For Brooklyn-based artist Fanny Allié, the human figure is a source of intrigue. In thinking about the body and how it moves through and inhabits space, the artist explores what she describes as the “ephemeral existence” of the human experience. Whether migrants fleeing trauma or the homeless seeking shelter, the notion of bodies in flux forms the crux of Allié’s practice. Initially trained in photography and video art, her medium of choice shifted upon her move to New York from France a decade ago, when she found herself gravitating toward materials that are temporal and prone to decay.
The series The Carriers (2014–15) examines images of those who live on the periphery of urban life. Using footage found online or photos she has taken of people on the street, Allié sculpts black plastic bags into the outlines of figures. Playing on both the materiality and title of the series, The Carriers echoes the invisible members of society who carry their belongings from one temporary shelter to another. The silhouettes are an embodiment of the kind of tangible and intangible weight that comes with displacement and destitution. The scale of the works in The Carriers varies between small portraits and life-size installations—the latter being a more effective way of making each “carrier” relatable to onlookers.
Cardboard also features prominently in Allié’s ongoing exploration of ephemeral materials. Populating cardboard surfaces with collages from the New York Times, the compositions largely respond to the artist’s observations of how bodies interact with space. In Horses (2015), fragments of human life can be seen pieced together: arms resting against one another, a man’s profile, disparate architectural elements, and a billowing clothesline. Altogether, the paper cutouts form a cohesive structure resembling a man on a horse. Or rather, a man on a horse with all of his tattered belongings. Similarly, in From Above (2015), snippets of the human body interspersed within hybrid spatial formations speak to a world in which “home” is something that is moveable.
The human body, despite being the focus of Allié’s work, is always anonymous. Glimpses of fingertips or a foot can be seen here and there in the collages, but there’s rarely a visible face. For Allié, this anonymity is perhaps congruent with the reality her work seeks to reflect. Yet the faceless depictions find tribute in another form. In her Cardboard Portraits (2015), twenty-eight individual miniatures of imaginary subjects evoke a sense of realness. In the portraits, there is recurring imagery familiar to big-city dwellers, who see the homeless every day. Allié’s vignettes are a reminder of our shared existence.
In The Outlines (2013–14), Allié superimposed contours of figures found in the daily news using a color-coding system in which various activities (sports, politics, and so on) are given specific colors. “The multiple outlines disturb each other and become a whole, a mass in which a few human elements stand out,” she says. The project is a visual diary of sorts, in which the artist highlights the reported occurrences of a specific timeline as a way to capture the energy of the masses. Describing each work in the series as a “condensed piece of time,” The Outlines is a process of documentation, an archive that sits in contrast to her more ephemeral works on cardboard. Allié’s deep observation of her local and global environment—the people she encounters on the street and on the news—lends itself to the desire to weave images of daily life into a record of abstracted reality.
Fanny Allié was born in 1981 in Montpellier, South of France. She graduated from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie (The National School of Photography) in Arles, France, in 2005, and moved to New York City shortly after graduating. She was a selected artist for the 2006–07 Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) program at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, NY Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, Hyperallergic, Le Monde Diplomatique, DNA Info, Marie Claire Italy, and Arts in Bushwick.