Interview with Marion Hislen, President of Fetart
Portrait de Marion Hislen © Augustin Rebetez
The association Fetart was founded in 2005 with the goal of promoting the work of young photographers. Seven years later, Fetart is organizing the second edition of the Festival Circulation(s), which offers a glimpse of contemporary European photography. We sat down with Marion Hislen, president of Fetart, to learn more about her organization.
Ericka Weidmann: Marion Hislen, you are president of Fetart, the association behind Circulation(s). Can you tell us how this festival dedicated to young contemporary European photography came to be?
Marion Hislen: Fetart’s goal is to promote young photographers by giving them an opportunity to exhibit their work. Since its creation in 2005, Fetart has exhibited more than one hundred artists in various places. We’re sort of like nomads; we don’t even have an office! In 2008, we organized an exhibition of 17 European photographers, which first brought our attention to Europe. We made contact with several collectives, festival organizers, galleries and schools, which helped us build a dynamic network. All our work came to fruition in 2011 with the organization of the first Festival Circulation(s). Our festival format is more traditional, with a specific date and location, so we’re starting to toe the line.
EW: Why do you think the first edition of the festival was so successful? Do you think the public was waiting for a festival like this? What is your public like?
MH: First you have to realize that we’ve had a public from the very beginning. We give our demanding Parisian public the opportunity to discover artists and places. We always choose unusual and unlikely spaces for our exhibitions. At the heart of the project, the milieu of associations provides a human dimension. The artists are very involved from the very beginning of the project, and we create the exhibition together. We’re like a family, and the effect is palpable: a real commitment on the artist’s part, a liberated vision and a rapport with the public free from commercial consideration. And let me tell you, it makes a huge difference. Also, our events are always free, which contributes to their popularity.
EW: What have you learned from last year’s festival that will change your approach this year? Did you take into consideration criticism from last year? For example, some people wanted to see more photographs from each artist. There’s always a problem of space, but will we be able to see more work this year?
MH: Yes. This year there are fewer photographers, so each will have more exhibition space. With the help of the Mairie de Paris, we’ve added an entire other space at the Parc de Bagatelle, le Trianon. For safety reasons, the new space won’t be heated, but we’re finding ways around it! There are also more guest artists this year. Lots of Swiss.
EW: You have helped launch the careers of many artists. What artists from 2011 do you feel have benefited from your work? I’m thinking of Maia Flore, the 24-year old photographer, who is now a member of the Agence Vu’ and represented by the Galerie Madé!
MH: Yes, we’ve helped several artists be discovered. We’re trying to give them as much visibility as possible. As an association, it’s important to provide a service. Sometimes photographers don’t understand that when you volunteer your services, there’s a strong emotion connection. Our return on investment is a simple “Thank you.” We’re so proud when one of them gets involved with an agency or gallery after an exhibition.
EW: Is it important for you to find sponsors for the festival? How do choose your sponsors? Until now, all of them have been women.
MH: Sponsors give us a new perspective on our work. It helps us stay fresh. Fetart is a veritable gynaeceum. Since there’s only women, it’s only natural that all of our sponsors are women! We take each team member’s suggestions into consideration and then decide as a group. We benefit so much from the people we meet. For example, we can never thank Laura Serani enough for her courageous work on the first edition of the festival.
EW: For this year’s festival, you received more than 600 portfolios, but only 24 photographers were selected. How did you decide on these photographers? What are your selection criteria?
MH: We take about two weeks to make sure each portfolio gets a close look. It’s a real lesson in Taylorism: open the portfolio, spread it out on the table, enter it into our spreadsheet, put it back in the envelope... We narrow it down to 150 portfolios for the final jury. For the pre-selection, the criteria are pretty “simple”: quality, coherence, presentation, and the artist’s background. When there’s doubt or disagreement, we let is pass to the next round for the jury to decide. For the jury, it’s more of a group effort. A work can be very well received, but if the body of images isn’t coherent... This year, SFR Jeunes Talents selected three artists to take part in their program, which is a nice gift for the artists.