Some stories look inwards and others outwards; some look above and others below. Few stories interweave the warp and weft of their narratives. Through its programme, the Jeu de Paume has tried to fragment this story into diverse microstories concerned as much by what one sees from above as below, and what one observes from the exterior as from the interior of a grand historic narrative.
Exhibition by exhibition, an alternative route has emerged, making it possible to reconsider the history of photographic representation according to alternative geopolitical, aesthetic and strategic criteria. Thus our programme has cast a new regard not only on photographers consecrated as “the grand masters of photography” (Diane Arbus, Edward Steichen, André Kertész, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Richard Avedon, etc.), but also less visible figures (Eva Besnyö, Lee Miller, Lisette Model, Berenice Abbott, Claude Cahun) or those who have been virtually forgotten by history, such as Laure Albin Guillot, to whom we devote an exhibition in 2013.
Complex and controversial, the work of Laure Albin Guillot (Paris, 1879–1962) is completely unknown to the general public, both national and international. If her classical aesthetic and symbolic lyricism distance her from the avant-garde practice of many of her contemporaries, her work’s coherence and her activity within French institutions nonetheless marked the French photographic milieu of an entire epoch. It is impossible not to remark two historical coincidences: the first is the presentation in 1937, within the very walls of the Jeu de Paume, of the exhibition explicitly titled “Femmes artistes d’Europe” [European Women Artists], organised by Laure Albin Guillot in her role as president of the Union féminine des carrières libérales et commerciales [Female Union of Professional and Commercial Careers], and in which she took part. Second coincidence: in 1936 Laure Albin Guillot helped organise the Exposition internationale de la photography contemporaine [International Exhibition of Contemporary Photography] at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, where, among the numerous participants in the event, she exhibited alongside Erwin Blumenfeld.
It would however be chance to find parallels between the contemporaneous careers of the Parisian Laure Albin Guillot and that of cosmopolitan Erwin Blumenfeld (Berlin, 1897–Rome, 1969), who for his part practised an experimental photography (collages, photomontages) and began working in Paris in fashion photography, to which he would devote himself exclusively when he moved to New York. A retrospective of Blumenfeld’s work will be shown at the Jeu de Paume at the end of 2013, in which one will be able to see his early experimental laboratory photographs as well as a large selection of his fashion images.
Four contemporary artists share the Jeu de Paume’s exhibition galleries with Laure Albin Guillot and Erwin Blumenfeld in 2013: Adrian Paci, Natacha Nisic, Ahlam Shibli and Lorna Simpson. If one has to find a common thread between the narratives of these four artists – whose work are carried by very different aesthetics and concepts – it would be uncertitude in the face of evidence, and the tension between the visible and the invisible.
With Adrian Paci (born in 1969 in Shkodra, Albania), the irreconciliable nature of situations is the inspiration for a large number of video projects. The videos of Natacha Nisic (born in 1967 in Grenoble) share Adrian Paci’s fascination with the exorcising character of ritual and gesture, the feeling of enchantment before that which never ends and always recommences.
The narrative and precision of the photographic work of Ahlam Shibli (born in 1970 in Palestine) form, for their part, a treatise on disagreement with the canons of documentary representation. Refusing any centrality of the event within each image, the images succeed each other like attempts at evidence, never like results, so that the spectator’s anxious regard founders, little by little, in a form of visual vertigo that incites reflection on the central issues in Shibli’s work, such as loss, uprooting or the search for “home”.
Finally, the work of Lorna Simpson (born in 1960 in New York) treats universal themes, such as identity and gender stereotypes, starting from an analysis of the ways that the Afro-American or African woman is represented and, more specifically, the procedures by which her presence or absence is articulated.
As for the Satellite programme, this year it will be directed by the independent French curator Mathieu Copeland. His project is organized like a musical suite, presenting a dozen artists in four chronological fragments. Now in its sixth year, the Satellite program me undertakes its own self-analysis with a project that revisits, in a way, the very concept of curatorship, the artist and the work.
From October 2012 to March 2014, the Jeu de Paume’s virtual gallery will be curated by the Italian artist and journalist Alessandro Ludovico. His cycle, “Print Error: Publishing in the Digital Age” proposes to examine the changes in the way information is transmitted and the preservation of content arising from the spread of Internet. Through existing artistic projects and new productions, the exhibition will bring to light the mutations and interactions between the printed page and the digital page.
Finally, the French photographer Bruno Réquillart (born in 1947 in Marcq-en-Baroeul) will present a retrospective of his work at the Château de Tours within the framework of the Jeu de Paume’s “beyond the walls” programme. Réquillart, who for a long time remained outside institutional circuits, is one of these those conceptual artists who works according to a series of rules or criteria that he sets himself for each project. With an exceptional rigour and precision, Réquillart’s images do not restrict themselves to mapping inch by inch an experienced terrain, they also become the echo of a healing melancholy.
Marta Gili, director of the Jeu de Paume
Laure Albin Guillot (1879–1962), The Question of Classicism
Adrian Paci. Lives In Transit
A Spoken Word Exhibition
Natacha Nisic. Echo
Jeu de Paume’s virtual gallery
Bruno Réquillart at Château de Tours