RENCONTRES ARLES - daily blog

DAY 2 - Tuesday July 3, 2007

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Located just outside of downtown Arles and a short bus ride away on the free shuttle,  is the Parc des Ateliers. This disused site belongs to the SNCF, France’s national railway company, and was once the place where the rolling stock would have been sent for repair. Nowadays, it is a vast complex of deserted hangars – the perfect backdrop for a photo exhibition.

Even though some of the hangars are under renovation (a project which will eventually result in a permanent, year-round artistic and cultural site), the first plays host to 25 year-old JR’s ‘illegal-style’ exhibit consisting of billboard-sized posters pasted directly onto the crumbling walls of the roofless hangar.


JR exhibit at the Ateliers SNCF. © Neil Atherton

JR’s pictures are about challenging stereotypes. Shot in black & white on the streets of the Parisian suburbs and in Palestine, unemployment, discrimination and integration are some of the problems facing his subjects. The enormity and disfiguring effect of the grainy portraits, all taken with a wide-angle 28mm lens, adds to the tension and frustration of the subjects who pose willingly before JR’s camera, often pulling disturbing grimaces.

The Atelier des Forges houses the India exhibition, showcasing the country’s modern and contemporary creative talent.

 
Pablo Batholomew. © Neil Atherton

Photojournalist Pablo Bartholomew’s contrasted black & white prints, taken during his teenage years in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, reveal a side to New Delhi’s alternative sub-culture rarely seen on the international stage.

The presence of women in these exhibits reinforces the changes India has undergone in the last decade or two. Anay Mann’s portraits of his wife portray the life of a modern Indian couple. Siya Singh’s self-portraits meanwhile turn pre-conceptions about femininity on their head. They are a pointed commentary on the changing identity of modern Indian women, exploring the boundaries of conformity and freedom.

 
Bharat Sikka's In-between Spaces. © Neil Atherton

Bharat Sikh deals in large format landscape pictures, focusing on the physical changes India is going through. The mix of modern and old results in the 'in-between' spaces that Sikh captures in his photographs, highlighting the inevitable chaos and confusion in a country leapfrogging from a highly traditional environment to an ultra-modern one.


Dashanzi Art District exhibit. © Neil Atherton

A short walk away in the Atelier Mécanique, the Dashanzi Art District exhibit thrusts China to the forefront of contemporary photography with several politically-engaged artists from north-east Beijing. The Gao brothers use photography to explore social as well as political issues and their larger than life-size portrait of a child sat atop a television set is a poignant introduction to their show. Rongrong & Inri’s photographs reflects the chain of events that led to the destruction of their house in the urban demolition frenzy that is sweeping China’s cities.

 
Gao Brothers. © Neil Atherton

Huang Rui, the founder of the DAD, uses photography and oil on canvas as he associates the words ‘China’ and ‘Chai-na’ (literally ‘destruction here’).


Dashanzi Art District exhibit. © Neil Atherton

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