Les Rencontres de la Photographie Arles 2020 - FOR A PHOTOGRAPHY OF RESISTANCE
June 29 - July 5
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In 1938, when Charles Chaplin wrote the first draft of the screenplay for his new film, he poetically entitled it The Story of a Little Fish in a Shark-Infested Ocean. A few months later, the Tramp’s last adventure received its dark, definitive title, The Dictator.
While the film came out in the United States in 1940—it was banned in France until 1945—and the war tore Europe apart, Chaplin was one of the few to speak out against Nazi Germany. In Histoire(s) du cinéma Jean-Luc Godard wrote:
“Cinema disappeared at that time. It disappeared because he had foreshadowed the camps. Chaplin was a unique example, more famous than anybody else in the world. Chaplin was somebody that everybody believed. Well, when he made The Dictator, nobody believed him. He might have been believed a little bit, though. And when Lubitsch dared to say, ‘So, they call me concentration camp?’ people said, ‘What the hell is that?!’ He was a Jewish immigrant, and if there was anyone who had proven himself in comedy, it was he. All of a sudden, people stopped laughing… Something happened there. And I thought, ‘Well, in hindsight, as a filmmaker, I’m in occupied territory. I’m part of the resistance.’”
We invite you to a resistance edition. For there is also a photography that resists, stands up, opposes, denounces, frees, re-plays, re-invents and re-enchants.
The program of the 51st Rencontres d’Arles includes Charlotte Perriand, an architect who believed in a better way of living together and used photography to make her point. Her collection is widely exhibited to the public here for the first time. The program also features Chow and Lin’s contemporary work on poverty, a meeting between an economist and a photographer who reexamine the idea of poverty from both a geographical and a historical standpoint.
The curator Justinien Tribillon and Offshore Studio (Isabel Seiffert and Christoph Miler) are undertaking the same re-assessment with the Infrastructure exhibition, in which seven young photographers question the relevance of our wealth indicators. As a prologue to the show, an analysis of the Morandi Bridge that collapsed in Genoa in 2018 reveals how far we have come in five decades. When it opened in 1967, the cable-stayed bridge, the first ever to span the city, was seen as the symbol of Italy’s rebirth, a major engineering feat, a technological achievement, the triumph of speed and the car, the victory of infrastructure as a promise of future wealth. The miracle—the mirage—collapsed, killing 43 people. Fifty years on, all those hopes have been replaced by the realization that very little is known about how concrete ages. The symbol of technological and engineering prowess has become a metaphor for the dislocation of Europe and the blocking of its access routes. Between growth and decline, today’s artists take hold of current events to decipher, analyze, testify, recount and transmit their vision of the world.
But this year’s festival also leaves room for dreams, especially in Katrien De Blauwer’s delicate collages that summon up images of the New Wave, which no one knows better than Raymond Cauchetier. This year, the photographer celebrates his 100th birthday by opening the doors of his archives up to us. In 1959, he immortalized Godard’s masterpiece Breathless, stopping Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in their tracks:
Post-war France was booming, producing and consuming, no questions asked. Television had not yet invaded homes and, to keep up with rising demand for cheap, illustrated publications, Cauchetier, when not photographing sets, was churning out photo-novels at a brisk pace. Imported from Italy, these short, syrupy stories, cut up like a movie into dozens of freeze-frames, captivated millions of readers every week.
Arles is a journey through time, with artists traveling backwards and forwards depending on their inspiration. Diana Markosian grew up in Boris Yeltsin’s post-Soviet Russia, when the two blocs found common ground in the free market. Television shows like Dallas, Dynasty or Santa Barbara took over from the illustrated press. She was three years old on January 2, 1992 when Russian television broadcast a foreign series for the first time. Santa Barbara became a phenomenon. Three times a week, millions of viewers stopped whatever they were doing to tune in. They would not have missed the beginning of a new episode for anything in the world. Not one to be upstaged, Yeltsin regularly addressed the nation just before the beginning of each show. Diana’s mother loved the prime-time soap opera symbolizing the land of plenty so much that she began corresponding with a man in Santa Barbara. Overnight, she became a potbellied Californian’s mail-order bride and left Russia with her two children to pursue the American Dream!
The world is not limited to what we know, and on some maps there are still forbidden areas—those, precisely, forbidden by America, which put them on its blacklist. This year, the Rencontres d’Arles is lifting the veil on two of these little-known places: North Korea and Sudan. There are few countries of which we have no images and know no photographers. North Korea is certainly the world’s most closed country, but Stéphan Gladieu has been there five times since 2017. He has photographed its inhabitants in the course of encounters, setting up a street studio equipped with two flashes that allow him to make portraits outside their context—a beautiful metaphor of the local situation.
Sudan has just opened up after a 30-year dictatorship that banned even the slightest movement. An exemplary uprising by young people overran the streets and social networks. They persevered for months until obtaining Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office and the establishment of a democratic transition council. Freedom of the press was restored. The documentation and publication of photographs of the sit-in and its political and social organization is a unique example of 2.0 Resistance. We selected eight photographers who participated in this revolution through images.
Lastly, getting back to Chaplin, I would like to dedicate the 51st Rencontres d’Arles to all the little fishes who, yesterday and today, through their agility, conviction, determination, enthusiasm and desire to share collective adventures, continue to defy the sharks.