Caricaturist, photographer and novelist, Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) was perhaps most known for his photographic portraits of luminaries of his time, from Charles Baudelaire to Gustave Courbet, Eugène Delacroix to Sarah Bernhardt. Yet Nadar also took some of the earliest aerial photographs existed.

L’Intérieur du Géant is the name of his 1863 photograph, of the inflating interior of his 60-meter-high hot-air balloon, which he named Le Géant (The Giant), which would soon bring him to produce some of the first aerial photographs around Paris. This image serves as a beacon, a viewing device, a framework and an inspiration for Inside China — L’Intérieur du Géant, at Palais de Tokyo, where most artworks were suspended from the ceiling, jettisoning the wall as the physical limits of the exhibition.

This enigmatic image-before-image resembles an aerial view of an unknown space, signals that what we seek might originate from the depths of within. Like Nadar’s visionary image, works of art are enablers of perception, conveyors of subjectivity, and compressors of time. They chart out a space of seeing before seeing, of being before being, of renewed subjectivity.