UNE EXPOSITION DU CENTRE DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE GENÈVE POUR LES RENCONTRES DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE D’ARLES 2018
L’expression « village Potemkine » remonte au Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkine, ministre russe qui, pour masquer la pauvreté des villages lors de la visite de l’impératrice Catherine II la Grande en Crimée en 1787, aurait prétendument fait ériger des villages entiers faits de façades en carton-pâte. Gregor Sailer documente ici ce phénomène architectural en photographiant entre 2015 et 2017 les villages Potemkine modernes : des centres d’exercice militaire aux États-Unis et en Europe aux répliques de villes européennes en Chine, en passant par des pistes d’essais de véhicules en Suède ou encore des rues entières mises en scène pour la visite de personnalités politiques en Russie. Les images de Gregor Sailer sont autant une méditation sur l’architecture contemporaine que sur la falsification du réel tangible.
CURATEUR : JOERG BADER
Exposition coproduite par les Rencontres d’Arles et le CPG, avec le soutien du Forum culturel autrichien, Paris
Cloître Saint-Trophime, Arles
de 9:00 à 19:00, dernière entrée à 18:30
JEUDI 05.07.2018 de 17:00 à 18:00 : Discussion entre Gregor Sailer, Pascal Beausse et Joerg Bader
à L’École Nationale Supérieure de Photographie (ENSP), Arles
Informations et billetterie : www.rencontres-arles.com
DU lundi 02.07.2018 AU MARDI 25.09.2018 de 10:00 à 19:30 : publications des Éditions CPG à l’espace Le nonante-neuf
La Croisière, 65 boulevard Émile Combes, Arles
DU mercredi 27.02.2019 à 04.2019 : Exposition The Potemkine Village
au Centre de la photographie Genève (CPG)
Gregor Sailer's series The Potemkin Village plays in a very sophisticated way on a kind of double deceit. The "Potemkinian villages" that the artist has identified in the four corners of the northern hemisphere, whether in France, Germany, England, Russia, China or the United States, are very often photographed from the front, one of the characteristics of documentary style as Olivier Lugon has very clearly defined it in his book Le style documentaire. This style - a description of the tangible world - can, for example, reveal the social structures that govern us from architecture; but it is above all driven by the ambition to state certain truths about the power relations in our societies. But now almost all the facades presented in this exhibition are false. They give the impression of uses for which the buildings do not fulfil their functions at all.
Thus, the wallpaper that opens the exhibition representing a French village in the spirit of "quiet strength" is not idyllic, just as the wallpaper to its left shows the centre of a new postmodern city in France. Both views are actually from French military training sites (Beauséjour and Jeoffrécourt), such as the 24 eastern-style villages located 10,000 km from the Mediterranean Sea in the Mojave Desert and built by the United States for war training in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere.
Further along the exhibition route, the small Scandinavian-style houses do not accommodate anyone either; their facades have just been erected to simulate a village dedicated to Swedish road safety. And finally, on the right, the facade of the large office building never existed either. It is just a tarpaulin on which the illusion of the facade of an administrative building has been printed and which is hung among others in the streets of Souzdal, the city where President Putin received BRIC leaders and other diplomats in 2015. But as the host city was not really presentable, "Potemkinese villages" were erected in snow landscapes to make a good figure, exactly like those that Marshal Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin had - according to legend - erected in the Crimean countryside on the occasion of a trip by Czarina Catherine II in 1787.
All these facades photographed by Gregor Sailer could very well have been included in the exhibition fALSEfAKES that the Centre de la photographie Genève, co-producer of this exhibition, presented in 2013. Indeed, it is common nowadays to be wary of the plague of the possible manipulation of photographic documents in the era of their digitalization; yet no one makes the link with the observation that a good part of our built environment is already false, whether it is interior architecture but also entire cities - such as the Val d'Europe built like a Haussmann Paris near Eurodisney. It is this world that Gregor Sailer speaks of, especially in his series of Chinese cities which, built on the principle of imitation, are like some German or English cities.
The Potemkin Village exhibition at the cloister of Saint-Trophime offers a two-stage reading. As the spectator enters the room and continues his journey to the end, he mainly faces wallpapers that reproduce facades. On the front of the wallpaper walls, the viewer discovers small prints that reveal the other side of the set and reveal the context, always in the absence of any human presence, with the exception of Chinese tourist destinations.
Joerg Bader, Curator and Director of the CPG.