This exhibition brings together a collection of both recent and unpublished projects, and older works that have marked the history of the GwinZegal Art Center. Coming from different horizons, these artists have gone, through their artistic practice to meet men and women, cultures, communities, spaces and history, which make this Breton territory a unique and complex space. When invited to come to live in residence, they accepted the risk of producing new works, opening up and talking about them, watching and talking about us. They have updated this image of a Brittany torn between a secular culture, immutable landscapes, and a modernity in full acceleration, sometimes miles away from the romantic visions – to the adventure by the fields and the shores – of the writer Gustave Flaubert traveling with his friend the photographer Maxime Du Camp.
The breakaway, unfolds both on the walls of the prison and those of space François-Mitterrand. The walls of La Prison host projects in close relationship with human communities. The artists Alexandra Catiere, Malick Sidibé, Mark Neville, Samuel Gratacap and Charles Fréger have chosen to highlight what brings us together beyond our differences. In the François-Mitterrand space, Mathieu Pernot, Aurore Bagarry, Roman Signer, Pino Musi, Juraj Lipscher and Raphael Dallaporta develop projects that reflect the physical territory, the places and their imaginations, the natural and built landscapes. An exceptional partnership has also been forged with the En Avant Guingamp football club, which will display in the stadium about forty large-scale images of photographer Mark Neville. The En Avant Guingamp club is a real popular phenomenon since it brings together for each match more than 15,000 supporters, more than twice the population of the city of Guingamp.
The English photographer Mark Neville chose to take the supporters of the local football club as a starting point, and then draw a much broader picture of the inhabitants of Guingamp and the surrounding area. His work reveals people with an incredible diversity and richness. If it is imbued with an English documentary preoccupation, as close as possible to the asperities of the world, it also reveals a great subjectivity in the choice of its models and the way to represent them. The artist puts them deliberately on stage through a clever play of light, until we question the veracity of the situations and the ability of photography to represent the world in an objective way.
Charles Fréger, in a form of anthropological rigor that crosses all his work, addresses the subject of Breton traditions and shows the persistence of communities made up of costumes and rituals that are not folkloric. Bretonnes in a headdress he photographs are good twenty-first century girls, actresses of a world and a culture in movement, far from the frozen vision of a historical reconstruction to which the precision of the clichés could make us believe.
Malick Sidibé, one of the most important photographers on the African continent, perpetuated the now obsolete tradition of studio photographers, opening during his residency a studio on the street in a village of Côtes-d’Armor, like the one he had in Bamako for more than 40 years. Alternately a cyclist and his machine, passers-by, some tourists, models most of whom ignored the notoriety of the photographer and participated in the construction of a larger fresco, that of the image of a society at a given time. The space of the studio is constrained, its few square meters seem to concentrate an atmosphere of complicity enveloping the space of a moment the photographer and his model. In the expression of the faces and the freedom of the poses, one can read the ambient gaiety of the shooting, characteristic of the great Malian portraitist.
Alexandra Catiere, is a photographer from Belarus. The modernity of her portraits is not to be found in fashion effects or any technical extravagance. It goes back to the origins of photographic material, black and white, reframing, the laboratory and its accidents. The faces she depicts seem to bathe in a suspended time. It is impossible to say whether these contemporary images are from yesterday or today, whether they are fragments of family photographs or found images.
Each, in different forms, shows the same desire to formulate a representation of the men and women living in the territory. The joint exhibition of their work looks at communities that often live a few kilometers from each other, sometimes meeting or ignoring each other, deliberately or not.
Samuel Gratacap is a young photographer who is experienced in conflict. For some years now, he has been working in Libya; his approach, however, is out of step with that of the media: he works slowly, mixes techniques and carefully ignores the urgency and panic that govern the media world. He has chosen here for exploration ground the place of life of a community of travelers. He is not the only author of these images, since he has involved the children met, in turn actors, subjects and photographers.
Raphael Dallaporta, documents the slow transformation of prison space. Thanks to complex algorithms, he stands out from the boring task of simply following up on the construction site. Over the last two years, he has placed photographic traps in fixed viewpoints, automatically recording tens of thousands of images, in turn the unpredictable movements of the skies he loves, the vegetation sometimes wild sometimes domesticated, the falling walls, the pavements that are made and unmade. Only one stage of work is presented here; this observation will extend well beyond, with the appearance of the public, who will gradually own and repopulate this once closed place.
The works of Mathieu Pernot and Aurore Bagarry face each other in the François-Mitterrand space. The two have, without answering, along the same coast, photographed from the same places, but pointing their devices to different horizons. It is all the richness of the photographic medium that is demonstrated here. Mathieu Pernot turned to the history of men, Aurore Bagarry to the history of the earth. At age-old rock, sediments and geological peculiarities, Mathieu Pernot opposes the concrete and warlike constructions of men. In a physical and photographic performance, the artist invokes here what is undoubtedly the oldest form of photographic device, since he transformed the bunkers of the Atlantic wall into a camera obscura. He locks himself inside these giant cameras, to depict, inverted, the immutable images of the maritime landscapes, that we imagine scrutinized day and night, through loopholes, by soldiers of the Second World war.
In another form of action or performance that might seem absurd or burlesque, the Swiss artist Roman Signer makes a serious effort to cycle through the upper corridor of the prison. By bike – probably the only bike ever to come into this enclosure -, a means of peaceful and silent locomotion, a symbol of freedom and carelessness, it unrolls, impassive, a yellow plastic ribbon. But his journey is circular, and the utopia he brings out of this orbit is doomed to failure. It does not deliver a message, does not blow us a metaphor that could easily be transposed into concepts. This action allows the viewer to read and project the rational or sensual interpretation of a poetic gesture.
The Italian photographer Pino Musi and the Swiss Juraj Lipscher have chosen to travel through the more sinuous topography of the Côtes-d’Armor’s interior, far from the seashore. In a changing rural world, shared between modernity and past, they invite us to observe the familiar landscapes and vernacular architectures, also casting a sometimes critical and questioning look at our ways of making ours these landscapes.
All these projects assert themselves as so many proposals revealing the dynamism and multiplicity of contemporary photographic writings. From very different backgrounds and cultures, artists have in common this acute ability to surprise us and exercise their freedom in the service of the experience, both of the real and the territory, as well as the experimentation of the photographic form and their imaginary. It is up to us, individuals and societies, to find the time and space to listen to these messengers.
Alexandra Catiere, Malick Sidibe, Mark Neville, Samuel Gratacap, Charles Fréger, Mathieu Pernot, Aurore Bagarry, Roman Signer, Pino Musi, Juraj Lipscher, Raphael Dallaporta
April 26 – June 9
GwinZegal Art Center
Centre d’art GwinZegal
Ancienne prison de Guingamp
4 rue Auguste Pavie