Les Rencontres d’Arles – Serge Allaire, Arles in Black

Attending the inaugural week of the Rencontres is always a rather frenetic experience, with almost fifty exhibitions to see, as well as the associated programming and a three-day colloquium, not to mention the daily encounters and debates during which artists, curators, and critics comment on the exhibitions, and the evenings at the Théâtre antique. And then, there are the after-hours activities . . . 1

François Hébel, the director of the Rencontres, chose the theme of black and white for the event’s 44th edition. Starting from the observation that the aesthetic of black and white began to decline in the 1990s and almost disappeared during the first decade of the twenty-first century in favour of colour and digital photography, Hébel asked, “Where does black and white fit in today? Realism or fiction, poetry, abstraction, or pure nostalgia?” Some of each, one must conclude. It should be said that neither the colloquium nor the exhibitions satisfactorily answered Hébel’s question or delved into its implications. Translated by Käthe Roth

1In addition, for the last two years, a multimedia platform, the Médiathèque, has also been set up to rebroadcast the major events around the Rencontres – artist interviews, exhibition visits, public debates and lectures – and to thus constitute the archives of the event’s high points. rencontres-arles-photo.tv.

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Serge Allaire holds a master’s degree in art studies from the Université du Québec à Montréal, where he teaches art history and history of photography. An exhibition curator and researcher, his published writings are devoted to photography, issues in art and mass culture, and discourse analysis.

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