Stephane Graff / Professore
“Imagination is more important than knowledge” Albert Einstein.
I visited Istanbul for the first time during winter 2008 and the magical city put me under a strange spell.
Early one morning I went for a walk in the medical area of Beyoğlu. Everything was covered in an immaculate white blanket of snow and in the twilight the city presented itself as entirely monochrome. Istanbul is a place of undulating hills and narrow alleys. As I reached the summit of a steep road I turned around to survey the view behind me. At that precise moment I saw six or seven figures scuttling around in different directions, all of them wearing white laboratory coats. Imagine this whitewashed scene, with the snow silently falling and people in the distance inadvertently camouflaged. This image of doctors and pharmacists stayed with me over the coming days and prompted me to consider notions of identity. As a practicing artist, I began to wonder how different life might be as a scientist. Perhaps there are more similarities than meet the eye. Both artists and scientists strive to make discoveries through the process of experimentation and they do not always know which direction their work will lead them. However, whilst scientists have a clearly defined position within society and usually inspire great trust, artists, on the other hand, have a more ambiguous role. Their function in society is at best romanticised and not always trusted! As a way of exploring the theme in more detail, I decided to don a white lab coat and convert my studio into a vintage style laboratory, where I could create my own experiments and explore the aesthetics of science. In 2009 my alter ego named Professore was born.
I am interested to see how Professore challenges perceptions of identity and social order, whilst raising issues regarding society’s innate trust in science. Professore is an enigma. He projects the qualities of a highly educated and respected scientist, yet his complex and bizarre experiments isolate him and ultimately leave him misunderstood. This larger than life character dramatically oscillates between the extremes of experience and uncertainty, control and failure, genius and insanity. Professore blurs the border between fiction and fact. He takes on a profound existence of his own, where fantasy and reality become virtually inseparable. His unconventional science can range from the fantastic to the banal, but he always treats it with equal reverence and ironically it often comes across as plausible.
Stephane Graff was born in the United Kingdom and lives and works in London. He is a self-taught artist and photographer exhibiting internationally since 1988. The Professore project is presented as an archive of photographs, drawings, sculptures and short films. Many of the photographs are produced as unique pieces, using an array of vintage techniques such as glass plate negatives, bromoil prints, hand coated silver gelatin, and Graffite prints, (which Graff invented in 2010.) The Professore project has been exhibited at: Paradise Row, Istanbul 2009, Ercel Foundation, Turin 2010, Paradise Row, London 2009, Mimmo Scognamiglio, Milan 2010, Amerikan Hastanasi, Operating Room, Istanbul 2010, Assab One, Milan 2010, Paris Photo, Hamiltons Gallery 2011, Beton Gallery, Athens 2012, Odile Ouizeman, Paris 2012, City Gallery of Prague 2012, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nice, France 2013.