Noémie Goudal in Numéro Magazine

Rencontres d'Arles 2022: from Lee Miller to Noémie Goudal, what to see at the unmissable photography festival?
July 11 2022 On July 4, the festival Les Rencontres d'Arles kicked off its 53rd edition. With around twenty exhibitions and works by more than 160 artists, this not-to-be-missed photography event continues to enrich and broaden its focus on artistic expression around the image, whether historical or more recent, visual, ethnographic, humorous and/or committed. From exhibitions by major 20th century photographers such as Lee Miller, Mitch Epstein and Babette Mangolte to more contemporary proposals by Frida Orupabo, Julien Lombardi and Noémie Goudal, via the teeming feminist avant-garde of the 1970s, discover 9 exhibitions at not to be missed in the Provençal town until September 25th.
Noémie Goudal, still from the video “Below the Deep South” (2021).  Courtesy of the artist and Les filles du calvaire gallery.
 Noémie Goudal, still from the video “Below the Deep South” (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Les filles du calvaire gallery.

The dormant nature of Noémie Goudal

For about ten years, Noémie Goudal has been deploying a polymorphic visual work whose anchor point remains the same:the landscape and its perception. His trompe-l'oeil photographs, integrating their life-size reproductions into the very natural settings to disturb their apprehension, constantly question the boundaries between nature and artifice, between freedom and control. In his exhibition at the Eglise des Trinitaires in Arles, the practice of the artist known mainly for his photographs takes on another dimension with the unveiling of two unpublished films. Behind shots of fragmented palm groves mounted on wire netting, we discover moving images of nature shaken, by fire on the first screen, and by water on the second. Noémie Goudal pushes her trompe-l'oeil work up a notch: in the first film, plant paintings follow one another slowly, consumed by flames to reveal their background, like a mise en abyme of the landscape in combustion, as well as a symbolic representation of the physical image frozen by the impression decomposing, in favor of the digital image in movement. In the second, palm trees photographed and printed on panels flow slowly in an expanse of fresh water, suspended by pulleys, until they disappear under the flat surface before resurfacing. While the soothing sounds of tropical nature and these processes of destruction skilfully orchestrated by the artist resonate simultaneously in the church, his sense of dramaturgy appears here more powerful than ever, while emanating from it the meticulous and poetic expression of the ecological disasters. for the benefit of the moving digital image. In the second, palm trees photographed and printed on panels flow slowly in an expanse of fresh water, suspended by pulleys, until they disappear under the flat surface before resurfacing. While the soothing sounds of tropical nature and these processes of destruction skilfully orchestrated by the artist resonate simultaneously in the church, his sense of dramaturgy appears here more powerful than ever, while emanating from it the meticulous and poetic expression of the ecological disasters. for the benefit of the moving digital image. In the second, palm trees photographed and printed on panels flow slowly in an expanse of fresh water, suspended by pulleys, until they disappear under the flat surface before resurfacing. While the soothing sounds of tropical nature and these processes of destruction skilfully orchestrated by the artist resonate simultaneously in the church, his sense of dramaturgy appears here more powerful than ever, while emanating from it the meticulous and poetic expression of the ecological disasters.

From Birgit Jürgenssen to Martha Wilson, 72 major figures of the feminist avant-garde of the 1970s

The 1970s marked a real turning point in the West: in a context of sexual revolution, many artists used their practices to defend their rights and rethink their representations, contributing to the creation of a so-called “avant-garde” art. feminist guard”, as Gabriele Schor, curator and founder of the Verbund collection in Vienna, describes it. In her exhibition presented at the Mécanique générale, whose title takes up this expression, the curator brings together the works of 72 representatives of this movement, all from her collection. Through five themes, we explore how these artists were able, through their practice, to question or even denounce the place of women in society as much as to contribute to their emancipation. Thus, works such as the photographs of Valie Export or Birgit Jürgenssen criticize the role of housewife and housewife to which the fairer sex has been confined for centuries, to the point of very literally evoking confinement in the domestic straitjacket, as the Dutch woman did in 1978 Lydia Schouten, during a 1978 performance where she staged herself naked, trying to escape from an iron cage. The other parts of the exhibition focus sometimes on the explicit representation of sexuality, where artists such as Lynda Benglis, Judy Chicago or Penny Slinger break the taboos linked to menstruation, pleasure and the female sex, sometimes on representations of body through the questioning of the canons of beauty, conveyed by magazines and advertising campaigns, that artists likeCindy Sherman , Martha Wilson, Annette Messager or even Ana Mendieta have largely hijacked them. An extremely rich corpus that ends with the photograph of Orlan  “giving birth to her-loves me”, a symbolic and powerful way of affirming the emancipation of women and their right to be able to present themselves to the world as they see fit. .


“A feminist vanguard. Photographs and performances from the 1970s from the Verbund collection. Vienna” at the General Mechanics.

Frida Orupabo's collages, between humor, surrealism and commitment

It is not surprising to find Frida Orupabo in the precincts of General Mechanics,a few meters from the feminist avant-garde exhibition. If the practice of the Norwegian artist of Nigerian origin began in the 2010s, it is an extension of his elders through his physical or digital collages of female figures, drawing both on images from historical archives only in online amateur videos. In these works, the 30-year-old breaks down and recomposes the bodies of black women, which she fixes with Parisian fasteners like a cardboard puppet. Frozen in melancholy, erotic or sometimes warlike attitudes, like riding an ebony horse, their bodies and their faces assembled in proportions beyond reality come to transform representations long locked up or even reified by colonial history, systems of domination and racism. Beyond these collages oscillating between humour, surrealism and commitment, the artist also unveils in the exhibition a gridded video in nine square screens where texts, photos and video extracts follow one another, like an account Instagram which would unroll the fragments of a constantly renewed history of women.

India seen by Mitch Epstein in a Romanesque abbey

North-east of Arles is a jewel of Romanesque architecture:Saint-Pierre de Montmajour Abbey, founded in 948 by Benedictine monks. If the stone building once housed a monastery, it was classified as a historic monument following the French Revolution, open to visitors and even inspired artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, who made drawings there in the last years of his life. On the occasion of the photography festival, the historic site hosts a whole section of the work of the American Mitch Epstein. A great traveler, the 70-year-old artist has traveled his country over the decades with his camera, capturing the energy of New York, but also that of Berlin and Vietnam. Here, it is one of the most beautiful projects of the photographer that we discover, devoted to a major country in the history of his career, India, where the man went eight times between the end of the 1970s and the end of the 1980s. The resulting prolific series reveals the abundance of the city of Bombay, from dawn to midnight , as the rural landscapes of the state of Karnataka, to the national parade in the country's capital, New Delhi – an extremely rich corpus of which only a third was known to the public until then. During the confinement, the artist took the time to immerse himself in the contact sheets of this period and had the first copies printed of several dozen of his images, offering the opportunity to discover, in an exceptional historical setting, a whole section unpublished work on the second most populous country in the world The resulting prolific series reveals the bustle of the city of Bombay, from dawn to midnight, as well as the rural landscapes of the state of Karnataka, up to the national parade in the country's capital, New Delhi – an extremely rich corpus of which only a third was previously known to the public. During the confinement, the artist took the time to immerse himself in the contact sheets of this period and had the first copies printed of several dozen of his images, offering the opportunity to discover, in an exceptional historical setting, a whole section unpublished work on the second most populous country in the world The resulting prolific series reveals the bustle of the city of Bombay, from dawn to midnight, as well as the rural landscapes of the state of Karnataka, up to the national parade in the country's capital, New Delhi – an extremely rich corpus of which only a third was previously known to the public. During the confinement, the artist took the time to immerse himself in the contact sheets of this period and had the first copies printed of several dozen of his images, offering the opportunity to discover, in an exceptional historical setting, a whole section unpublished work on the second most populous country in the world New Delhi – an extremely rich corpus of which only a third was previously known to the public. During the confinement, the artist took the time to immerse himself in the contact sheets of this period and had the first copies printed of several dozen of his images, offering the opportunity to discover, in an exceptional historical setting, a whole section unpublished work on the second most populous country in the world New Delhi – an extremely rich corpus of which only a third was previously known to the public. During the confinement, the artist took the time to immerse himself in the contact sheets of this period and had the first copies printed of several dozen of his images, offering the opportunity to discover, in an exceptional historical setting, a whole section unpublished work on the second most populous country in the world 

The intimate abstractions of Bettina Grossman

In November 2021, Bettina Grossman – known as Bettina – passed away at the age of 94.Although the artist lived for nearly a century, his career in painting, photography and even sculpture was rather discreet, especially on the other side of the Atlantic. The most famous event of her career, however, remains her experience in the Chelsea Hotel in New York, where she lived for more than fifty years. Within the confines of this mythical building in Manhattan, the American created a large number of works reflecting both her relationship to the American metropolis, to the particular and domestic atmosphere of this place of passage, but also to conceptual art and abstraction in which his multidisciplinary practice fits brilliantly. At the Rencontres d'Arles, the artist is celebrated with her first monograph in France thanks to the co-curatorship of Gregor Huber and photographer Yto Barrada, who met her while making a documentary about her and had a special relationship with her until the end of her life. In the small space of the Henri-Comte room, we discover both the pages of his notebooks filled with colorful patterns, his paintings reproducing geometric shapes on canvas or on paper or his reduced-size wooden sculptures, where these shapes fit together and overlap in the volume. The photographs of the artist presented in the exhibition are the visual reflection of her plastic research: over the New York streets that she has surveyed for a long time, Bettina has translated on her films the alignment of urban lighting, the structures orthogonal buildings and markings on the ground delimiting the roads, but also staged his own sculptures, giving their volumes a different reading through skilful lighting effects. A video of passers-by in the Big Apple filmed from the upper floors of a building also reveals a lesser-known aspect of the artist's research, who meticulously studied the movements of bodies to better transcribe them in abstraction.

 

Lee Miller: from fashion photography to war photography, portrait of a complete artist

Looking back to magazine photography from the first half of the 20th century in the West,Lee Miller emerges today as a major figure. The American, who has long been reduced to her role as a model, has had a prolific career driven by her ambition and her independence in a sector still largely dominated by men, but also by her great versatility, restored in the exhibition that the festival is currently devoting to him. Presented in the Espace Van Gogh, which honors historical photographers each summer, the latter focuses on the densest chapter of his career, from the creation of his own studio in New York in 1932 to the end of the war in 1945. Close to the surrealists and in particular to Man Ray, who helped train her in photography during her stay in Paris, the photographer then quickly became famous in the art of portraiture and self-portraiture. ,vogueEnglish and American, for which she worked regularly for years. Organized in two parts, the exhibition opens with the most attractive part of Lee Miller's career, from his advertising campaigns for Chanel, for brands of hats or lingerie to his fashion series testifying to the British trends of the 30 and 40, passing through his intimate portraits of illustrious women such as the writer Colette or actresses like Dorothy Hale. Then the tone suddenly changes in the last room. In 1942, when Europe was upset by the Second World War, Lee Miller was accredited by the American army to restore the conflict from the point of view of the Allied forces in the pages of English Vogue. The glamor of elegant women is then followed by the violence of images of dead prisoners and crematory ovens in the Dachau and Buchenwald camps, mutilated SS guards in prisons or women with shaved heads in the courts, accused of having collaborated with the Germans. Female glory emerges, however, in the image of women war workers and women engaged in the navy who contributed to the victory of the Allied forces, which again translate all the sensitivity and talent of the photographer to summon emotion in all circumstances. .

Lukas Hoffmann, fine detail photographer

The black paint on a wall crumbles to bring out the white of the raw stone. The slanting stalk of tall grass springs from a pile of snow, like the only plant that would survive the winter. The shadow cast by the sun under a roof segments the bitumen like a tangram of shades of grey. With Lukas Hoffmann, the “ punctum ”, as Roland Barthes theorized it, this point of detail supposed to catch the spectator, arises from the most ordinary spectacle to illustrate the passage of time. In the shadow of a dead end, at the edge of a forest or behind a street corner, the 41-year-old Swiss photographercaptures the corners of reality without ever altering them. Everything lies in the framing, the light and the contrasts - often supported by black and white -, the depth of field, the richness of the details... To underline them, the artist has been working for twenty years in the camera, a bulky device that may seem archaic today to smartphone enthusiasts, but that the photographer appreciates for its slowness of use, the antithesis of the snapshot or the burst image. “ I make photographs that are part of the tradition of painting”, says the one who insists on mastering all the stages of the shot, from printing to framing. At the Rencontres d'Arles, the forty-year-old presents several sets of works, including the polyptych of a chipped wall, like damaged skin, the peeling of which draws, on its six panels, a veritable fresco. On the other hand, we will find twenty-five prints from his Strassenbilder series, photos of passers-by in the streets of Berlin, which he says he grabbed “ like a pickpocket ”. Two projects that testify to a true culmination of photography, where the image manages to make its subject disappear behind its masterful graphic power.

11 July 2022
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