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"Mitch Epstein in India, 1978-1989," courtesy of the Rencontres d’Arles.

Rencontres d’Arles Unveils Revelatory Summer Festival

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The Rencontres d’Arles has kicked off its 53rd summer photography festival, on view through September 25. This year’s focus, “Visible or Invisible, a Summer Revealed,” sheds light upon the influence and innovation of works from over 160 artists across 40 exhibitions representing historically underrecognized cultures and genders. 

“A Feminist Avant-Garde,” an exhibition of the Verbund Collection at the Mécanique Générale which has never before been seen in France, features the use of photography as an expressive and emancipatory consciousness-raiding tool on the part of women including Cindy Sherman, ORLAN, Helena Almeida, and Martha Wilson. “Capturing Movements in Space” is an exhibition at the Église Sainte-Anne which features filmmaker and photographer Babette Mangolte’s documentation of the 1970s New York dance and performance scene, with special emphasis on the ways in which such artists as Trisha Brown, Richard Foreman, Lucinda Childs, Robert Wilson and Simone Forti developed a gestural language of subjective performance in dialogue with the subjectivity of the camera and audience.

“A Feminist Avant-Garde,” courtesy of the Rencontres d’Arles.

“A poem of perpetual renewal” marks the first solo exhibition of the American artist Bettina Grossman, who has lived at the Chelsea Hotel in New York since the ‘70s. Grossman’s work continues this line of experimental self-reference through the mediums of photography, video, sculpture, painting, and textile design. “How Fast Shall We Sing” features collages of Norwegian-Nigerian artist Frida Orupabo which interrogate and deconstruct the ways in which black bodies have been brutalized and colonized in art-historical representations. “If a Tree Falls in the Forest also examines individual and collective memory through the lens of colonialism, addressing the silences which create the traumas of othering and the silences which result from the traumas of othering.

“How Fast Shall We Sing,” courtesy of the Rencontres d’Arles.

The festival will be headlined by “Mitch Epstein in India, 1978-1989,” an exhibition featuring a selection of remastered prints from the thousands of photographs which Epstein shot during the eight trips to India which he took over the late seventies and eighties, on view at the Abbaye de Montmajour. The works are exhibited alongside the two films which Epstein collaborated on with his wife at the time, Indian director Mira Nair: India Cabaret (1985) and Salaam Bombay! (1988). These photographs and films attest to Epstein’s double-status in India as both insider and outsider, immersing the viewer in a place and time with all the complexity of sociopolitical codes of caste and religion, and all the simplicity of immediate experience.

“Geometric Forests,” courtesy of the Rencontres d’Arles.

Speaking on the Rencontres d’Arles, Patrick de Carolls, the mayor of Arles, has said that the festival “will be a place of exploration and experimentation. Above all it will give viewers a chance to recenter themselves, to stand in front of photographs, silently or not, to find their own place and feelings… Yes, the 21st century is a grave time. But the strength of the festival, created before photography was considered a major art form, lies in making the act of looking a celebration, the image a testimony and technique a questioning.”

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Kelly Wearstler

THE WINTER EXPERIENCE ISSUE
2023

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