“Passengers”, the latest show of Chris Marker’s work at Peter Blum, would have made a substandard Tumblr. The theme: people (mostly girls) on the subway staring into the middle distance and looking a little bit sad. The artist used a spy camera hidden inside his watch, so I guess that’s cool, and some of the photos have been mucked about with a little bit in Photoshop. That’s it. That’s all the content here, and given the more than two hundred photographs lining the gallery it’s pretty thinly-spread.
Maybe, as the press release hints, the photographs are about the alienation necessary to “cope with modern urban life”, but that’s an idea that’s been around for two centuries. Has Marker discovered something new here? Are his juxtapositions of canonical ideal figures and the faces of girls on the train, as in a series at Blum’s Soho space, anything more than a bit of fun? What does Photoshop, symbol-rich as it now is, have to do with any of it? How about this: sometimes people just stare off into the distance. Often they do it on the train. There’s no reason to waste your Chelsea rent telling everybody else about it.
Marker’s not a bad artist – his early films, in particular, are legendary – and this show doesn’t change that. Also, some of the photographs are aesthetically pleasing, though this is pure chance given the watch-camera. That’s all the positivity I can manage here.