This week is dedicated to summaries of what happened during the Rencontres d’Arles opening week [3-9 July 2017]. Let’s continue with key events that marked the engagement between this authoritative event and China.
The Rencontres d’Arles festival does no merely exhibit photographic works, but it also celebrates the inventive panoply of photobooks. Like many others, I wandered around Cosmos-Arles-Books, this satellite event founded by Olivier Cablat and Sebastian Hau that focuses on contemporary practices in photography publication planned during the festival’s opening week.
To my surprise, I came across very interesting samples in other venues, such as the Paris-based Editions Bessard that have contributed to the promotion – not exclusively – of Chinese contemporary photography [read his interview]. When Pierre was not busy doing portfolio reviews, he warmly introduced his publications in the pop-up store he has been holding the past four years at the Place Voltaire. An almost complete set of publications were displayed on the large table decorated with Chinese embroidered tablecloth, ranging from his old Zine collection to his latest Bespoke volume on Pepe Lopez (2017), from his own “Wuhan Boiler Company Workers” (2009) to Guy Tillim’s “Edit Beijing” (2017). Hoping to develop his interest in fashion photography, Pierre informed me that he is currently collaborating with the Canadian photographer Kourtney Roy on a photobook project on China. Besides, he has just signed an agreement with the Chinese artist Liu Bolin to produce an artist edition of 800 copies.
Located on 26 rue des Arènes near Arles Amphitheatre, another pop-up bookstore caught my attention. It gathered two projects together: the Italian L’Artiere publishing house and the Maison Z 中国制造 supervised by the Chinese artist Zhen Shi. I have mentioned her earlier this week as she is also exhibiting her photographs at the Galerie Le Magasin de jouets [read more]. Here, Zhen offered a curated selection of sophisticated crafted artists' books from China, including hers. A fair number of them were published by the Ningbo-based notable Jiazazhi Press specialised in Chinese and East Asian Photobooks, such as Chen Xinhao’s “Time From Different Sources: Images from Ciman”, Thomas Sauvin’s “Until Death Do Us Part” and Matjaž Tančič’s "3DPRK". Zhen’s favourite remained Chen Wenjun and Jiang Yanmei’s “Me and Me”, a limited set of handmade photobook that documents their personal and creative relationship.
The L’Artiere Edizioni was no less interesting. Founded in 2013 by the brothers Gianluca and Gianmarco Gamberini, this young publishing house “devotes itself to the creation of volumes that are aesthetically pleasing and made to last, not only aimed at expert photographers or collectors, but also at fans or people who simply want to catch up with the world of contemporary photography”. Of particular interest was the Japanese female photographer Tomoko Kikuchi’s monograph. In her series, ‘I and I’ she focused on the subject of transgender people in China. She became friends with a transgender performer named Meimei, allowing her to enter into the private lives of the « Queens » and capture their lifestyle.
Located just a stone’s throw from Arles centre, the 2017 book awards at the Atelier Mécanique shortlisted a fair number of publications from photographers active in China. Among those that I have spotted: Jacques Borgetto’s “Si près du ciel”, Xiaoxiao Xu’s “Aeronautics in the backyard”, Dorian François’s “Solitudes 独自上路”, Chen Xinhao’s “Time From Different Sources: Images from Ciman” already selected by Zhen Shi, Eric Leleu’s “Light & Blossom”, Sun Yanchu’s “Ficcionnes”, several of Gao Bo’s “Offrandes, Tibet 1985-1995” publications, and Prune Nourry’s “Serendipity”.
I would like to finish by shedding light on a few photographers’ monographs I had the chance to see in private. Back in France now, Eric Leleu signed for me a copy of his book prototype based on his series “Subtitles” that (re)invents the story of hengfu (橫幅), the famous red Chinese banners bearing powerful messages [read more about this series]. Eric deliberately disrupted the chronological evolution of the series so as to intertwine freely the photographs, the banners explanations and behind the scenes images. Prefaced by the Shanghai-based curator Jean Loh, the pocket book format recalls Mao Zedong’s little red book. However contrarily to the latest that was meant to educate Maoist ideology to the masses in the late 1960s, Eric’s little red book hopes to raise awareness as his manifesto explains: “Propaganda is everywhere, we are all continuously manipulated by governments, companies, journalists, artists, and even relatives; consciously or not. Being aware of it is a first step to freedom. Should this project aim at something, it would be fostering esprit critique”.
The French photographer Patrick Wack gave me his bilingual “A New Celebration, Portrait(s) of Chongqing” published in 2014 by Le Corridor Bleu. Completely self-taught, Patrick has spent a decade in China working as a freelancer in the fields of portraiture, reportage, corporate and advertising photography. At the junction between travel narrative and photo-essay, “A New Celebration, Portrait(s) of Chongqing” challenges text-image hierarchies and instead explores the interrelationship between literary and pictorial genres. Patrick’s photographs are accompanied and exalted by his friend philosopher Pierre Vinclair’s free verses, which are divided in sections: “1. There is Man”, “2. Mount Joyful Song”, “3. Tombs of the fool”. Both men offer respectively a textual and visual emotional response to this gigantic metropolis.
A last example is the French photographer Tim Franco who introduced his “Metamorpolis” published by [Pendant ce temps] photographic editions in 2015. Now based in Korea, Tim spent the last decade documenting the unceasing transformations of Chinese metropolises. His “Metamorpolis” is a collection of 112 photographs that originated in a five-years project looking at the social impact of urbanisation in Chongqing, this southern city that has now become eight times bigger than Beijing. Tim is currently showing some of this Chongqing photographs at la Maison de la Chine (Paris) and will be soon exhibited at Passage de Sainte-Croix (Nantes) as well as in the southern city of Pau.
Stay tuned for tomorrow last special report on the Rencontres d’Arles photo festival!
The Rencontres d'Arles
Until September 24, 2017