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25 August 2012

Documents towards an alternative kind of information works from the Centre National des Arts Plastiques

In view of the fact that several artists from the ENSP have made documentary forms, strategies and procedure central to their activities, this exhibition proposes to take stock of this fundamental aspect of contemporary work, using the collections of the Centre National des Arts Plastiques. The artists involved were at the school at different moments throughout its history. What they have in common is a way of seeing photography as a tool for critical comment on contemporary realities.

Their working methods are based on the demands made by an encounter, the necessity of a shared experience and the need to spend long hours working, without the pressures of speed and illustration. They have all made a specific decision to work in places that have both geography and a history. Their use of images as a means of investigation has produced “a new narrative of the world”, as Riccardo Petrella put it.

The exhibition is structured around the themes tackled by these photographers, around descriptions of the working and living environment and, in particular, the institutions that structure society. In putting this delicate cohabitation together, the challenge has been to find ways of connecting the idiosyncratic with what is common to all the artists. This tension is particularly evident in the antagonistic relationship between the individual and the built environment. How does one live in the world and, at the same time, resist the pressures of alienation?

The dominant systems of representation both ignore and distort what makes up the richness of everyday life. More than ever before, art is the place where alternative images can be invented in a quest for both greater exactness and an ethical stance in the act of representation. These photographers have invented an alternative kind of information. Their images make no claims to being a universal explanation of the phenomena that contribute to the illegibility of an epoch that likes to describe itself as ‘complex’; but they give us a fresh awareness of facts that we are contemporary with, by redefining artistic activity as a laboratory for producing ways of knowing.


Pascal Beausse, curator and director of photo collections at the CNAP.

Photographers exhibiting: Philippe Bazin, Pierre Faure, Valérie Jouve, Andrea Keen, Olivier Menanteau, Jürgen Nefzger, Mathieu Pernot, Red Caballo, Bruno Serralongue.


Exhibition organized in collaboration with the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP).

Exhibition venue: espace Van Gogh, Rencontres d’Arles 2012.