Arles 2012, A Failed Festival
Arles 2012 © Molly Benn
Arles 2012 is dead. Long live Arles 2013. Whatever will happens then, couldn’t possibly be worse than this.
Let’s not be hypocritical or too well behaved. Let’s say out loud what everyone else has been saying under their breath. This year’s festival was a failure.
Torn by internal dissent, the departure of certain festival officials, the dashed ambitions and broken dreams: it was a revealing failure. The festival is not open to the new developments in photography, new technology, new names and faces. Film is gone. We have to stop clinging to it like some grail with the power to grant new life. How does parchment paper compare to the printing press? The former might be precious and sublime, but it’s obsolete. Photography has changed. There were more pictures taken in the past five years than in the first 170 years. New technologies are thriving, but in Arles they were nowhere to be seen.
Here at the official festival, it’s still the cults of curator, clubs and schools that still guard the Temple.
For the first time in 43 years, it’s in the streets of Arles, and not at the official festival, that we find the mavericks without gallery walls, the unknown libertines and libertarians adventurers—they’re the ones providing the real surprises, showing signs of genuine creativity, and renewing the medium through wild and rewarding experiments.
All the good little award-winning students officially on display were boring to death. The only gem in this well manicured French garden was the mad creativity of Dorothée Smith.
The festival is wearing itself out. It’s at a crossroads. It must be reborn. But can it?
The festival is a many headed hydra whose fate is in the hands of a board, a director, a minister, a local administration and a patron. They are little bound by friendliness and mutual respect.
Arles 2012 is dead. Long live 2013. The festival possesses a magic that must not disappear., magic that could only be provided yesterday by those two legendary old men: Joseph Koudelka and Elliot Erwitt,the only moments of true hapiness of the official program
Have a nice holiday.
I would like to thank Wilfrid Estève, Samantha Rouault, Ericka Weidmann, Xavier Derache, Juliette Deschodt, Anna-Maria Pfab, Molly Benn, Constance Gounod from the festival’s press team and Séverine Morel. It was thanks to them that we were able to provide complete coverage of the festival.