Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Part 2: Arles 2014

Linda looks

I'm sure by now dear readers that you have heard about the infamous show -  Martin Parr & Wassinklundgren: The Chinese Photobook. The space consisted of many floors all lit by red lights in the corridors & dark rooms that with the use of a light (given to you on the top floor upon entering) you could view the work. The concept became a bit tiresome after the first few rooms as the exhibit was text heavy, with a LOT of material to view. Using the lights made it difficult at times as many of the books were in glass cases so the reflection made reading hard work. 

The bathroom looked great!

By the end I was wafting through the rooms sadly not giving them my full attention as I was frustrated by the presentation. I think a more considered approach would have been to just light the corridors & stairs in red to infer the connection to China & leave the lights on elsewhere so that you would perhaps visit more than once or at least spend a few hours pouring over it. 

 Lovely red corridors & stairs - a bit like being in a Dario Argento movie

Pop Photographica: Images & Objects Daile Kaplan was another great show with much promise. I'm not sure how the red lights benefitted the display? I would love to hear the reasoning behind this. 

I have a necklace like this myself. 

Really fascinating objects on display were hard to see as the colour was obscured by the red lights. The smaller more intimate objects really suffered under the lights, especially with works like this under glass.  

Speaking of suffering - Brazil V Germany ahem..

La guerre des grosses*
Léon Gimpel, 1915
*Kids at war

La guerre des grosses, was a great show, tucked at the back of the Raymond Depardon exhibit. These amazing images of children playing 'war' whilst their mothers worked & their fathers were at war really strike a chord about the origins of human behaviour from childhood to adulthood. These charming images (often hand-coloured) show the inventiveness of the collaboration - I say collaboration as the costumes, props & poses are perfectly staged & elaborate in some cases. 
©Léon Gimpel

I fell in love with the aeroplane. Combining the play with the certainty of the real horrors of war out of sight & the children whom themselves would probably be fighting in the Second World War sent a shiver down my spine. The death of innocence is as inevitable as it is necessary. 

©Vik Muniz 

Then there were the evening events at Théâtre Antique - the highlight for me being Vik Muniz's witty (long but witty) talk about his work. His current collaboration with Marcelo Coelho drawing sandcastles on grains of sand, photographing them then blowing them up to huge proportions were extraordinary. 

©Vic Muniz installation 

I actually think I enjoyed his stories about how he came to his current practice more than the work displayed in Arles. The images made of thousands of photographs collaged were underwhelming in the flesh as they were re-photographed then blown up. The lack of texture that would be on the originals as 'objects' rely on the scale to wow. I would have loved to see the originals to compare & see the intricacy in the flesh. Of course the large scale allows for each individual photo within the photo to be seen, but I couldn't help but feel short changed somehow when I got up close to them. 

The variety of ways he has made drawings to photograph over the years was riveting. I think a retrospective collating all his work together would be an incredible thing. His talk was chronological & I loved seeing his early work - Pictures of Wire - most of all. 

©Will Steacy Installation shot in Arles exhibit

Will Steacy's Deadline series documented over a 5 year period the decline of the newsroom & printing plant of The Philadelphia Inquirer. This work documents the place as it was cutting down its staff & the offices being stripped. I would have loved to have seen the empty advertising boards on the wall with Steacy's pictures inside to give weight to the installation. I felt it was a book on the wall. The images themselves compositionally were not as stimulating as the story behind them. A bit more creativity in the display or even the work presented in newsprint may have worked better perhaps…I can't imagine having any of these on my walls at home. 

©Hans van der Meer

Another work I felt the same way about was Hans van der Meer's The Netherlands Off the Shelf - the concept fantastic, catalogues of street furniture used throughout the country in towns are unsettling realities, but pictures I would want to look at for any length of time, probably not. I don't think they needed to be so large. A mass of images or better still a catalogue layout would have kept my attention for much longer. 

Speaking of street furniture - this novel way to reserve a space 
would never work in London, they would be stolen in minutes! 

©Mitch Epstein 
This is the ultimate way to blend in, 
match your clothes to the art!

The Prix Pictet show A Retrospective was beautifully simple & elegant with curved walls, each artist with their own space. 

 ©Chema Madoz 

Then the show I had been waiting for, Chema Madoz. You may have noticed my dear readers that his name has come up many, many times in the past. The reason; he is a class act with imagination, wit & talent in spades. A true surrealist without the diva of Dali. His restrained work doesn't need to be showy it just is. Quietly & cleverly entering your psyche as you begging to realise what each image is. I could wax lyrical for hours but you must just go out, buy a book, go to an exhibition  & see for yourselves, no  I insist! 

My only regret was that I  wish there had been some air conditioning in the video area - I was the only person with a fan - as everyone was melting whilst watching the documentary about his work & practice. I hope to watch it again in more comfort sometime. 

Whilst I'm on things I love, here is the best meal I had all week, 3 courses of wonder at the Hotel Julius Ceasar, yum. Pretty as a picture. 

You guessed the dessert was my absolute fave!

Happy to see the moose in the fountain, it wasn't there 
the day I arrived, got worried for a moment there...

Then there were the interesting large scale models of Frank Gehry architecture in the Solaris Chronicles. I am not sure how the 6 month show will transform as artists have been invited to collaborate over the course of the show or indeed what this had to do with photography, but I liked it all the same.

The models are on movable tables, which were being moved around the space as I entered the building. 

Great to peek inside. This form of model making is not seen as much with laser cutting techniques used more & more & 3D modelling software. 

Nice reminder of being a kid though playing with a garage set - I'm a sucker for miniature buildings.

Then there were the shows not in the program, which due to time constraints on my part I wish I had had more time to view. One well worth a mention in a great space was a show by the MYOP agency with 18 photographers showing in a building they had inhabited for the festival from the 7th - 13th July. I would love to say more but the paper was all in french & like the Sophie Calle show a while back only having one language does alienate a vast majority of the audience. Wish I had seen this blog beforehand & made time to attend some of the events. A week is never enough!

Great use of the spaces in MYOP in Arles show

A peek into the Forum square

Then the icing on the cake, the last big presentation at the Théâtre Antique - a cake for Clergue for his 80th Birthday, with a big count-up to 80 by the audience & singing Happy Anniversaire before the jazz band made an entrance. 

The evening was long with an overwhelming absence of female photographers again, I think the first image we got to see was fleeting by Tina Barney & then at 12.15am (the screening started around 10pm) Nan Goldin was shown.  Groan….again! 

Round table. The image of women in photography has long been associated with their status as academic models or objects of desire. Has that changed since the year 2000? Has the rising number of female photographers had an impact on those images? Have they gone from being passive objects of the gaze to subjects of their own representations? With Lucien Clergue, Claudia Huidobro and Katerina Jebb, artists, Safia Belmenouar, exhibition curator, and Chritine Ollier, director of Les Filles du Calvaire gallery, Paris, and Wally Bourdet, Lucien Clergue’s model for a long time. Led by Brigitte Hernandez, editor-in-chief of the special edition Grand angle, Le Point.

This I attended (Sat 4.30 scheduled at an 'apt' time in line with the rest of the festival) & left disappointed as there was nothing close to a debate. It seemed an opportunity for the artists to talk about their work, not about the issue. None of the questions mentioned above were addressed to any degree. Shame. 

I look forward to the new Arles next year…

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Part 1: Arles it's a wonderful town, the amphitheatre's up & the Forum is down...

A early start, best view at Luton Airport which is otherwise quite
 awful to say the least. Quite liked this pic I took on my
 phone, but aeroplanes are always a good view to me...

Another year, another Rencontres d'Arles, phew & this year not a scorcher! (Much relief for yours truly, I am a Northerner after all!) 

Every year I come to this beautiful place in the knowledge that it will wow me all over again with an overloading of photography, great people & amazing surroundings. 

The beautiful amphitheatre at dusk

Up on the roof, lovely

Quite a hectic one this time around, reviewing only hours after landing, with lots of interesting work to look at. 

A grouping

I was disappointed with the gaping absence of female photographers work on display in the main festival. This is no surprise, I see it in the art press all the time, the imbalance is embarrassing. With the majority of students studying  photography at university being female I find this not only sad but a vast economic oversight on all fronts. I have daydreams where the 'democratic medium' is reflective of its participants. You cannot tell me that the female of the species doesn't take very good pictures, because I have seen with my own eyes the great work out there. I'm looking forward to imbalance being rectified by editors, curators & museums in the future….well I can dream can't I?

The beautiful & talented Sonia Hamza
 with her work, La cooler des sentiments (contrariés)

So with this in mind I will speak of the highlights of the festival starting with the work I loved & the fabulous people I met, saw again & caught up with over the fast-paced week.

Starting with the lovely people, too many to mention, but a few highlights…

The lovely Linda Joy brandishing a French stick!

Meeting the gorgeous artist Linda Joy - who also writes a wonderful blog - made my trip even better than I imagined. Her first Rencontres experience is a great read. 

Dan Dubowitz with his latest publication
  Citizen Manchester by Manchester University Press.  

Gorgeous Vee Speers at her vernissage 
with elated Elaine Harris & the lovely Linda Joy 

The display of Vee Speers amazing work Bulletproof 6 years after The Birthday Party, using the same children now burgeoning into adulthood. The venue Galerie Huit is one of my favourite places in Arles with a great hostess who always welcomes me with open arms. These fierce young subjects exude the strength of character that comes with their growing maturity, see the series for yourself! The book is published by Keher Verlag.  

Riveting conversation at L'Hôtel Particulier 

Lovely chap from L'Ascenseur Végétal who had a pop-up store with fabulous photo books, 
photographer Giacomo Brunelli & the lovely master printer Mark Foxwell from
Genesis Imaging, all sporting Giacomo's new t-shirt #iwantoneofthoseinblack 

Then there were the reviews. This year I was blessed with some great work to look at & saw some people again, which was fantastic. I wish now I had taken a pic of everyone, but 20 minutes goes super-fast & I'm always too keen to see the work to remember such things.

Then there were the shows. First, one I loved W. M. Hunt Collection Foule - or 'Bill's show' to his friends. The page on the festival website begins like this: "This passion for collecting is foolish. Collectors must be fools. Fou. Foule. Welcome to Hunt’s three-ring circus."

An American speaks

Tell it like it is Bill! He shares his love of collecting with a fantastic selection of group photographs - amazingly collected in only 15 years. These groups could be several people or several thousand people. His wry humour & love of humanity in all its forms comes through with a stunning selection of oddities, unimaginable arrangements of persons unknown forming shapes, words or just stood in front of their place of work. Occasionally they are more disturbing. In one image - incidentally on its own (I'm sure if pictures were alive, would want to) sit alongside - a gathering of KKK members in a hotel room. In this photograph some of the members forgot their hoods so used white napkins to cover their faces instead. This sort of sinister absurdity is an unsettling reminder of the cowardly yet brutal group gathering behind closed doors, faces covered, yet keen to have a photograph taken for posterity. 

A perfect introduction, the wonder & awe of the circus 

Absurdity reigns with a nod to this years motif, a moose in a frame on the 
mantlepiece (he couldn't get a real moose head - yes he tried). 

There is no mistake that an American was responsible for this exhibition 

Wonderful curation of groups, grouped!

Then there were the frames, ooh I had frame envy with the one above here. 

With 250 images to look at everyone had their favourites. I haven't been to a show with so much lively discussion in a long time. There was much & dashing back & forth from room to room as visitors mentioned specific pictures to friends who may have missed something. Amongst the cacophony of souls on display here are 2 of my favourites.  

What appears to be a massive gathering of people on sofas in a carpet-laden street upon closer inspection...

Some of the figures look a bit strange…ah they are painted in, marvellous - as are the sofas receding into the distance.

The carpet on the pavement is also painted on. A great effect pre-Photoshop & all the more interesting a photograph for it! The mystery as to the purpose of this picture as an ad for a sofa manufacturer or just a spectacle for the sake of it really doesn't matter, the photograph is a joy to look at. 

There were many images of massive formations of people arranged to make shapes, but this one was my absolute favourite. I did have a momentary flashback to a British Airways ad long after this was made in 1989 - perhaps a touch of nostalgia and the literal visual symbiosis the group portrays made me feel a touch sentimental for the old days….

New Discoveries
Katharina Gaenssler 

One of Quentin Bajac's choices for the award is Katharina Gaenssler. (See link for a great series of pics showing the ins all) Katharina Gaenssler fills rooms. By collaging massive assemblages of images she creates spaces within spaces on the walls with her complex work. Due to the labour intensive nature of these images all stuck individually on the walls they exist only in situ till the show comes down. Books of the objects are also displayed here. An interesting concept with a wow factor. It is hard to look at this work without trying to imagine the sheer amount of time they take to make. 

©Patrick Willocq

On of the selections, Patrick Willocq chosen by Azu Nwagbogu was far & away my absolute favourite. His series I Am Walé Respect Me depict the daily experience of Ekonda pygmies in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Weaving Ekonda beliefs, taboos, rituals into a series of images which show the experience of a Walé - a young nursing mother after the birth of her first child returns to her parents & remains secluded from 2-5 years. At the end of her seclusion dancing & singing rituals take place. 

©Patrick Willocq

Each image stages a visual representation of the subjects in the songs. The results are astounding. Working with the Walé for over a year their personal history is portrayed in colourful, exuberant & breathtaking imagery.  His respectful collaboration draws attention to the tribes traditions & way of life & in the process gives his audience a sense of wonder at the imaginative performative result. The sheer scale they have, with an ingenious use of materials to construct have such an impact in the flesh. I could barely tear myself away from this exhibit, a real highlight of the festival. It got my vote!

I shall end here, on a high. There's more Arles to come, but for now hope you like this...