In a recent text, Mac Adams (1943) referred to the bet that the American author Ernest Hemingway made one day with some writer friends, wagering that he could make up a story with just six words. He wrote: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” And he won the bet. Mac Adams’s whole œuvre seems to be an extension of that bet. His photographs and installations broach the issue of narration with similarly sparse means, exploring the fictional potential that can emerge from the juxtaposition of a few images or objects: “How can you tell a story by not using more than two or three images, or describe a situation using as few objects as possible?”, the artist asks.

Because, more than in any other fictional world, the complexity of the relations between narrative elements – characters, facts, places, objects, etc – forms the very node of the narrative, the noir genre imposed itself on Mac Adams in his earliest photographs as a favourite field of investigation. His works are often organised in two- or three-image sequences and show us narrative snippets
in which the main action is invariably absent, relegated to the space between images, into the temporal or off-screen ellipsis. Mac Adams defines this approach with the term “narrative void”. The image becomes a network of clues that the spectator is invited to go through in the manner of an inquiry, shedding light on the mechanisms and mainsprings of the plot itself at the same time as it proposes an open reading.

Mac Adams is known above all for his photographs, but since the beginning of his career he has also been producing installations in which photography has a central place. Conceived as fictitious environments developed around crime scenes, Passenger and The Bathroom are reconstructions of two installations initially created in 1978. A third installation, specially devised by Mac Adams for the museum’s Pavilion, is presented in the form of a cluster of images arranged on tables, associating archival imagery and photographs by the artist.

Lamp II, the photographer model

Mac Adams
Lamp II, the photographer model, 1986
Inkjet print mounted on Dibon
147,3 x 99,2 cm
Collection Mudam Luxembourg
Acquisition 2011
© Photo: Mac Adams

The Party

Mac Adams
The Party, 2009
Inkjet print mounted on Dibon
168 x 113 cm
Collection Mudam Luxembourg
Acquisition 2011
© Photo: Mac Adams