Paul di Felice
Great Expectations - Contemporary photography looks at today's Bitter Years. The works in this exhibition draw loosely on Edward Steichen's exhibition theme (1930), shedding light, through the objective of documentary or conceptual photography, on the conflicts of modern life as they are seen by today's journalists, photographers and artists. Entitled Tirer le ciel (Shooting the Sky), Aude Moreau's installation in the Project Room reproduces the firmament over Luxembourg.
Contemporary photography looks at today's Bitter Years
Curators: Paul di Felice & Pierre Stiwer (Café-Crème asbl) and Enrico Lunghi
Vahram Aghasyan, Éric Baudelaire, Frédéric Delangle, Martin Eder, Iván Edeza, Lukas Einsele, Patrick Galbats, Dionisio González, Peter Granser, Stanley Greene, Joachim Koester, Laurence Leblanc, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Adi Nes, Suzanne Opton, Ari Saarto, Bruno Serralongue, Melanie Smith, Jules Spinatsch, Sada Tangara, Guy Tillim, Kai Wiedenhöfer
When in spring 2007 the idea was born of a contemporary reinterpretation of Edward Steichen’s seminal exhibition The Bitter Years, shown in 1962 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, no one could have guessed that its staging would coincide with a global financial crisis. Featuring a series of photographs commissioned in the 1930s by the US Farm Security Administration (FSA), The Bitter Years documented the effects on America of the great financial crisis that followed the infamous “Black Thursday”, as the stock market crash of 1929 came to be called. Organised at the outset of the post-war economic miracle, Steichen’s exhibition sounded like a warning and effectively invested photography with a moral mission in an era equally marked by the dawning of consumerism and the constant nuclear threat (1962 was the year of the Cuban missile crisis).
Great Expectations merges references to the economic downturn of the 1930s with reminiscences of the yet unabated faith in progress that characterised the 1960s, while hinting to the current situation — a condition which, although it appears to echo these historic events, does so on a global scale of hitherto unparalleled complexity. Yet wealth and progress seem unaffected by the immediate threat posed by the shortage of resources, environmental pollution and rising extremisms. In the course of globalisation the free market economy has become the determining factor of all human endeavours. The mass media have imposed their point of view, while marketing practices, both commercial and political, are dominating the debate or, to the very least, attempt to strengthen their influence. As a result, it has become much more difficult for artists to promote dissident views: whereas the dominant means of production had previously been confined to commodities or services, they have long since invested the realm of ideas and feelings and asserted their unchallenged prevalence.
Photography can therefore no longer, as in Steichen’s day, rely on its purportedly self-explanatory documentary nature to promote an ideal vision. In today’s era of ubiquitous propaganda based on the manipulative potential of images, the credibility of photographic recordings is called into question, and so is the validity of its immediacy in terms of communicative impact. Compositional elements, such as those that once guided Steichen’s choice of images for The Bitter Years, no longer play a decisive role, since arranging reality, both before and after the recording, has become common practice. This shift in the (self)understanding of photography is an integral part of a process we have come to term “globalisation”.
But even today art finds alternative means to represent and question the social status quo. The works in this exhibition draw loosely on Steichen’s theme, shedding light, through the objective of documentary or conceptual photography, on the conflicts of modern life as they are seen by today’s journalists, photographers and artists.
With the support of: Les Amis des Musées d‘Art et d‘Histoire
Danish Arts Council (for the work of Joachim Koester)
Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council (for the work of Jules Spinatsch)
Service de déminage de l’armée luxembourgeoise (for the work of Lukas Einsele)
Tirer le ciel
Curator: Kevin Muhlen
Rather than artworks properly speaking, Aude Moreau stages artistic interventions in which she appropriates the exhibition space over a distinct period of time. By relating to and interacting with the space, the artist creates site-specific and ephemeral installations in which time plays a decisive role. The appearance of Moreau’s works is thus to a large extent determined by the often time-consuming process of preparation and installation as well as by the prospect of its short lifespan. The feeling conveyed by these interventions is one of urgency: the artwork as an object is not an end in itself but a mere stage in the artistic research, the consistency of which is underlined by its intrinsic ephemeral nature.
Entitled Tirer le ciel (Shooting the Sky), Aude Moreau’s installation in the Casino Luxembourg‘s Project Room reproduces the firmament over Luxembourg. The stars are in effect bullet holes, produced using a wide range of calibres. Moreau’s intention was by no means to stage a scientifically accurate illustration of the relative positions and sizes of the stars, for although this aspect guided her research and preparation, it was cast aside once the work was effectively made.
From the first gunshot the artist thus accepted to relinquish control over the physical implementation of her work; hence, no subsequent alterations were made.
Visitors are confronted with a metaphor for man’s attempt to measure himself with the universe by reducing it to his own scale. Since the dawn of time, man has been attempting to “read” the sky by projecting his own symbols onto it. Moreau’s work inverts this process: the remote and untouchable are turned into matter and space, allowing for a direct interaction at a purely physical level—a confrontation that does not however elude fundamental metaphysical questions, which a closer reading of the work is likely to prompt.
The exhibition is kindly supported by Quebec Delegation Generale Bruxelles
In collaboration with the Luxembourg Shooting Sport Federation, the Shooting Sport Club Kayl and the Society for Shooting Sport Hesperange.
Tuesday 31 March 2009
Lecture in the framework of "Les Mardis de l'Art"
Forschen und Erfinden. Die Recherche mit Bildern in der zeitgenössischen Fotografie (D)
with Thomas Seelig
Press office: Marc Clement T (+352) 225045 firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening on 28 March 2009 at 11 a.m.