Nothing but blue skies, Rencontres d’Arles 2016
LOOKING BACK AT THE MEDIA’S IMAGE OF 11 SEPTEMBER
Irving Berlin wrote Nothing But Blue Skies in 1926. A classic performed by America’s greatest entertainers, the song could have been about the sky over New York on the morning of 11 September 2001. The intensity of the sky’s blue—reminiscent of a cinematic backdrop—gave the impression that the attacks were a movie, with Manhattan’s Twin Towers at the heart of an unprecedented flow of images. The narrative of that day, broadcast live and continuously on television sets around the world, ushered in a new era in the history of media. The event and its photographic portrayal are inseparable, the fi rst having been elaborated for and by the latter.
Most of the artists in this exhibition used existing documents to offer new interpretations. Accumulating, diverting, deconstructing, or avoiding this mass of images, they have independently questioned the visual representations of the tragedy over a nearly 15-year period. Through various forms and media, Nothing But Blue Skies focuses not on the event and its horror, causes or consequences, but on the repetition of its image and its symbolic erosion.
Some artists, aware of the need to avoid emphasising the events’ spectacular nature countless times, have focused on the dissemination and standardisation of images. Taking into account the context of globalisation, they also question the readability of information. In this sea of reproductions, photography has drifted away from the documentary realm in order to satisfy demands for an everlasting show.
Faced with this violence against images, some artists have attempted to create new symbols, making works that are directly linked to New York City. Others have sought to restore the images’ silent dimension by stripping away the layers of meaning that overlay representations of September 11.
Exhibition venue: Capitole