More notes from Arles. [All quotations are from the wall text/exhibition blurb unless otherwise stated.]
Here is a quick canter through my almost faves…
Tom Wood – Mothers, Daughters, Sisters – Salle Henri-Comte. This was a wonderful exhibition of Wood’s own work on Merseyside in the 1980s/90s alongside found family photos and postcards from his personal collection, revealing his fascination with the physical tangibility of photos from the 70s onwards. He is particularly interested in the notion of ‘family resemblance’ being a series of overlapping similarities rather than one essential common feature. There is a strong focus on the mundane with a striking sense of intimacy and feminine complicity, family bonds and collective power. I felt this accumulated as I walked around the show and was interested to see how other viewers spent a long time poring over the details in the images. It was encouraging to see how much we all just want to stare at other people and the places they inhabit. Whilst I agree that we cannot always learn very much from looking at portraits, most people seem to have a primal urge to do so. I suppose we are all looking for connections and to glimpse our shared humanity. This definitely also supports Martin Parr’s point that what may have seemed boringly ordinary at the time is now fascinating as so much has changed over the last few decades.
Randa Mirza – El-Zohra Wasn’t Born in a Day at Commanderie Sainte-Luce. Five beautiful dioramas each exploring a forgotten pre-Islamic myth. Dark, quiet and atmospheric.
Walls of Power – Man-made barriers throughout Europe – Maison des Lices. This was brilliant. Split into walls of ‘influence’, walls of ‘segregation’ and walls of ‘migration’. “The first man who having fenced in a piece of land and said ‘This is mine’ and found people naive enough to believe him, that man is the true founder of civil society.” (Jean Jacques Rousseau – Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men, 1754). This show disabused us of the notion that European culture is open and inclusive highlighting the physical barriers in Europe. “Through contemporary documentary photography, the exhibition investigates walls, fences, and their immediate surroundings; specifically those erected by any European authority and still standing today to prohibit people from either leaving or entering civil societies.” Some absolutely superb images here combined with great documentary strategies such as providing cameras and diaries for refugees to record their journeys. Very effective and inspiring. Some of the notable artists were Tijen Erol (photographing the UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus), Frankie Quinn (Peacelines), Jose Palazon for the golf course image alone!, Sergi Camara, Hank Wildschut for Ville de Calais.