls” series allude to the intricate worlds of David Lynch, as well as Piranèse’s deceptive architecture. We find, on the one hand, an atmosphere of oneiric complexity, flushed with color and steeped in mystery; and on the other, mathematical structures, strewn throughout with nooks and crannies that mingle with our subconscious. The varnished wood furniture responds to a soft and melodious luminosity; time appears to be  suspended while the walls are cadenced by geometric motifs. 

In one of the photographs, part of a face peers out, it size suggests a higher world. A spiral staircase, winds like a strand of DNA toward some mysterious hereafter. Among the elements that govern this oscillation between the real and the imaginary is a game of reminiscences and repetitions. This fractal logic acts as a structural lattice, that delineate these worlds, which nest one within the other like Russian dolls. From there the artist points out what begin to take shape between a universe entirely fabricated from the simplest motif such as a circle or a square and a complex reality which is ever changing, and ever expending. The “Matryoshka Dolls” project is based upon an initial motive, that is continually reshuffled, reconfigurated and played out anew. The simple geometric figure, reiterated like a leitmotif, serve as the basis for almost everything in these fictive spaces, and lay out a sort of study of the semiotics of the circle, in The Matryoshka Dolls series, or of the square, in The Square Roots series. 

Yet the fractal nature of these photographs is based not so much on formal manipulations as it is on the logic of the work as a whole. Fractals juxtapose two distinct realities by introducing a singular and indivisible entity — in this case, the circle or the square — into an endlessly divisible mathematical space. We recognize the fractal only by virtue of its tendency to oppose two contradictory forces which nevertheless feed off each other to produce a single system. Thus, an initial movement creates a macroscopic layer, an entire space that appears to break down indefinitely, allowing us over time to glimpse a global coherence, a structural momentum that can be sensed but is never achieved. This movement is accompanied by its alter ego, which, at the microscopic level, is based on the uninterrupted advancement of a corresponding element. In other words, far from answering to a dualistic dialectic that distinguishes between and compartmentalizes divergent forces, fractal logic combines two antagonistic realities to clear the way for a third path, permitting the Whole to come together with all of its parts, just as those parts are giving form to the Whole, with a momentum that takes a cyclical or spiral form. 

This is what we see, for example, in the photographs from “Square Roots.” We are thrown into the heart of a fully-formed reality, into “the big picture”; a boy sits on the stairs, while small hands play behind him, and he contemplates the steps of the grown man above him. But the structure of the photograph draws us into the compartments, which, like so many places and inward moments, represent the stages at which we gain understanding of ourselves and of the world. On a shelf in one of these bookcases, Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species stands alongside countless vials holding the seeds of all kinds of life, like a Noah’s ark fighting the tide of time. 

Using fractals, to connect the Whole to its parts, Soulier’s work reveals the movement of life itself. Just as a spiral combines expending and contracting forces, the viewer perceive simultaneously an image and it’s construction. If fractal dynamics are what enable this nesting of realities, the “Fractal Architectures” series does not aim at the reproduction of a preexisting world, but of a world which is building itself. More precisely, what fractal motion seems to produce, through the manipulation of contrary movements, generation through repetition, and the staging of global momentum through change, is this image, in which we cannot tell whether we are on the side of construction or, rather, on the side of deconstruction. This “zone of indiscernibility,” to take an expression from Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus, interrogates the texture of all acts of creation. When Laetitia Soulier, who so painstakingly crafts each model that she photographs, eventually finishes by dismantling her creations, and recycle the materials in the following model, she inscribes her project into the order of things which we sometimes call the cycle of life. If, the thematic of childhood, framed between two ages, is suitable to a representation of time which rehashes itself, like Nietzsche’s eternal return, it is to question this very moment, which consolidates the birth of the self and its relation to the world, before its dissolution and reintegration.


Dans la série des « Matryoshka Dolls » de Laetitia Soulier, les espaces rouges et ondulés se fient aussi bien aux univers méticuleux de David Lynch qu’aux architectures trompeuses de Piranèse. On y retrouve d’un côté une atmosphère saisie de complexité et d’onirisme, une chaleur chromatique emprunte de mystères, de l’autre, des structures désinvoltes parsemées de coins et de recoins qui se confondent avec notre inconscient et nos imaginaires. Le mobilier de bois vernis répond à une luminosité douce et mélodieuse, le temps parait suspendu tandis que les murs sont cadencés par des motifs géométriques.

Sur l’une des photographies, la partie inférieure d’un beau visage émerge discrètement, ses proportions nous laissent présager d’une réalité supérieure, à l’image de cet escalier hélicoïdal qui se tortille comme une molécule d’ADN vers un au-delà énigmatique. En effet, parmi les éléments qui décident de cette oscillation entre le réel et l’imaginaire, le jeu des réminiscences, des répétitions et des évocations. Celui-ci agit comme une trame structurelle, une logique fractale est évoquée afin de souligner ces mondes qui s’imbriquent comme des poupées russes. Dès lors, ce que finit par pointer l’artiste est ce qui se tisse entre un univers fabriqué de toutes pièces, à partir d’un motif premier tel que le cercle ou le carré, et une réalité qui est tout sauf immuable, mais en expansion. Dans son dispositif, le projet des «Matryoshka Dolls» s’appuie sur une forme initiale qu’il s’agit de rebattre selon des agencements et des permutations. Les formes curvilignes du motif peuvent être réitérées tel un leitmotiv pour servir de base à quasiment tout ce qui compose ces espaces fictifs, écrivant une sorte d’exploration sémiologique de la figure circulaire pour les « Matryoshka Dolls » ou du carré dans la série intitulée «The Square Roots».

Pour autant, ce qui relève de la fractalité ne repose pas tant sur les manipulations formelles que sur une logique d’ensemble. Les objets fractals confrontent deux réalités bien distinctes, en confondant une grandeur une et indivisible – ici la courbe ou le carré – face à une spatialité mathématique réputée divisible. On ne saisit ce qu’est l’objet fractal qu’en vertu de sa propension à opposer deux forces contradictoires mais qui pourtant se nourrissent l’une de l’autre, afin de produire une dynamique d’ensemble. Ainsi, un premier mouvement façonne une surface macroscopique, un espace total qui parait s’altérer indéfiniment, laissant entrevoir à terme une cohérence globale, un élan structurel que l’on devine mais qui pourtant n’est jamais achevé. Ce mouvement s’accompagne cependant de son alter ego qui, lui, repose à l’échelle microscopique sur la succession ininterrompue d’un même élément. Autrement dit, loin de répondre à une logique dualiste qui distingue et compartimente des forces divergentes, la logique fractale compose deux réalités antagonistes pour mieux se frayer une troisième voie, elle permet au Tout de se retrouver dans les parties tout comme les parties façonnent ce même Tout, en un élan qui adopte la figure du cycle ou de la spirale.

C’est ce que nous percevons par exemple dans ces photographies de «The Square Roots», elles qui nous plongent dans un premier temps au cœur d’une réalité d’ensemble, comme ce garçon posément assis sur des marches, à l’intervalle des petites mains silencieuses qui jouent derrière lui, et des pas de l’homme adulte qu’il médite du regard. Dans un second temps toutefois, la structure de la photographie nous rapporte à des cases figurant autant de lieux et de moments intérieurs, représentatifs des étapes où s’acquièrent l’expérience de soi et du monde. Rangée dans l’une de ces bibliothèques, l’«Origine des espèces» de Darwin côtoie d’innombrables flacons contenant des graines de vie de toutes sortes, à la manière d’une arche de Noé défiant le temps qui s’envole.

En passant par le dispositif fractal, en articulant le Tout et les parties, c’est d’une certaine façon le mouvement de l’existence qui est dévoilé par Laetitia Soulier. À la manière d’une spirale qui amalgame une force d’émancipation et une force de rétention, nous avons alors le sentiment de percevoir simultanément une image et la construction de cette image.

 Si donc la dynamique fractale est ce qui permet d’imbriquer des réalités entre elles, la série des «Fractal Architectures» ne vise pas à reproduire un monde préexistant, mais un monde qui se construit. Plus précisément ce que semble permettre la volonté fractaliste, par la manipulation de mouvements contraires – la génération par la répétition et la mise en place d’un élan global par l’altération – il se produit par l’image une zone de connivence dans laquelle on ne peut discerner si tantôt on se trouve du côté de la construction, ou bien plutôt du côté de la déconstruction. Cette zone d’indiscernabilité, pour reprendre l’expression de Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari des «Mille Plateaux», interroge la texture de tout acte de création. En l’occurrence, lorsque Laetitia Soulier, minutieuse dans l’élaboration des maquettes qu’elle photographie, finit par démanteler ses créations, elle inscrit son projet dans cet ordre des choses que parfois l’on nomme le cycle de la vie ou le cours de l’existence. Ainsi, alors que sont démantelées ses créations, les matériaux sont recyclés et réemployés dans la maquette suivante, elle peut alors inscrire son projet dans un habile parallèle avec le cours cyclique du temps. Aussi est-ce pourquoi la thématique de l’enfance, comprise entre deux âges, est-elle propice à une figuration de ce temps qui se ressasse, à l’image de l’Eternel retour nietzschéen, car il s’agit d’interroger ce moment même qui consolide l’invention de soi et de son rapport au monde, avant sa dissolution et sa remise en jeu.

The Square Roots 2 (left), The Square Roots 3 (right), from The Fractal Architectures series

The Matryoshka Dolls 2 (left), The Matryoshka Dolls 3 (right), from The Fractal Architectures series

Details from The Square Roots 2 (left) and The Matryoshka Dolls 2 (right)

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Laetitia Soulier’s Haunting Solo Show at Aperture Foundation
By Allison Meier, July 26, 2012

Underground party organizers TheDanger ostensibly held their final event after seven years of extravagant art-infused celebrations in November 2011, but yesterday an email went out alluding to their long promised return as a re-imagined experience, kicking off tonight with the opening of French photographer Laetitia Soulier’s exhibition at the Aperture Foundation.

Soulier is also honored tonight at the Aperture Foundation with Artists Wanted’s Exposure Award for her photography, which won the Grand Prize in their 2011 competition. The exhibition focuses on her “Fractal Architectures” and “Palindromes” series. The large-scale photographs in “Fractal Architectures” document the miniature lush interiors Soulier constructs with rich detail. The models are then destroyed, leaving the beautiful prints as the sole representations of her strange small worlds. In “Palindromes” Soulier creates diptychs contrasting the symmetry of pairs of identical twins with those of vacant urban settings like parking garages or subway cars, each image mirroring the other in curious ways.


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By Jesse Patrick Martin, Art Critic, Writer, Artist – April 2012

Soulier’s photo series, Palindromes and The Matryoshka Dolls, are part of Soulier’s multimedia practice—including photography, video, animation and model-making techniques.

The Palindromes series consists of sets of diptychs, each pairing a symmetrical landscape with a portrait of identical twins. Though the landscapes are of everyday transitional spaces such as parking lots and subway stations, Soulier captures select scenes at precise junctures to reveal the modern and quotidian at its most uncanny. The twins are situated in studio recreations based on their accompanying scenes, further compounding the doubling motif and deepening the sense of hyperreality elicited by the diptychs. Even the works’ palindromic titles engage Soulier’s mirroring system, as titles like Never odd or even and Level 11 pitch her visual feedback loops into semantic overdrive.

The Matryoshka Dolls, a chapter from her Fractal Architectures series, includes photos of toy- and life-scale interiors constructed by Soulier. Every element of the constructions was inspired by the form of the nesting Matryoshka dolls: from clock to pram to doorway arch, everything seems to curve, curl, and spin with the undulations born from this archetype. By using fractal logic as a generative tool, Soulier built a “dollhouse” that, shown on a grander scale, re-envisions a plaything’s cozy hermitage as a hypnotic and purgatorial cell.

Extract from Nordart 2012 Exhibition’s catalogue
Kunstwerk Carlshütte, Vorwerksallee
24782 Büdelsdorf – Germany


Since 1999, the NordArt has established itself as one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary art in Europe, which takes place annually during the summer. The works of approximately 250 artists from around the world are selected and exhibited.

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