Edition 2023

Juliette Agnel

The Child’s Hand  

Juliette Agnel explores extreme environments, whose unsettling beauty provoke senses of wonder and feelings of the sublime. This work takes place in the prehistoric caves at Arcy-sur-Cure, inhabited starting in the Paleolithic. The site harbors cave paintings from around 28,000 years ago.

The Arcy caves are constantly changing, living sites, whether subject to natural processes like the crystallization of hard water, molding the roof and floor, or through human activity, which leaves traces of its passage in sculpted cavities. The “anthropized” environment hosts a collection of depictions of animals, a number of negatives of hands from the prehistorical period, and a more recent collection of graffiti from the 16th century to the present day.

Ideas of appearance and change permeate Agnel’s work. Where photography is often seen as the art of writing in light, the darkness of caves resists it. Each image in this work is unique, the result of a brief moment of light that interprets and immobilizes the limestone concretions. The artist seeks to reveal the emergence of forms in the process of metamorphosis, and reflect this underground world swept by terrestrial energies, retaining the mystery of origins of life on Earth.

Since the dawn of time, humans have sought to depict the surrounding world. The precise meaning of these drawings remains unknown, but this same need to make images, and fix them in space and time, is something we share with the ancient artists. The Child’s Hand [La Main de l’enfant], a negative of a small hand, might be considered among the first self-portraits in existence. The imprint addresses us from the past, and in its referentiality, evokes the origins of photography.

Burial site, place of leisure, meditative space, and nature reserve: in the cave, different time periods coexist and enter into dialogue.

“an interlocking of presents, pasts, and futures that retain their depths of other presents, pasts, and futures, each age bearing, altering, and maintaining the previous ones.”1

Marta Ponsa

1Achile Mbembe, On the Postcolony, University of California Press, 2001

Curator: Marta Ponsa.

Exhibition co-produced by the gallery Clémentine de la Féronnière, Paris and Les Rencontres d'Arles.

Publication: Juliette Agnel, Un autre monde, Maison CF, 2023.

  • 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