[ISEA2000] Curator Statement: ARTE – ARTE SERIES: Photographers speak from their contact print

Curator Statement

Sceenings at WEB BAR

For ISEA2000, Web Bar selected a video programming opting for a technology open to all. The numerical revolution in art is over. What are the results? It’s time for a revelation!


A contact print is a photographer’s memory, his travel journal, the implacable witness of his transgressions and successes. Leafing through a photographer’s contact prints means accompanying him in his quest for pictures, seeing what he saw, looking at every detail though a magnifying glass. Contacts is a collection of films. The contact prints or proofs, filmed frame by frame with a fixed camera, are commented upon by the photographer who, in line with his personality, shares the very fabric of his experience and a few secrets of his creative work.

  • ARTE is a French/German TV Station
  • NAN GOLDIN. Born in 1953, Nan Goldin grew up in Boston. Her sister’s suicide left its mark on her and she began photographing when she was 18. Her photographic work is fuelled only by events from her own life. In the wake of the Beat Generation and of the experiment of the Andy Warhol Factory, the artist reestablished the signs of an American culture liberated from its taboos but still worried about ethics.
  • NOBUYOSHI ARAKI. Nobuyoshi Araki started off in 1964 and in 1971 he published Sentimental Journey, a photographic novel about his honeymoon. He was claiming a radical form of subjective photography where truth feeds off confrontation with the intimate things in life, what he calls «photo-me» in opposition to the documentary or journalistic photography which reigned in the 70’s.
  • JEFF WALL. Since 1978, Wall has been making Transparencies, large photographs (2 m x 3 m) shown inside luminous boxes. His favourite subjects are marginal ones (Milk, 1984 ; Abundance, 1985 ; The Thinker, 1986) and scenes of social and racial conflicts (Mimic, 1982 ; No, 1983). The artist made a series of panoramic landscapes in which the geography of the places depended on their cultural and economic context (The Jewish Cemetery – The Bridge, 1980). In 1989, he teamed up with D. Graham to make the Children’s Pavilion, whose circular outline recalls a smaller-scale Roman Pantheon.
  • HIROSHI SUGIMOTO. Sugimoto’s career as a photographer began with the series Dioramas (1976-1980, resumed in 1992). In the Museum of Natural History in New York, he photographed stuffed wild animal exhibits in front of painted landscapes. Theaters (1978-1980), the series that followed, dealt with the interiors of American theatres from the 1920-1930’s that had been converted into cinemas. Putting the screen in the middle of the frame, Sugimoto exposed his film throughout the entire projection. This is how the light from the screen—completely overexposed in the picture—meticulously lights up the cinema’s decor. The third series is entitled Seascapes (1980). Essential elements like the sea, air, light and horizon correspond to a persistent study of time and the original state of human memory.
  • THOMAS RUFF. Ruff is one of the leaders of a new generation of Germans. In particular, he explores the need for analogical illusion and desire of identification that makes us look for a demonstration of an event, of identity or of true exis­tence in a photograph. His photographs refer to objects from the outside world, sometimes spectacularly, but they also confront us with the necessi­ty to wonder about where we fit in compared with them (physically and men­tally), in the sense of what we are looking for in them or what we project onto them.
  • SOPHIE CALLE. Sophie Calle often describes herself as a «narrative» artist. Her photo­graphs are exhibits through which she tells stories that are ordinary yet a little disturbing. Her prime material is her own life and her own experiences, reconstructed between reality and fiction: lending her bed to strangers and photographing them in their sleep; following someone in their every move; or taking a journal she found to retrace the life of a stranger. The work of this artist cultivates both fiction and secret and voyeurism and exhibitionism.
  • EUGENE RICHARDS. For thirty years, Eugene Richards has set out to reveal the social situations in his country: poverty, homelessness, drugs, gangs and violence. Through dark photos, crossed by violent diagonals, by gestures that break the frame and split up bodies in the desolate settings, he extends America a mirror and is not kind about it. The very direct style of his compositions, which are simultaneously pure and violent and always in black and white, is a cry against exclusion and paints a portrait of an America that Americans do not want to see.