Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Les Recontres d'Arles 2011

So I have been back for over a week now and have been very busy arranging things for my forthcoming publication, but before I get very involved in that process I felt it important to digest all that was seen in Arles over the festival opening.

Having not been to Arles before I wasn't too sure what to expect, but I knew that it would be full of great exhibitions, weather, company, food and not forgetting regional wine. I must say that it really did live up to everything I had heard about the festival. The production and organisation that goes into this is quite unbelievable, with so many exhibitions, projections and publication stands you have a wealth of beautiful imagery to look through and be inspired by. The spaces used are vast, industrial and stunning, really emphasizing the beauty of the works on show.

Particular exhibitions that I found very interesting where the Discovery Awards, and I am very pleased to hear that Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse won with their work South Africa, nominated by Artur Walther. The Mexican Suitcase was an incredible, historic exhibition detailing the found negatives, in fact three small boxes containing nearly 4,500 negatives, from Robert Capa, Chim (David Seymour) and Gerda Taro that span the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939.) This exhibition of contact sheets and enlargements from the archive were extraordinary and really brought significance and nostalgia to a time where film is rarely used. This juxtaposed against the rather talked about show, From Here On was a great contrast adding humour and ridiculousness to an ever developing medium. I must add that I found this show a bit repetitive, with some great pieces, but many we could happily leave. I was slightly disappointed by this as I had been very much looking forward to this show, maybe that is in itself quite telling and that the entire point of this exhibit is its wastefulness, ridiculousness, anticlimax and temporality.

The New York Times exhibition was wonderful, documenting the wonderful array of commissioned artists over the past 30 years for the magazine. With artists ranging from Thomas Demand to Simon Norfolk to Paolo Pellegrini each exhibit showed the tear sheets, imagery and in some cases the correspondence between Kathy Ryan and the artist. This was amazing and I found the letters between parties often the most interesting part.

All in all it was a great trip with an added bonus of exhibiting with FOAM, which was fantastic. If you can get to Arles then you should for a great adventure with wonderful and inspiring works.


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