My third and final post of notes from Arles 2019. [All quotations are from the wall text/exhibition blurb unless otherwise stated.]
Photo Brut was a very strange and unsettling experience – a collection of works from self-taught “photographers” who produced images in solitude or asylums. Unpleasant and uninstructive in the main.
And I noticed we weren’t the first to disagree with some of the show blurb…
Marina Gadonneix – Phenomena. This was powerful work and very well curated. An example of photographing the unseen – evidence of natural phenomena depicted through lab experiments. The colour of the wall changed from dark blue at one end of the space to very light at the other which bothered me because I have no idea how they did that!
Valerie Belin – Painted Ladies. This was a slow burn which I at first dismissed as being superficial eye candy (although I should have known better from previous research on this photographer). Belin used agency models as the raw material but then added paint to the skin of the apparently passive women. Each image had a specific pictorial style, further developed by post-processing. According to the wall text: “We cannot tell whether the result is a painted photograph or a painting photographed. This interrogation regarding the nature of the image, the process involved, and what we are looking at, creates a sense of uncertainty or unease… It reframes the recurring question of the relations between photography and painting, figuration and abstraction, and reality and fiction.” A key takeaway was that it was the sheer scale of these that made us stop and look properly.
Restless Bodies – East German Photography 1980 – 1989. The aim of this rather bitty group exhibition was to show how “within an authoritarian state based on the negation of individuality, physical confinement, surveillance and normativity, photography was a medium through which artists were able to express the singularity of their lives and their relationship with their bodies, revealing a powerful sense of freedom.” The presentation reflected the performative aspects of a lot of this work which I found to be interesting – fragmented bits of people etc.
“By making this his model, he seeks first to open up and deconstruct photography as reproduction, to focus on its relationship to volume and perspective and its possible liberation from verisimilitude, to pose the question of lyricism. Here the goal is the possibility of exercising one’s own gaze by appropriating and perhaps even reinventing history.”
I think the final word must go to Steeve Baurus …. er… maybe it was better in French?