The opening week of 2016 edition of the “Rencontres internationales de la photographie d’Arles” has been very intense. Under a hot sun over 15.000 visitors came to see the 40 exhibitions presenting over 130 artists.
Numerous openings, projections, workshops, portfolio revues and talks, have been organized by both the In, (Official Festival), and the collateral events, the Off, in more than 30 locations disseminated in the wonderful city of Arles.
The main focus of this year program is “eclecticism”. Arles RIP and LUMA Foundation (working together on this main event) open their venues to mixed media works: created around photography these art works integrate sounds, videos, texts and objects. Some new locations were also presented to the public for the first time during the RIP: Ground Control, an exhibition space near the train station; Cosmos-Books, a big book fair including conferences and presentations; Olympus official space located inside the Palais de Luppé, proposes some Photographic Conversations presenting a selection of photographers including Michael Ackerman, Olivier Cullman and Corinne Marcadier.
It would be far too long to name and present all shows on view and event. The young and talented Sam Stourdzé, Director of the Rencontres d’Arles, has created 12 main themes. The attention goes from African photography to gender, passing by street photography and war issues.
So please find below a “Grand Mix” of some remarkable exhibitions divided by main themes.
For those who love black and white photography a “Must to see” at 2016 RIP will be Sid Grossman’s exhibition installed at the Espace Van Gogh. The show presents a very rigorous selection of the American master’s photos and some of his well-known followers. Behind this remarkable project we could feel the hand of the great New Yorker Howard Greenberg Gallery and Bob Shamis.
Under the same theme you will find an interesting dialogue between Ethan Levitas and Garry Winogrand, curated by Joshua Chuang, and presented at the Grand Hall as an installation in different formats.
An exhibition that you will either love or hate is on view as well at the Espace Van Gogh. The Dubliner Eamon Doyle proposes an unexpected and long lasting work on the classic theme of street photography: mixing colors, black and white, close-up and distant images. Images come from a three years work and a very strict concept. As a result, you will see an accurate installation accompanied by a very thought book.
MONSTERS & CO.
Charles Fréger explores with his peculiar touch Japan’s masked ritual characters. He creates figures that could be ghosts, monsters, ogres and even traditional ritual figures. In this project, exposed at the Eglise des Trinitiares, Fréger no longer seeks the realism of situations as he did in previous projects. It is a fictional trip in an enchanted Japan.
PLATFORMS OF THE VISIBLE
Another main exhibition that has been very discussed during this RIP is Laia Abril’s “A History of Misogyny. Chapter One: On Abortion”. The young artist (1986, Barcelona) presents at the Ateliers (Magasin Electronique) a research on abortion including photographs, texts, interviews, objects, videos and a very well done historical enquiry on abortion and abortion cases in different countries of the world. This project would suit a contemporary Art Biennial and indeed it still has as point of departure a series of photographs and interviews to women that decided to illegally have abortion, as their countries don’t recognize this right. Some specialists involved in the photography world estimate that this kind of art practices should not be presented at the RIP, as other events dedicated to contemporary art would be more coherent. Others specialists believe that in 2016 photography is turning toward a more mixed- media reality and that it is high time to open the Festival to those projects. Laia Abril’s work is the winner of 2016 Madame Figaro Photo Awards.
A selection of unexpected and long-lasting projects on the social problems and geographical changes generated by war are presented at the RIP. An intense exhibition of Don McCullin’s historical photographs is on view at the Eglise Sainte-Anne. This exhibition brings together different periods and subjects: documentary and landscape photography from his local surroundings in London; foreign conflicts; peaceful landscape of the Somerset levels. Alexandre Guirkinger and Yan Morvan are presenting two main projects on two mirroring aspects of the relation existing between war and geographical changes. Morvan’s work started in 2004: he traveled around the world with his tripod and Deardorff 20x25cm in search of battlefields that made history for 3.500 years. He doesn’t use a photo-journalistic approach. “Maginot Line” by Alexandre Guirkinger is a deep reflection on the landscape and presence of this historical “line” that we know as an existing historical fact but we are not able to recognize as an image.
A main theme of this edition is a reflection on gender. Luma Foundation presents “Sincerely Queer”. Sébastien Lifshitz’s private collection shows groups of Feminists and men practicing cross-dressing, from the 1920s on. It is an unusual recollection of stories and practices that were private and secret.
Another deep research on gender and identity is presented at Luma Foundation as part of “Systematically Open” show. In particular, there is a main installation of the new project made by female South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi. Here, self-portraiture is used as a tool of intimacy, serving as commentary on contemporary political and cultural issues that affect black people in Africa and its Diaspora.
All the non-French visitors discovered and I guess enjoyed the crazy adventure of “Hara Kiri”, the ‘nasty and stupid’ newspaper founded by François Cavanna and Georget Bernier. It went after French society with humor, provocation and satire. “Hara Kiri” worked with three generations of cartoonists: from 1960 to 1985.
South African artist William Kentridge presents at Luma Foundation an amazing installation: “More Sweetly Play the Dance” (2015). It is a multiscreen project depicting a caravan procession that stretches from floor to ceiling, forty meters in length. It encircles the viewer, depicting a dancing column of animated drawings and videos of dancers who, led by a brass band, enact a Danse Macabre. The work evokes long-standing associations with religious processions and cheerful parades.
I would definitely recommend visiting the exhibition at Chapelle Saint-Martin. On the first floor you will find a dialogue between Eikoh Hosoe and William Klein on the practice of the Japanese performer Kazuo Ohno. For those who are missing it, here you will find some straight black and white photography. In the same show a corner is dedicated to the wonderful Hosoe’s “Man and Woman” a strong series made in 1961.
At the same venue, on the second floor, you will find a dialogue between two very different researches: Hans Silverster’s project “The Bench” made in southern Ethiopia and the contrasting work of Danila Tkachenko, titled “Restricted Areas”. This technically amazing and coherent color photography work is a reflection on the utopian strives of humans for technological progress. The photographer said: “I travel in search of places which used to have great importance for the technical progress – and which are now deserted. Those places lost their significance together with the utopian ideology, which is now obsolete. Secret cities that cannot be found on maps, forgotten scientific triumphs, abandoned buildings of extreme complexity.” The exhibition, perfectly thought to invite the visitor to feel isolated in Tkachenko’s white and cold universe and the book are a must to see.
The large installation project and book by Yann Gross “The Jungle Show”, is one of the very discussed installation of this edition. It is an extensive project on the Amazon river. The young Swiss artist (1981) followed the path of he Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana who discovered this area in 1541. The result is a travel diary, staged to reveal various facets of contemporary Amazonia and the surrounding areas. The installation is made of light boxes made as containers, texts and maps.
Many are the interesting OFF projections, and unexpected exhibitions you could find in restaurants, shops, bars and even abandoned houses. I will mention here two projects that I have found especially successful. The intense work of the Italian Lorenzo Castore “Ultimo domicilio” is presented on the walls of the restaurant Hotel Pinus. The medium format color photographs and black and white superb prints invite the viewer to explore the intimacy of homes belongings to people that are very close to the photographer. The work is extremely well integrated to the hotel rooms and the relation between the hotel design and the photographs gives an unexpected happy result.
On the other side of the city, in the district known as la Roquette a collective of photographers based in Paris and Berlin rented for the second year an incredible four floor palace on sale and created a well balanced and creatively installed exhibition on the entire surface of the “FOTOHAUS”. The collective Paris-Berlin also invited some guest-photographers to join this group show: a very accurate project, rich of different points of views.