Archival pigment print, floating gallery plexi mount
Courtesy of Muriel Guépin Gallery, New York, NY
French photomontage artist Laurent Chehere lives in the multicultural Ménilmontant district of Paris, the neighborhood that serves as his primary source of inspiration. In his Flying Houses series, Chehere shows a collection of fantastical buildings—homes, tents and trailers—removed from their neighborhoods and hanging in the sky as if permanently airborne. The Flying Houses are a fantastical vision of working-class Paris, inspired by Jules Verne, the 19th-century French author of such early science fiction books as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and Around the World in 80 Days (1873).
Psychologically, at its deepest roots, the home represents a connection to community, obligation, sanctuary, and security. The metaphor of the home leaving the earth, becoming literally and emotionally unmoored, is both unnerving and energizing. It may represent having your cake and eating it too: the ability to fly away on an unknown adventure, while taking the comforts of home along with you.
Chehere, drawing from an encyclopedia of visual references collected in his neighborhood, photomontages hundreds of different architectural elements, like cornices, doors, balconies, turrets, windows, chimneys, antennas, and graffiti. Thus, the artist recombines bits of buildings into whimsical structures, both retaining their scruffy appearance and emphasizing their magical aura. As the artist says, “I tried to get these sad houses out of the anonymity of the street, to help them to tell their story, true or fantasized.”