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Best of Arles 2019 : The Rencontres are dead, long live the Festival!


What a surprising moment we have just experienced these first days of July. The 50th anniversary has fulfilled its promise.

The end of a world and the birth of a second. The Rencontres as we have known them are dead. They have given way to a formidable festival of contemporary art.

Today’s photography: we find it at the Ateliers. It is everything, it is film, installation, sculpture, book, drawing! Photo Brut is a masterpiece of collecting, like an orgasm of intelligence! It is the same at the Réattu with this monument which is the exhibition entitled We Were Five.

Traditional photography has some sublime remains; East Germany, The Movida, Helen Levitt, Eve Arnold, Abigail Heyman, Susan Meiselas, Variétés magazine but it’s already the past.

About the past, the exhibition of the 50 years is grotesque and insulting.

From the past make a clean sweep: OK, but what a pity not to give a decent homage to the first 50 years. But it has a meaning intended or unconscious. We are reminded that we are no longer the boys and girls of the 70s in phase with the festival, that we have become some charming postcards of the past.

At the exit of an exhibition, I found Hans Silvester totally lost. “Have you noticed that light and composition, the two golden rules of any photographer of our generation have just disappeared in a few years?” It’s so true !

This week there were 391 exhibitions, symposia, signatures, interventions and inaugurations. Where are the encounters, the endless drinks at the Forum pool or at the Nord Pinus? There is no time for that anymore!

9 out of 10 festival goers do not even know there is a pool at the Forum and on the square, the average age is the highest in the city.

It is elsewhere today the festival; at the train station, at the new school, in these new places with no past and history.

Arles is no longer our world, and our Arles is crossed by ghosts. It is a whole new universe that we see hatching.

Arles will become one of the most important centers of contemporary art in the world. We lived the genesis and it was great.

Lucien, Maurice, Michel, Francois, Alain, Bernard: you can be proud of it!

Now: let’s learn the lesson!

The first: the Eye of Photography seeks an editor, 30 years old maximum to cover the 51st edition!

Finally a last thought, it is in the Off that remain the nostalgia of the Rencontres of yesteryear!

Jean-Jacques Naudet

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