Everything You Should See (and Eat) at Arles’ Photography Festival

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© Rene Burri | Magnum Photos

Guest editors Daisy Hoppen, Antonia Marsh and Lucy Moore present their picks

Every year, Les Recontres d’Arles presents a neatly curated edit of the finest art and photography for a pilgrimage of aficionados to enjoy all summer in the sunny south of France. This year, none other than Daisy Hoppen (founder of DH-PR), Antonia Marsh (curator and founder of Soft Opening) and Lucy Moore (owner of Claire de Rouen Books) undertook a visit on AnOther’s behalf. From the best books to the photographs exhibition and must-visit restaurants, here are their top picks.

Selected by Daisy Hoppen, founder of DH-PR

Rene Burri: The Imaginary Pyramids
The Rene Burri show, which was part of the official Rencontres d’Arles programme, was my highlight. It looks at the artist’s obsession with pyramid motifs – shown through traditional photo documentation of classical Egyptian ones – and at how his fascination continued to reveal itself through later contemporary work. Finally, Burri’s sketchbooks are displayed in glass vitrines, with beautiful watercolours and drawings. The exhibition was curated by Clotilde Burri-Blanc, who noted her personal fear of heights and vertigo – something which I have a personal affinity with, so it was even more amusing and special to see it documented in such a beautiful and creative way. I sought out the slopes and pyramids in each image, rather than avoiding them, as I do in everyday life.

Sun Ra, in Hot Sun, Late Sun. Untamed Modernism, at the Vincent Van Gogh Museum
Housed in the contemporary Vincent van Gogh musuem, Sun Ra is exhibited as part of a wider show looking at how artists from Vincent van Gogh to Sigmar Polke have been influenced by the sun as a theme. Sun Ra was an America-born jazz composer and poet, who was also well known for his theatrical performances – shown in this exhibition within video projections. The dancing, costumes and music are joyous, and showcased alongside vinyl covers and records themselves, which are in fantastical tie-dye orange and blue hues. The typography and visual identity of Sun Ra and his Arkestra band feels incredibly contemporary and fresh to the eye, and influenced our roadtrip playlist for the duration of our time in Arles.

L’Ouvre Boite & Simone & Paulette
In recent years the local food scene has welcomed a few new young restaurants to Arles. L’Ouvre Boite is the sister restaurant to La Chassanet, and hidden up a small side street. The menu is simple with local cheeses and charcuterie and simple vegetarian dishes. Also opening earlier this year, Simone and Paulette swerves the curve of classic french food and instead brings a slight Asian influence to the dishes. Set up in a small canteen format, the menu is small but precise – from cold soba noodles with aubergine and miso, to more of a classic oeuf-mayonnaise dish, paired with bio-dynamic wines.

Selelcted by Antonia Marsh, curator and founder of Soft Opening

Korakrit Arunanondchai: With History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 4, at MP Culture at J1, Marseille
Arriving into Marseille afforded me the opportunity to drag my hot and sweaty companions to NYC-based Thai artist Korakrit Arunanondchai’s solo exhibition at MP Culture. Overlooking the port with it’s dwarfing cruise ships and ferries, the installation of sticky tar-like substance covered with mounds of oyster shells felt particularly apt, but it’s the video that precedes this that felt like the show’s indelible apex. Thinking about spirituality in our globalised world is increasingly dismissed, but Arunanondchai proposes an alternative. Teaming impressive drone technology with immersive footage of the natural world, the visual vernacular of music videos and lots of denim, the artist invites his audience to join his quest for answers from an imagined god(dess) Chantri. Staring up at an enormous screen and strewn across various giant cushions, we all felt very relaxed, even a little sleepy, with visions of trans-human spirits entering our dreams that night.

Feng Li: White Night, at Maison des Lices, Arles
We went to see Chinese photographer Feng Li’s exhibition White Night in Arles twice. His bizarre imagery, while unforgettable, is so absurd that the first time you see it, you can’t believe your eyes. For the artist – who unusually although perhaps oddly unsurprisingly also works as a civil servant – China’s current state of near-total hypertrophy provides the ultimate spectacle to photograph. Pink balloons, handheld fireworks, mismatched outfits, baskets of furry dogs, giant pumpkins, terrifyingly enormous razor clams, circus performers… you name it. Refreshingly, without intimidating the viewer with mountains of images, prints huddle in enthralling groupings, hungrily dragging our eyes across the room in a curatorial tour de force, still elongating our viewing experience. Clever curation from Thomas Sauvin and a refreshing alternative to the overwhelmingly giant prints found consistently elsewhere at the festival.

Arthur Jafa: APEX, at LUMA Foundation, Arles
Nestled beneath Frank Gehry’s slowly-but-surely “en construction” tower of reflective bricks that the three of us maintained a steady love-it-or-hate-it attitude towards (I love it – its weird swirling turrets remind me of the Disney Castle, or moreover its twisted sister in Mordor) sits the LUMA foundation, contemporary art collector Maja Hoffman’s giant space. Home to five temporary exhibitions that seem to dominate the critical eye of the festival, Hoffman mixes heavy-hitters – Gilbert & George – with younger voices – Lily Gavin – to make this location hard to resist a visit to. Most arresting is without a doubt American filmmaker, cinematographer and visual artist Arthur Jafa’s APEX from 2013, which constitutes a compendium of initially disparate still images compiled over five years. Densely weaving these images together, Jafa’s powerful film references and questions the universal and specific articulations of Black being.

Wolfgang Tillmans: What is Different? at Carre d’Art, Nimes
A short drive from Arles, German artist Wolfgang Tillmans brings together older and new, unseen work in a show that feels more concise, considered and moving than his notorious show at Tate Modern earlier this year. What is Different? takes its title from a recent publication that investigates the Backfire Effect, a psychological state in which an individual remains convinced of something despite affirmations of its absolute falsehood. Walls are thoughtfully scattered with careful compositions of shells, rocks and other natural objects, striking portraits of friends and strangers and digitally manipulated textual excerpts from emails or online research. Punctuating his printed images and re-setting the pace of the show, Tillmans includes three mesmerising video works: fireworks over a Berlin skyline, the artist himself pacing repeatedly in front of a wall in a haunting double self-portrait and finally a fixed frame on a dog fast asleep in the sunshine, twitching only slightly every now and then and establishing the tone for the rest of our day in the sun.

Lucy Moore, owner of Claire de Rouen Books

Book Awards 2018
Every year a set of Book Awards are given as part of the Rencontres d’Arles, and all the entries are exhibited as part of the festival. This year the venue moved to the upper floor of the local Monoprix supermarket; bibliophiles have to walk past rails of no-frills shirts, ties, underwear and make-up before passing a security guard and going up a secret staircase! I was happy to see Clementine Schneidermann’s I Called Her Lisa Marie, about ardent Elvis fans in Wales, and Max Farago’s Boardwalk (a cacophony of Los Angeles craziness) in the mix. (Both are available from Claire de Rouen!)

Paul Graham: The Whiteness of the Whale
British photographer Paul Graham’s work was a key exhibition in this year’s Rencontres – one of its central themes was called ‘America Great Again!’ Three major series by Graham, exploring the socio-economic condition of contemporary America, were shown within the impressive Église des Frères Prêcheurs church in the centre of Arles. The earliest body of work, American Night (1998-2002) is also a book, and it was incredible to see in exhibition form. It explores the disparity of wealth in America and its relation with racial and class inequality in alternately high-contrast, richly coloured prints and bleached-out, milky white, over-exposed ones. The aesthetic contrast between these two types of print points to the subjectivity of vision by which we choose to see, or not see, prejudice.  

Arles 2018: Les Rencontres de la Photographie runs until September 23, 2018 in Arles, France.