exhibition, Paris, photography

The Leica-Wielding Dancer (Henri Cartier-Bresson)


Granted, the exhibition “Images à la Sauvette” at the Fondation Cartier-Bresson (January 11 – April 23, 2017) is a great opportunity to see most of the photographs published in the eponymous –and mythical– album, be it for the first time or once again. Undoubtedly, it will be an interesting discovery for neophytes, and a refresh of pleasant memories for long-time amateurs of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work. But it seemed there were no surprises, nothing original, until I happened on a short 1’40’’ film, shown in a nook, in which we can see the Frenchman at work (although he apparently hated being photographed of filmed), caught in action by the American photographer Gjon Mili. The scene takes place during the celebrations for the Chinese New Year in New York, in 1959: paper dragons, firecrackers, a crowd… nothing extraordinary, just partying. But in the midst of this crowd, we see a man dancing, jumping, bouncing around in whirls and zigzags, gently elbowing his way, taking a step back, two steps aside, three steps forward, ready for anything.

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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