Arles, exhibition, photography

Distance or Empathy? (Rencontres d’Arles – 3)

1 Eikoh Hosoe, Man and Woman, 1961.jpg

Eikoh Hosoe, Man and Woman, 1961

The starkest contrast on view at the Rencontres d’Arles 2016 can be found at the Méjan, one floor below the yellow-tinted exhibition of Tkachenko’s white photographs. It’s not a clash between two photographic styles, but a radical opposition between two ethos, two ways of relating to the photographed subject and therefore to the world –two philosophical standpoints, in fact. The subject at hand is Butoh, the Japanese danse –a rebel, introspective, radical and subversive art form– created by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno at the end of the 1950s. Continue reading

Arles, exhibition, photography

Whiteness & Occultation (Rencontres d’Arles – 2)

1 Danila Tkachenko, le plus grand

Danila Tkachenko, The world’s largest diesel submarine, Samara region, Russia, 2013 [exhibition view]

At the Rencontres d’Arles, there are the official Rencontres, and then there is the “Off” Festival. The official exhibitions and events are detailed in a green and white 24-page leporello leaflet, which serves as a guide map as well as a distinctive emblem, along with your Pro, Press or Staff lanyard. But the leaflet also includes the “Associated Programme” [sic], which goes back and forth between the “In” and “Off” and comprises the exhibitions presented by the LUMA Foundation, the ENSP (the national photography school based in Arles), the brand Olympus, the Musée Réattu, and the Méjan (curated by Arles-based publisher Actes Sud). At the Méjan, after the butoh on the first floor (I will of course come back to it [see Arles 3], as this confrontation between two conceptions of photography is too interesting not to address), I made my way upstairs to look at Hans Silvester’s ethnographical account of the Bench, a little-known ethnic group living in the south of Ethiopia. It is interesting as a documentary work but, beyond that, it does not elicit much enthusiasm. However, basking in the yellowish glow of the room, I was awed by the discovery of a remarkable work, not mentioned anywhere, missing from the program, forgotten by all official speakers, overlooked by the media… although it is, in my eyes, one of the most important propositions of the week.

2 Danila Tkachenko, Deserted

Danila Tkachenko, Deserted observatory located in the area with the best conditions for space observations

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Arles, exhibition, photography

The Anti-Parr & Other Scenes of War (Rencontres d’Arles – 1)

1 Don McCullin, Couple prenant le

Don McCullin, A Couple having tea

Up until two years ago, the photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles used to feature (too) heavily Martin Parr (and a few others…). I was therefore thrilled to start off the 2016 edition with Don McCullin’s exhibition in the Saint-Anne church. Why? Because, except for one glass case in the middle of the church displaying magazines, it is not about McCullin the great war photographer, but rather his “social” outlook –a facet I personally barely knew of. Contrarily to Parr’s snide and derisive signature approach to British middle class we have grown accustomed to, McCullin has nothing but tenderness and empathy for his subjects, even when he documents the daily life of homeless people in London, showing no trace of scorn or aloofness. Continue reading

exhibition, Paris, photography

Revisiting the History of Photography (1. Jan Dibbets)

1 Anton Giulio et Arturo Bragaglia.jpg

Anton Giulio Bragaglia and Arturo Bragaglia, Salutando, 1911, 17.5x23cm, Galleria civica in Modeno

To question the nature of photography is the aim of Pandora’s Box, an exhibition curated by Jan Dibbets at the MAMVP in Paris (a museum the artist is familiar with), from March 25 to July 17, 2016. Hailing from conceptual art, Dibbets was among the first to examine photography itself (alongside William Anastasi, then Michael Snow, John Hilliard, Tim Rautert and Ugo Mulas). Around 1970, he created a series of photographs addressing the processes and mechanisms of photography , as well as its essence, as opposed to the images represented: the “how” of photography rather than its “what.” In this exhibition, Dibbets presses forward with these same concerns, reframing them within the history of photography, and nourishing them with readings of Vilém Flusser’s ideas –a thinker he discovered while preparing the exhibition. (This fact was of great interest to me, of course; it is more thoroughly explained in a video of his interview with Fabrice Hergott than in the catalogue).
Pandora’s Box has been put together by an artist, not an art historian, and therefore there were some liberties taken, some partial choices made, some incongruous selections (especially in the last section, which was quite disappointing), and some bizarre omissions (from the five precursors I just cited, only Anastasi and Snow are featured, and Mulas’ absence in particular is baffling, if it is not simply a petty move by Dibbets). Those choices will appeal or not to the visitor, but –at least until the last section– they make for a compelling exhibition. Continue reading