SYSTEMATICALLY OPEN?—New Forms for Contemporary Image Production

LUMA Foundation, Les Forges, Parc des Ateliers, Arles, France
04 Jul 2016 - 25 Sep 2016

SYSTEMATICALLY OPEN?—New Forms for Contemporary Image Production

LUMA ARLES presents the opening exhibition of La Mécanique Générale, a new exhibition venue in the Parc des Ateliers in Arles (France), renovated and expanded by Selldorf Architects.

Produced by the LUMA Foundation, SYSTEMATICALLY OPEN?—New Forms for Contemporary Image Production explores new structures for the presentation of the photographic image. An examination of the relationships between photography and its various modes of display, the exhibition draws upon avant-garde, political, and critically conscious legacies of aesthetic production, provides a new framework for experiencing the image as a reproduction, and prompts a structural rethinking of the photographic medium.

Acknowledging a rich history of the spatial and conceptual display of images in museums and other institutions, SYSTEMATICALLY OPEN? finds precedent in a diverse set of exhibition practices, ranging from El Lissitzky’s photography-based installations of the late 1920s, to Edward Steichen’s The Family of Man—a collection of over 500 photographs that toured the world for eight years after its initial exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1955. Prompted in part by the continued influence of these exhibitions on our current moment, the LUMA Arles Core Group established a competition process to consider the contemporary importance of exhibition display, and selected architect Philippe Rahm and four artists—Walead Beshty, Elad Lassry, Zanele Muholi, and Collier Schorr—to each develop a curatorial project within Rahm’s overall exhibition design. The responses that Beshty, Lassry, Muholi, and Schorr have produced reflect the ongoing and dynamic discourse surrounding the themes of contemporary image production and circulation, photographic and presentational convention.

Picture Industry
Curated by Walead Beshty (b. 1976, lives and works in Los Angeles)
Picture Industry explores how images have circulated since the inception of photography in the 19th century, and how these diverse modes of distribution continue to shape the ways that a picture is produced, reproduced, and received. A collection of photographs, slide projections, periodicals, recent film and video installations, sculptures, and diverse works on paper that date from the 1880s to the present, Beshty’s exhibition investigates how an image’s meaning is derived from both the means of its distribution, and the material form that it assumes.

Curated by Elad Lassry (b. 1977, lives and works in Los Angeles)
A series of color photographs depicting anonymous dental procedures, Lassry’s untitled project examines how medical imagery’s visual qualities shift depending on their context. A reminder that clinical photography has historically been limited by the same optical principles required to take any picture—one must illuminate the contours of the body, in order to gaze inside its cavities—Lassry’s images suggest that the utilitarian function of clinical images is built into the dormant capacity of all photographs, and that the themes of technology and advancing life have always been central to the photographic medium.

Somnyama Ngonyama
Curated by Zanele Muholi (b. 1972; lives and works in Johannesburg)
Drawn from a Zulu phrase meaning “Hail, the Dark Lioness,” Somnyama Ngonyama uses stylized self-portraiture as a means to commemorate, question, and celebrate the ways the black body has been represented in photography. Augmented with shells, textiles, and other objects, the artist’s diverse coiffures explore hair as symbolic primary material and a central facet of African identity and stylistic expression. An acknowledgement of South Africa’s political history and a series of activist networks operating today in the country and elsewhere, Muholi’s project comments on aesthetic and cultural issues that affect black people, and specifically black women, in Africa and its diaspora.

Shutters, Frames, Collections, Repetition
Curated by Collier Schorr (b. 1963, lives and works in New York)
A collaborative dialogue between Schorr and fellow photographer Anne Collier, Shutters, Frames, Collections, Repetition consists of nudes and studies whose subjects often pose with, or are otherwise framed by, the technologies and accessories of commercial and amateur photography. A stylized collection of close-ups and portraits, the project includes several images of women holding cameras as props or posing naked next to telephoto lenses. Throughout, Schorr and Collier re-imagine what looking—and looking back—might resemble, suggesting a new dialogue between the nude and the camera.

Exhibition architecture by Philippe Rahm (b. 1967, lives and works in Paris)
Philippe Rahm’s exhibition display balances the 19th century industrial vocabulary of the Mécanique Générale with its newer architectural features, designed by Selldorf Architects. Using reflective or absorptive materials to modify light, Luminance alludes to a natural landscape: brightly lit areas conjure the summer tropics, slightly darker ones resemble mild springtime climes, and shadow-filled regions are likened to polar winters. Throughout the exhibition, artworks are organically arranged within these luminous variations—videos play in darkened regions; older photographs are protected from excess light in slightly lighter areas; and installations and contemporary photographic prints are found in brighter areas.

SYSTEMATICALLY OPEN?—New Forms for Contemporary Image Production has been conceived by the LUMA Arles Core Group: Maja Hoffmann, Tom Eccles, Liam Gillick, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno, and Beatrix Ruf.

Commissioned and produced by the LUMA Foundation for LUMA Arles, Parc des Ateliers in Arles, France.

The exhibition is part of the international photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles 2016.


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