Arles 2014 Day 2

At the centre of the old part of Arles is a square called Place du Forum which is surrounded by cafes. They are not very nice cafes by French standards and, incongruously, groups of tourists on the trail of Vincent van Gogh occasionally assemble to look at them. But, like roundabouts, they are a sort of crossing point for people visiting the photo festival and at almost any time of night or day you will bump into someone you know there. In this way, while passing through the square we were introduced to Annette Booth who, it turned out, had installed the Chinese photobook exhibition that we had seen that morning. We went and had dinner together and she told us all about it.
2014 book-award display
We spent the afternoon in the Ateliers looking through the hundreds of books submitted for the 2014 book award. Seeing this number of books in one go can give rise to both positive and negative feelings! It is astonishing just how much is produced every year. The standard of production and the general quality is high. I saw a few books that I like and will now try and find copies of. Yes, there is some repetition but perhaps if you like pictures of mountains or sites-where-something-happened, or any of the other themes that recur, that's a good thing.

Also in the Atelier was the Discovery Awards show selected by Alexis Fabry (France), Bohnchang Koo (Korea), Wim Mélis (Netherlands), Azu Nwagbogu (Nigeria) and Quentin Bajac (the new chief curator at MoMA). If you were looking for clues as to what floats Quentin Bajac's boat then based on the two artists selected here he likes cluttered, academic, archive-y work. Stepping back from the choices of each of the curators I was surprised that the show reproduced the current global narrative that has China as the site of massive engineering projects while the US is about rural poverty and industrial decline, Africa a stage for playful fantasy and Europe home to abstraction and introspection. Maybe that's how it is but it didn't count as a discovery for me.

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