ARLES 2024

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Christoph Wiesner

Director of the Rencontres d’Arles

Tremors and turmoil, spirits, traces, parallel readings and rereadings all constitute new perspectives underlying the 2024 edition of the Rencontres d'Arles.
Photographers, artists and curators reveal their visions and stories, not least that of our humanity, by turns thwarted, in endless redefinition, resilient, but also visionary. Whether on the margins or established at the center, the narratives lead to divergent, multiple paths, all emanating from the faults in a porous surface: they intertwine, superimpose and overlap. It's an exciting time, as this ensemble opens a plurality of itineraries to follow.

Encounters, the first worldwide retrospective of American documentary photographer and portraitist Mary Ellen Mark—co-organized by C/O Berlin Foundation and The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation—paves the way, occupying the whole of the first floor of the Espace Van Gogh. Celebrities mingle with the marginalized in society, several of whom Mark has followed for years. In the majestic church of the Frères Prêcheurs, Cristina De Middel draws inspiration from Jules Verne and takes us on a Journey to the Center (of the Earth). She tells the story of a migration from southern Mexico to Felicity, a small town in California, where she testifies to the complexity of the situation, in the face of simplified, reductive information disseminated by the media. Oscillating between reality and fiction, the crossing of the territory becomes an epic task for individuals in quest of hope, facing the tragedy of their condition. Cristina De Middel signs the festival's poster in the form of a portrait in which the magic occurred at the turn of an early-morning encounter.

Anyone can become a subject in their own manner. In the China of the last decades of the 20th century, Mo Yi embodies the very object of his images, at the heart of an extensive observatory of daily life, upsetting the past discourse of representation through experimentation, subjectivity, and humor.

Nearby, the exhibition I’m so Happy You Are Here, organized by Aperture, bypasses established narratives and reveals the significance of Japanese women photographers since the 1950s. The exhibition unveils new historiographical perspectives, emphasizing the need to develop an inclusive understanding of the history of photography, hitherto essentially masculine in its display. At the Salle Henri Comte, Ishuichi Miyako, winner of the Women in Motion Award, 2024, displays some of her emblematic series, such as Mother's, of which she says: "I had never thought about my mother's body, and now I was discovering it in detail, thanks to photography. To take a photograph is to make visible the invisible things that lie beneath the surface." The work on the second floor of the Espace Van Gogh reminds us that the archipelago also bears the memory of the cataclysmic event of March 11, 2011, whose origins immerse us in the geological history of an endlessly battered territory, placed under the indefinite threat of nuclear hazard. With resilience, resistance and creativity, the photographers reveal the striking diversity and vitality of the Japanese scene.

Photographers also bear witness to the multiple traces of our existence, its beauty, as well as its collateral impacts. Winner of the BMW Art Makers program Mustapha Azeroual records sublime images of sunrises and sunsets on the surface of the oceans; Nicolas Floc'h's Lanscape of the Mississippi’s Colors, from the long-range project Rivers Ocean remind us of the presence of human activity on the planet, while Marine Lanier's Hannibal's Garden takes us to the Alps, for a dystopian reflection on the evolution of flora under the impact of climate change.

Photographic archives are intrinsic to the medium. The Rencontres repeatedly offer incursions into the visual memory of photographers and artists, as well as into industrial, historiographic and vernacular archives. This 55th edition again offers a wealth of discoveries, in both form and content. From ama, Japanese fisherwomen, based on the archives of Uraguchi Kusukazu, to the mysterious and whimsical world of Michel Medinger, while not forgetting the history of the wagon-bar, or the comparison of the collections of the Olympic Museum and Photo Elysée with Sport in Focus, archives feature prominently.

Since the Rencontres is defined by its connection to the history of the city of Arles, specific events take on a special significance when they occur alongside the city's rich heritage. Last year, Sophie Calle rediscovered the unique light and shadow of the underground Roman Cryptoporticus site, newly occupied by Juliette Agnel's exhibition. Following this revealing visit, the artist promptly expressed the desire to propose a project there, presented this year in the form of the exhibition Finir en beauté.

In its search for new forms, the festival blazes a trail. In Heaven and Hell, Vimala Pons and Nhu Xuan Hua take us to the point of encounter between theatre, performance art and photography, between current events, their protagonists and fiction. In a hybrid exhibition, the two artists evidence perpetual movement in a fragile equilibrium. All in the Name of the Name highlights another scene: that of the street, the margins, setting out to meet the sensitive surfaces of graffiti where photography, sometimes the last witness to the oldest manifestation of human creativity, weaves a tale between the appearance and disappearance of transient phenomena. Photographic writing can take numerous forms. The bond with time and narrative has become particularly visible in the serial and conceptual approach of a generation of photographers and artists such as Zoe Leonard, Judith Joy Ross, Hans-Peter Feldmann and Nicholas Nixon. The exhibition dedicated to the Astrid Ullens de Schooten Whettnall collection, curated by Urs Stahel, reveals this richness.

The Rencontres d'Arles supports and accompanies emerging creation ever more actively. The Discovery Award now takes up residence at the Espace Monoprix, and invites curator Audrey Illouz to open new horizons, up to the questions raised by the spread of new technologies such as AI.

Aurélie de Lanlay, the entire festival team and I look forward to welcoming you to Arles on July 1 to discover this program in its entirety.
  • 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