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 conferences that marked the engagement between this authoritative event and China.
Tuesday 4th July 2017: Press Conference with Sam Stourdzé (Director of the Rencontres d’Arles), Bérénice Angrémy (Head of the Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival) and Aurélie de Lanlay (Executive Director of the Rencontres d’Arles)
We are all sat at one of the new venues opened this year – the Croisière – looking forward to learn more about new directions of this 48th instalment of the Rencontres d’Arles. Sam Stourdzé and Aurélie de Lanlay open the press conference by emphasizing on the collective enterprise of the festival. If this opening week has already attracted over seventeen thousand festivalgoers, the Rencontres d’Arles has always been keen to engage with local inhabitants by hiring a large portion of them during the period of the festival and by offering them free access to all events.
Following this, Stourdzé recalls the spirit of the Rencontres d’Arles, which is to advocate “a visual demonstration” that unveils the scope and variety of the field of photography. The festival notably aims at shedding light on “the point of frictions” between “vernacular and artistic” as well as “contemporary and historical” photography. These four elements represent the most important cornerstones of the Rencontres d’Arles.
Such attention to the diversity of photographic practices echoes with the festival’s all-encompassing approach to photography curation. If the festival champions conventional manifestations in venues that respect international procedures and conservation standards, it also defends pioneering displays in alternative raw interior spaces, almost in ruins and filled with untold stories. Each year brings about a set of fixed and new venues. Newcomers this year are the Croisière and the Maison des peintres, where Roger Ballen’s unsettling house installation is held.
Moving beyond its local role, Stourdzé will be also in charge of a new Photography Institute in partnership with the Rencontres d’Arles that will be founded in the northern city of Lille. This new institute will measure up to 6000 square meters and will intend to become a research centre, which will train curators, provide exhibition spaces, and collect archives.
Of particular interest, is the announcement of the more explicit engagement with the Chinese partner Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival planned next November 2017. Created jointly by Les Rencontres d’Arles and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing in 2015, the Jimei x Arles festival is now headed by Bérénice Angrémy, Cultural Attache at the Institut français in China. Angrémy is no stranger to this partnership between Arles and China. In fact, she has already helped RongRong – photographer and co-founder of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre – to bring Les Recontres d’Arles to Mainland China between 2010 and 2013. At that time, this partnership was called Caochangdi PhotoSpring festival and Angrémy was its co-founder.
After a few years of suspension, local authorities in Xiamen city approached RongRong (who grew in this region) with the intention to build an international platform bridge between Asia and Europe. Underpinning this project is the motivation for taking part in the international photographic scene while highlighting new talents from China. In fact despite the proliferation of photographic events, biennials, fairs, and festivals in Mainland China, there is still a need to professionalize and democratize the discipline. In 2016 Jimei x Arles drew over 30,000 visitors to 30 exhibitions, attesting the popularity of photography amongst local audiences.
After two successful editions, the Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival continues to join forces with the Rencontres d’Arles. The third instalment of the festival aims to confirm its objectives to share a “French savoir-faire” in cultural engineering, encourage emerging and established artists active in China, while giving voices to young Chinese curators.
In total, eight itinerant exhibitions from the Rencontres d’Arles will travel to the Jimei x Arles, including “Iran, year 38. 66 Iranian photographers”, “Mathieu Pernot, The Gorgans”, “Blank Paper, Stories of the Immediate Present”, “Joel Meyerowitz, Early Works”, “Audrey Tautou, Superfacial”, the New Discovery Award and the Book Awards.
Based on the Rencontres d’Arles’ model, this Chinese counterpart will program portfolio reviews, seminars, discussion panels, guided tours, performances as well as a Discovery award that follows the Rencontres’ tradition of recognizing the work of one of the emerging talents participating in the festival. Jimei x Arles has yet developed its own characteristics by inviting each year a different Asian country as special guest. This year 2017 will be dedicated to Indonesia. This deeper commitment between France and China comes with a promise of exciting exchanges that hopefully will bring more Chinese actors (photographers, curators, journalists, etc) to France.