Arles, exhibition, photography

About Women (Rencontres d’Arles – 5)

 

1 Vue de l'exposition de Laia

Exhibition view: Laia Abril, A History of Misogyny, Chapter One: On Abortion, reproduction of an Catholic orthodox fresco depicting Jesus Christ in lament as he holds an aborted fetus in his hand [photograph by Suzanna Pozzoli]

The Rencontres d’Arles 2015 were widely decried for their lack of women photographers: only one woman actually had a solo exhibition last year (not taking into account the Discovery Award). What’s worse, it wasn’t very good, and very stereotypically “feminine” in its theme and title, the “Coup de foudre”, i.e. [love] “At First Sight”. The message seems to have gone through to the organizers for this year’s edition –there’s even a Madame Figaro Photo Award (after the woman weekly supplement to the daily Le Figaro) for one woman photographer’s work on display in Arles.
So, an effort has been made, at least quantitatively; in terms of quality, the exhibitions are moderately interesting (as it is the case overall, in my eyes), and only one stands out from the pack, Laia Abril’s. Precisely, her exhibition has garnered widespread acclaim, and won the Award by a landslide (as I have been told).

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Arles, exhibition, photography

What A Guy! (Rencontres d’Arles – 4)

Photographs in 3 Acts - sample/reproduction file

Ethan Levitas, Frame #21, Photograph in 3 acts, 2012

The first evening I spent in Arles, I met in some bar a young and friendly American photographer, Ethan Levitas. He said he was presenting an exhibition at the Grande Halle, and that he was confronting Garry Winogrand. “What a cheeky guy!”, I thought to myself. Continue reading

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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

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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

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Arles, exhibition, modern art

van Gogh and the Independence of Drawing

Vincent van Gogh, Vieillard buvant du café [Old man drinking coffee], November 1882, 49x28.3cm

Vincent van Gogh, Vieillard buvant du café [Old man drinking coffee], November 1882, 49×28.3cm

The exhibition of drawings by van Gogh at the Fondation van Gogh in Arles, France (visited between two photography exhibitions; running until September, 20) puts an emphasis on a lesser known dimension of the painter, and especially on the first years of his learning how to draw. Rather than becoming classically trained in formal nudes, van Gogh collects prints, cuts out engravings from newspapers, and constitutes reference albums for himself in doing so. For instance, William Small’s etching from his London Sketches, A November Fog (below) creates a sort of floating, equivocal reality through the treatment of the fog, and of the plumes of smoke coming from the torches or the horses’s breaths. Moreover, one can imagine van Gogh being fascinated with the curvilinear and blurred lines of this drawing – in the same way he appreciated Japanese engravings and drawings. Continue reading

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