Les Rencontres d'Arles 2016
Photographers lead and guide us through the subjects that drive them. They document, search and investigate. Photographers are investigators. They know their subjects like the backs of their hands. When they go out on the field, they meet, interact and explore. Photographers are explorers. Looking for new territories, they bear witness to the world’s vastness, interrogate history and question the medium. They are neither historians nor sociologists, but artists who construct a visual cosmology out of still or moving images, texts or sounds. They take us along on their stories.
Photographers are storytellers. Examples include Laia Abril, who, in the first chapter of her chronicle of misogyny, focuses on abortion; João Pina, who spent over 10 years investigating Operation Condor and the disappearance of 60,000 political prisoners in six South American dictatorships; and Yan Morvan's imposing encyclopaedia of battlefields.
AN ARSENAL TO SUPPORT CREATION
As always, the 47th Rencontres d’Arles is an observatory of artistic practices. Our festival plays an active role in revealing trends and talents. Artists need financial support not just to stage their exhibitions, but beforehand, to help them fund the production of their projects. That is why new creations have a key place in the program. From awards to residencies, the Rencontres d’Arles now has a veritable arsenal of financial aid for production. This year, we have strengthened it by creating a residency. The first recipient is photographer Stéphanie Solinas.
The Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award, now entering its second year, identifies the most relevant dummy books when they are still in the planning stages and funds the winner’s publication. Yann Gross, its first recipient, is publishing "The Jungle Book", a vast Amazonian epic. His project is continuing as an installation, "The Jungle Show".
The Rencontres d’Arles has handed out the Discovery Award for over a decade. The idea is simple: five recognized figures from the art world nominate two artists each; parity has been the rule since 2015. We produce exhibitions for each of them and a jury of professionals votes for the winner, who receives €5 000 to continue his or her work.
Lastly, the Photo Folio Reviews gives awards to five very young artists with promising projects. The festival produces a show of works by the winner. This year, it is an exhibition of photographs by Piero Martinello.
IN SEARCH OF THE OTHER PHOTOGRAPHY
Images are their words. Whether they produce or borrow them, it is not just the gesture that shapes the artists’ works, but the idea of activation. The artists appropriate anonymous images, take them out of the context in which they were produced, activate them in the field of art, share them with the public by offering a new interpretation and divert them from the purposes for which they were originally intended.
The contamination of the vernacular image is now widespread. An artist, Agnès Geoffray, and a photography historian, Julie Jones, teamed up to examine the practice. Their exhibition, "Where the Other Rests", reveals the itineraries of images—shifts in nature, value and uses. The show pays tribute to a generation of artists who collect and awaken forgotten images borrowed from others.
The study of popular culture also offers a huge iconographic repertory—often, anonymous images whose initial purpose was primarily utilitarian: illustrating a magazine, publicising a film or documenting daily life. Today, collectors, artists, historians and institutions are increasingly interested in these low-quality images, this other photography. Examples include director Sébastien Lifshitz and the astonishing pictures of transvestites he collected over a 30-year period (the "Sincerely Queer" exhibition); Thomas Mailaender and Marc Bruckert’s contrasting perspectives on the stupid and nasty archives of "Hara Kiri"; and the history of the Camarguais Western, from Joë Hamman holding up the train between Arles and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (1910) to a galloping, singing Johnny Hallyday in "Pour Moi la Vie Va Commencer" ("D’où Viens-tu Johnny?", 1963). We tell the story with the Musée de la Camargue.
AFRICA POP !
The festival looks kindly upon youth and new practices but is also receptive to the world and sets its sights on other places. This year, talented photographers and curators showcase an unexpected, surprising, funny, pop Africa at the 47th Rencontres. Aida Muluneh, the artistic director of Addis Foto Fest—the Addis Ababa photo festival—joins the Discovery Award nominating team and defends the work of Sarah Waiswa and Nader Adem. Through works by approximately 10 artists, Azu Nwagbogu, director of the LagosPhoto festival, looks into the Nollywood film studios’ influence on African photography. In Maud Sulter's photomontages, however, African and European cutures collide. Lastly, Richard Minier, Thomas Mondo and Madé Taounza tell us the amazing story of Las Maravillas. The Malian music group becomes a wonderful pretext to revisit the swinging ambiance of 1960s Bamako immortalised by the great Malick Sidibé.
Despite the deaths of Lucien Clergue and Michel Tournier, who both founded the Rencontres d’Arles together with Jean-Maurice Rouquette, our festival is alive and well after 47 years. It is thriving because the same determination, the same passion and the same desire to stand up for photography and artists together drives the whole Rencontres d’Arles team.
Arles and the surrounding area will be photography’s standard-bearers again this summer.