VISIBLE OR INVISIBLE, A SUMMER REVEALED

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Christoph Wiesner

Director of the Rencontres d’Arles

Saying that the summer of 2022 will be one of revelations seems almost like stating the obvious. How can we be made to see what is staring us in the face, but takes so long to appear, as if the revelation could only be a forced birth? Photography, photographers and artists who use the medium are there to remind us of what we want to neither hear nor see. Yet, as Emanuele Coccia recalls, “it is to the visible, to images, that man turns for a radical testimony of his own being, his own nature”.

Every summer, the Rencontres d’Arles seizes a condition, demands, criticizes, rebels against established standards and categories and shakes up the way we look at things from one continent to another, reminding us of our absolute need to exist.

Photography captures our existence in all its aspects, but it has not always mirrored the incredible richness and diversity of the artists. A long process of recognizing women photographers has been underway for about 40 years. Continuing the festival’s commitment, this year many venues will host shows reflecting their influence and creativity, from historic figures to forgotten or poorly known artists and today’s emerging young talents.

A Feminist Avant-garde of the 1970s, an exhibition at the Atelier de la Mécanique of the Verbund Collection, which has never been seen before in France, features performative practices common worldwide. The outcome of 18 years of research, the show focuses on women who used photography as a major means of expression and emancipation to, as Lucy Lippard says, revolt “against the cult of male genius or the hegemony of painting for a radical reinvention of the image of women by women”. From Cindy Sherman to ORLAN, Helena Almeida and Martha Wilson, a whole generation of female photographers paved the way for consciousness and recognition.

Dance and performance in 1970s New York meet in Église Sainte-Anne. Filmmaker-photographer Babette Mangolte documented the exciting scene there, where works by Trisha Brown, Richard Foreman, Lucinda Childs, Robert Wilson and Simon Forti, to name just a few, were performed. She developed a language based on the camera’s subjectivity, where the viewer plays a key role in the work and in the body’s relationship to space. Closer to us, another performance unfolds in front of Susan Meiselas’s camera: captured gestures of fragments of aging bodies meet the music of Marta Gentilucci. In this composition for four hands, energy and beauty transcend the passage of time.

This summer, visitors again make their way to places like the Salle Henri-Comte, where they can see the singular work of Bettina Grossman, who has lived in the legendary Chelsea Hotel since 1970. Bettina has based her shape-shifting work on a complex self-referencing system integrating photographs, videos, sculptures, paintings and textile design revealed by Yto Barrada at her side.

The experimentation continues with Frida Orupabo’s strange, poetic repertoire of figures. Denouncing the brutality of how black bodies have been depicted throughout history, she deconstructs stereotypes by reappropriating images downloaded from the Internet and integrating them into her family archive. The young curators of Untitled Duo continue this critical perspective with If a Tree Falls in a Forest, which investigates the individual and collective memory of colonialism and the trauma of being othered. For the first time in France, the James Barnor exhibition at LUMA reveals a selection of iconic images and period documents. At the end of the colonial era, Barnor opened his first studio in his hometown of Accra before moving to London and then traveling back and forth between the two continents.

The human is at the heart of the festival, but so is nature: it is impossible to imagine one without the other. Ritual Inhabitual sounds the alarm over the dizzying expansion in Chile of industrial forestry and the planting of geometrical forests to supply an increasingly greedy paper industry. Meanwhile, the Mapuche people are being pushed further and further away from their land, cutting them off from their culture so closely linked to nature. In the United States, Bruno Serralongue documents the Sioux people’s ongoing struggle to protect their ancestral lands from the expansion of the oil and gas industry.

The Rencontres also supports creativity with many tools developed over the years with our public and private partners in France and abroad. This year, for the first time, works by the winner of the grant created with the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa are being exhibited at Cloître Saint-Trophime, while those of the artists pre-selected for the Louis Roederer Discovery Award are shown at the Église des Frères-Prêcheurs, in the heart of the city, under the curatorship of Taous Dahmani.

Our reading of history continues with two exhibitions that strangely resonate in this terrible period, when war is raging on Europe’s doorstep. Gaëlle Morel offers a new look at the career of Lee Miller, a photographer beyond the muse she is often seen as. The show spans the years 1932 to 1945, from her studio work to commissions and her wartime photography until the liberation of the German concentration camps. Co-produced with the International Red Cross Museum, A World to Heal, the outcome of two years of research in the museum’s archives, takes a critical look at 160 years of humanitarian photography.

This year, Mitch Epstein’s photography headlines the festival. His exhibition In India, 1978-1989 is at Abbaye de Montmajour.

With Aurélie de Lanlay and the whole team, we look forward to seeing you in Arles to discover the rest of the program starting on July 4.
  • 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
    • Pernot Ricard
    • Kering
  • Media partners

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