The concept of exile is one that is unsettling due in part to its name; it suggests that one is barred and, therefore, doomed to loneliness. However, self-exile is often depicted as a form of exploration by the person who claims it.
So much of my life takes place in my head. For as long as I can remember, isolation had been my closest companion. It became such an extensive part of my life that I expected it to always be there. And when it wasn’t there, even in the smallest of ways, I would beckon it back. Because at least I knew how to deal with it while it was in my presence. It was the only thing I knew. It was how I’d learned to live–it was how I’d learned to survive.
However, isolation happened to be the thing that broke me. In these woods, alone, I was convinced that I could not be ruled by the thing I had so often sought refuge from. But loneliness had peered at me from behind the trees and knew better. I had stood there, covered in darkness and rampant with fear. I had listened to the sounds of the surrounding forest until I no longer heard them. My eyes traveled from treetop to black sky and back again.
Time passes more slowly when it’s being watched.
I sat in a state of noiselessness for what felt like months. I stared at the wall because I could no longer bring myself to look deep into the darkness outside.
Awake and delirious.
What does reflectivity mutate into when given too much attention?
The silence at the top of the hill seeped into my imagination the way the wind finds its way to your bones on a chilly autumn day. Sometimes, the trees were so still that I’d think they were sleeping. Or waiting. I knew they were whispering secrets about me by the way they suddenly bowed their heads. The animals were in on the secrets too–eyes lifting as my cautious footprints passed them. It was an expression they held across their faces that left me feeling unsettled. As though they were witness to my panic attacks the night prior and not convinced by the armour I had chosen to wear.
On days when the wind was at its most violent, every corner of the cabin felt bitter. Souvenirs from the forest lay scattered across the tarnished hardwood floors. On this night, I will have forgotten to close the shutters, allowing the darkness to find its way inside. And I will feel it lying beside me, jarring me awake each time my mind finds sleep. But I will only be able to see what the light of the candle allows me to.
With light, space, and texture as a visual point of departure, Geneviève Labbé creates clean, minimalistic documents which highlight the moments of loneliness we experience. The analogue medium chosen renders itself secondary and is, therefore, malleable. What becomes preeminent then is the story that is strategically crafted and the nostalgia the viewer associates with the work.
Labbé is a photo-based artist residing in Canada and is a graduate of the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa.
Labbé hopes to exhibit the work from Inshriach Bothy in the coming year. More of her work, on this project and others, can be seen at https://www.genevievelabbephotographs.com