The first three “Ma Samaritaine” competitions were, in a certain way, variations of visits and inventories of the site. Guided in turn firstly by young French and foreign photographers, then young artists and – most recently – well-known photographers, we have been challenged with their eclectic visions of the space. Regardless of how it is represented, there remains – and not without nostalgia sometimes – a true sense of the grandeur of the building and of its immensity, like a flagship preparing to set sail. Nevertheless, and whatever their approach, it was the light that determined the point of view of all these photographers.
However, now that demolition is under way, spaces are metamorphosing and structures are appearing differently, a strange phenomenon is occurring. The young artists trained at Le Fresnoy Studio national des arts contemporains, or the National Studio for Contemporary Arts, are addressing the very nature of the site, ranging from more factual works including detailed descriptions of the demolition and the biblical origins of place names, or collecting and using items such as pieces of broken glass or wall elements to use as negatives. Thought-provoking compositions, combining techniques dating back to the origins of photography with very contemporary viewpoints, thus establish a sensitive and transitory balance which, in many cases, goes beyond the images and what they represent, directly confronting the link between realism and fiction.
In addition to giving the artists the best possible working conditions, the partnership with Le Fresnoy also opens up the competition to the animated image – already commonplace, yet complex to implement. A sign of the times and the evolving status of the image, the cutting-edge Le Fresnoy has seen its students becoming increasingly passionate about video and installation art over recent years – a movement away from still images, yet returning by partially incorporating historical techniques.
As eclectic in the selection of artists as in the field of photography in recent years, this new visual movement emphasises the very contemporary dimension of the project – as much the essence of the building itself as to how we envisage it might look.
Assisted by Anna-Katharina Scheidegger
“Ma Samaritaine” is on display at 67-83 Rue de Rivoli, 8-10 Rue du Pont-Neuf and the Maison du Projet at 1 Rue du Pont-Neuf, Paris 1e