ARLES 2023
A State of Consciousness

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Christoph Wiesner
Director of the Rencontres d’Arles

Strange as it may seem, every year, like a seismograph of our times, the Rencontres d’Arles capture our world’s state of consciousness. Its photographers, artists, and curators help us to see, to perceive, with keener acuteness, the transformations we are living through. Awareness–at the very least–of climate change has become unavoidable, directly affecting our habits.

Aware of these necessities and of its role as groundbreaker, this year the festival, in collaboration with the Cité Anthropocène in Lyon, is launching an exploration of the Arlesian territory and its ecosystem. Scientists, researchers, thinkers, and artists made their voyages of discovery in order to take stock of them. Ground Control, the former SNCF warehouse, was chosen as thinktank headquarters and was central to all discussions; the result was a rearrangement of the space.

Exploration of the territory may take many different forms. Thus, Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier’s Grey Sun presents a corpus of the territory derived from their long-term project Atlas des Régions Naturelles. While Mathieu Asselin’s investigation of the industrial area, once the height of Tarascon’s modernity, at the heart of the Here Near exhibition gives us a totally different perspective. Tanja Engelberts explores the Rhône; Sheng-Wen Lo roams through Camargue; each, with individual approach and sensibility, reminding us that the space between earth and water must be protected, if we want to keep enjoying it in the near future.

As Camargue is above all the river and its delta, Yohanne Lamoulère invites us on a voyage between strangeness and realism, both atemporal and magic.

Not far away, in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Lights of Saints explores the history of this pilgrimage place over more than a century, with its joyous but also its tragic moments. Vernacular material from the archives, great names in photography–many prominent artists have made the voyage, from Chiki Weisz to Lucien Clergue, from Erwin Blumenfeld to Martine Franck, to make us dream and relive a part of what makes up the history of Camargue.

Marseille, land of arrivals and departures, a halt before a further stage, a city of passage for women and men from North and Sub-Saharan Africa. This is the history to which the archives of the Studio Rex in the Belsunce neighborhood bear witness to and which Jean-Marie Donat unveils for us.

Distant memory, exile.
Between Our Walls recounts a history of Iran from the 1950s to today, while the presence of the Iranian diaspora on the USA’s West Coast is made visible by Hannah Darabi’s Soleil of Persian Square.

A stroll through the history of our world and current events is offered by the exhibition celebrating 50 years of the daily newspaper Libération at the Abbaye de Montmajour.

Vernacular and archival photography document an era and underscore a part of the festival program.

In 2004, two antiquaries discovered 340 prints and polaroid photographs from the 1950s and 1960s at a New York flea market. These images tell the unspoken story of another America, that of Casa Susanna, of a minority at constant risk of losing its place in society. These photographs were born from a secret intimacy, representing men dressed as housewives–as housewives were valorized by victorious postwar America. These images bear witness to the essentiality of photography for one of the first networks of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Another aspect of America arises with Gregory Crewdson, who uses film technique in creating images of a disintegrating dream, America in crisis. It is the culmination of a 10-year work. It is Edward Hopper noir, Jean-Pierre Melville and the crime film going wrong, as in Wim Wenders’ The American Friend, which according to the director was inspired by his polaroid’s with Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz.

The kaleidoscopic richness of the Saul Leiter retrospective invites us, in black, white, and color, to wander the streets of New York (like Diane Arbus, born the same year as Leiter, 1923) with an exhibition presented by LUMA Arles.

While at the same time, the late 1940s, Agnès Varda returned to Sète after spending the Occupation there. She photographed the life of the working-class neighborhood La Pointe Courte, the setting, a few years later, of her first feature film, La Pointe Courte, with Philippe Noiret and Silvia Montfort.

This year also, experimentation runs through the field of exhibitions and themes. With the scrapbook, whose origin combines the tradition of the photo album with the diary to assume a deeply cinematic form, but also through Zofia Kulik’s manipulation of the photographic medium, creating a new female identity, full of symbols. At the intersection of explorers’ expeditions and the experience of the first inventors, Roberto Huarcaya summons the technique of the photogram, in a nocturnal practice that bewilders our senses with the representation of Peru’s tropical forest. Juliette Agnel, meanwhile, invites us to the mystery of our origins in the cryptoporticus, an ancient and magical place occupied for the first time this year by the festival.

And finally, an exhibition, no less important in seeking representation of female art, showcasing the Nordic countries and the discovery of a little-known scene, from the postwar to the contemporary era, whereby a consideration of the relationship the welfare state has maintained with a certain idea of sisterhood [Søsterskap] is developed through the eyes of 17 photographers. This year, the Finnish artist Emma Sarpaniemi has created the festival poster with her self-portrait, to be seen at the Église Sainte-Anne.

The Rencontres d’Arles once again celebrate emerging artists, with the exhibition Special Attention of the photographic work of three students from the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie, and the Discovery Award Louis Roederer Foundation at the Église des Frères Prêcheurs, setting for curator Tanvi Mishra’s magnificent work on the Southern Hemisphere, opening new horizons for us upon Kolkata, Cairo, and Dhaka.

With Aurélie de Lanlay and the whole festival team, we are looking forward to welcoming you to the full festival program, starting July 3 in Arles.
  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture