our special envoy to Lianzhou in the province of Canton, China

Butterfly III Red Flower Shirt , Junnan Li, an artist trained at the London College of Communication in 2013, in the exhibition In the Labyrinth of Knossos He Yining. He Yining/photo Festival in Lianzhou

A priori, there is no reason, to a regular of the Rencontres d’arles, Paris Photo and Photo London, to go to Lianzhou, about four hours drive north-west of Canton, to the south of the vast China (already more than 11 hours of flight from Paris to go and nearly 13-hour flight at the back). This small city-wide chinese was just over 500,000 inhabitants. It does not shine nor by its heritage, extensively destroyed by history rough of the Twentieth century, nor by its modernity, reduced to an alignment of the postmodern without grace. Even if, in ten years, its physiognomy rural and dusty was transformed with a highway lined with trees and flowers, buildings still reasonable, and soon a lake, which announces a small holiday resort.

And yet, there they are. The major daily newspapers, radio stations and magazines, “international” , that is to say, aliens ( France Inter , Le Figaro , The World , Liberation , The Guardian , The Express , Les Inrocks , Fisheye Magazine, The Daily life of Art ). The major institutions of the photograph (the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam, but neither the Jeu de Paume, or the MEP, or the Pompidou Centre) and the figures of the cultural policy of French (Marion Hislen, vivacious founder in 2011 of the festival Circulation(s), atypical delegated to the photograph within the directorate general of artistic creation at the ministry of Culture from January 2018). Because this China is rapidly changing shape, at the time a tank clear of artists and a field of exploration without such a medium and its reception.

Duan Yuting, founder and director of the Festival of Lianzhou really believed in the talent confirmed Han Lei, born in 1967 in Kaifeng, Henan province, work between documentary and symbolism exhibited in the new museum of photography. Here, “Still from “Rapids” ##. 1″, video (16 minutes), 2018. Han Lei was part of the jury of this 14th edition, the sides of Duan Yuting, Florence Grivel, Marieke Wiegel and Marion Hislen, who rewarded the Swiss-Italian Salvatore Vitale (Punctum Photography Award), the Chinese Jiang Yuxin (The Special Award), and Peng Ke (The EMG Foundation Award). Han Lei/Festival de Lianzhou

“It is a miracle that there exists such a festival independent of China, with an artistic programme that is as ambitious and sharp as a true international biennial,” said completely anonymous – a French diplomat, installed several years ago in the heart of China, less hit than his compatriots in the visit express in Lianzhou by the impact of the censorship. They were surprised to see the face of the chinese president Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the 1st December, with its panoramic movie very sound and light that celebrated the event, the city, the province, the country, the nation. Last year, only the minority Yao, the imperial history of China, and the greatness of the nation were thus staged on a giant screen.

” READ ALSO – Lianzhou, smile, you’re being censored

“The politics of Beijing is part of the daily life here, the face of the chinese president Xi Jinping appears everywhere, in the metro, in the lift of your building”, relativizes this immersed in the chinese culture, its codes, its boundaries, its appetite for competition, his philosophy in the face of adversity, and therefore more able to see the glass half full than half empty (a beautiful hanging of a young pole Michal Martychowiec which transforms reality into pure abstraction, Between the Two Worlds, the Respite, In Which We Are Not , at the Shoe Factory).

Structure of the avant-garde signed by O-Office Architects one of The posters of the 14th edition of the Lianzhou Foto Festival. Lianzhou Foto Festival

For the past year, Lianzhou has its photography museum, a public museum and therefore, still unique of its kind in China, where a growing number of prosperous business and pétaradantes, the new millionaires and their private museums. The “Candy Factory”, factory of candy which was already HQ in the Festival of Lianzhou, was transformed in 2017 in a structure of the avant-garde signed by O-Office Architects, two young talents of Canton, trained at Versailles and at the university of Louvain in Flanders.

A model of integration in the maze of the urban fabric, it uses traditional tiles as ornamental motifs, incorporating the old wooden windows of the post-war concrete and contemporary looks nothing like the demonstrations architectural gleaming of the new China voraciously capitalist.

A museum in passages, in staircases and in currents of air where the conditions humidity are tremendously responsible if methodical of our photographic collections in the museum, careful to preserve in cool and dry of their precious vintages (last demo high-tech date, the Fondation Henri-Cartier-Bresson in the Marsh and its temperature carefully measured for the prints and the negatives). This provision, on the contrary, widely open to the wind as to the public (by decreasing order, the local public, academic, cantonese, chinese, or even international), makes their life impossible, and necessarily involves the exhibition prints, substitutes the most often made in China and who only lived a the time of the festival (notable exception for the prints Erwin Blumenfeld come in excess of to Paris by plane as his granddaughter Nadia Blumenfeld).

wind of ecology, the anthropocene and its dangers in One of the photos of the exhibition “Erwin Blumenfeld” at the new Museum of Photography Lianzhou. Ruth Knowles in front of a screen of photographs of Erwin Blumenfeld , a variant of the photograph published in Vogue US, February 15, 1953 (Organza Dior, Corset, Lily of France, Sandals Valley, the Bottom Modeltex) © The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld þ

The 14th edition of Lianzhou Foto Festival is being held until January 3, 2019. And eccentric a long time away from the tutelage of the North, it keeps the ambition of the original of this festival, born in 2005 of the common will of the city, its successive mayors. Its curator, Cantonese Duan Yuting, wants to marry, as in a real art biennale, photo documentary and photo contemporary, international artists (36), and chinese artists (39).

They are sometimes in the thematic exhibition where the wind blows to the ecology of the anthropocene and its dangers ( The Wind of Time , 27 artists, including 23 foreigners, very thought-provoking conceptual under the commissacommunication of the “Breton” Jérôme Sother, co-chair of the association Gwinzegal, Guingamp). Sometimes in a group show (16 artists of which only 4 are foreigners). And sometimes in “solo shows”, often more explicit because the more developed, on the chinese reality, which saw its economic revolution on a tempo, fast-paced (32 artists including 9 international).

In this broad mix of over 75 artists, the censorship of Beijing has applied, in three successive waves, its criteria, systematic, inflexible, in the image of an administration pyramid, and sometimes in the end incomprehensible. The censors have come by two with the catalog accurate of what had been submitted in advance for authorisation and this was accepted. Failure to comply with the time limits of this strict protocol, points out the direction of the festival, a number of photographs have been stripped from the walls, just before and during the opening. Officially, the word “censorship” is not current, it is replaced by “authorization” and the euphemisms of rigour.

Officially, the word “censorship” is not current, it is replaced by “authorization” and the euphemisms of rigour.

last year, the 13th photo Festival in Lianzhou there had already been submitted, but with much less severity. “The supervision of Beijing was more sensitive to the North and on the outskirts of the chinese capital. Canton and its region seemed to have greater freedom. The situation is tense since, and should continue to tighten in 2019 with the 70 years of the founding of the people’s Republic of China, September 21, 1949 by the president Mao – the national holiday celebrated each year on the 1st October and the 30th anniversary of the Tian’anmen demonstrations of students, intellectuals and chinese workers of 15 April 1989 that ended in the blood the 5 June 1989 on tiananmen square in Beijing, capital of people’s republic. Both subjects are completely taboo and free conversation”, noted a French observer.

For years, the German artist who studied in Dusseldorf, Oliver Sieber, asked the young people of a specific culture – punk, skin, teddy boy, rockabilly, goth – posing in front of his goal. Their extravagant style is sometimes the result of an act very developed, sometimes an assertion of identity. In his project “Imaginary Club”, these colorful characters are not classified by categories, but associated with black and white photos, street scenes and concerts. These portraits were taken in Europe, the United States, Japan, showing that subcultures propagate themselves and change in the world undergound globalized. This spectacular series sat on the posters in the streets of Lianzhou. But the exhibition has gone, after the passage of the censors. Oliver Sieber/photo Festival in Lianzhou

Of the unanimous opinion, that is the object of the censorship is beyond all logic and is often a mystery. Witness the banal images of sea and beach removed, in fine, in the exhibition Known and Strange Things Pass of the British Andy Sewell on the cables of the web that transmit millions of data between America and the United Kingdom. Difficult to separate from the bottom or the form, if it is not the obvious demonstration of authority. Striking result. The point to make it disappear completely hooks ( Imaginary Club , the global world of the underground, like himself through his tattoos, its codes, its fashions, by the German artist Oliver Sieber, however, to the poster anywhere in the city). To reduce them to the serving more than, congruent, and therefore unusable ( Displacement , hot topic on globalization and its migrants by the star of the documentary photo French, Mathieu Pernot, and the Franco-Sudanese Mohamed Abakar, who has, moreover, not obtained his visa for China). To drastically reduce the relevance of the subject (the disappearance of all the HOMELESS people who were in the during the traders can Here is London , beautiful work caravaggio the British Mark Neville).

tragic consequences of global warming and the melting of the glaciers, the model, the landscape will crack and therefore the habitat that is threatened by the swiss photographer Yann Mingard in the exhibition “Seven Sunsets” at the Museum of photography Lianzhou. Yann Mingard / Lianzhou Foto Festival The incredible “cemeteries of bicycles,”

so We cross out of the rooms where the pictures are censored (” about 80, of which almost 60% of foreign artists “, say the officials of the festival) are marked by the vacuum left on the rails, the tacks and the pencil strokes for the alignments, which form many of the works are abstract, intriguing ( False Positive , of Dutch Esther Hovers, or the decoding of the attitudes considered as suspicious by our surveillance cameras). A way as another to show how the picture has meaning, even if this brutal reminder to the order, more hard than in previous editions, has surprised and shocked the west, full of candor and/or good-will. Paradox, the Festival of Lianzhou did not hesitate to assign, on 3 December, its price is the most important and the most equipped (up to 60,000 Yuan, or about 7800 €), the Punctum Photography Award, Salvatore Vitale, sicilian artist who lives and works in Switzerland, whose work How to Secure A Country on the understatement of finicky protocols, the swiss risk prevention has been severely amputated.

There remains, fortunately, a lot to see and to understand.

The cemeteries of bicycles, Wu Guoyong, a freelance photographer born in 1963 in Xiangyang, Hubei province, installed in Shenzhen since 1992. Wu Guoyong / photo Festival in Lianzhou

Paradoxically, what seems to delicate to our eyes of foreigners has all the space you wanted to deploy. Thus, the implausible, “cemeteries of bikes,” photographed as the abstractions of color thanks to drones by the photographer Wu Guoyong in 20 chinese cities ( No Place to Place ). Its very large prints, spectacular and cropped to create the illusion of harmonious landscapes, have the honors of the Shoe Factory. They demonstrate, at the same time of the image, the production capacity of a staggering China, its reactivity superhuman in the face of a new request (shared bicycles), his conquest of madness a buoyant market, its overproduction and his inordinate waste huge.

The series of chinese photographer Zhang Hui on the track of the 18 mausoleums queen of the Tang dynasty, to the west of the central plains of Shaanxi (Silk Road Chang’an & Digital Tang Mausoleum Series). Zhang Hui / Lianzhou Foto Festival

As little distanced and plastic as possible, the series City Sculpture of Wu Dengcai aligns the photos in front of sculptures monumental emblems of pride between maoism and capitalism brand-new, often of artistic value to zero, which camped at the entrance of the twenty provinces and autonomous regions in china, more than 70 cities, the mushroom-that this reporter has surveyed for three months. The market induced by this race to the monuments, often of a kitsch atterrant, a figure up to several tens of million RMB and puzzling to the countries of the museums of modern art. Much more sensitive, the series of Zhang Hui on the track of the 18 mausoleums queen of the Tang dynasty, to the west of the central plains of Shaanxi ( Silk Road Chang’an & Digital Tang Mausoleum Series ). The look of the contemporary technology on this heritage, yesterday banned by the people of the king, gives rise to beautiful images of sweet, bitter, suspended between dog and wolf, where the harshness of our time, confronts the dragons were beautiful and the warriors unmoved in the past.

“Big Brother” of Louis Quail. Louis Quail / Lianzhou Foto Festival

Finally, what is often forgotten in our festivals if urban and comfortable, such as mental illness and the terrible price of his follies, is also a space unexpected. Thus, Big Brother of the young British Louis Quail, who photographed her older brother was schizophrenic, Justin, by delaying the violence and the ugliness of his disease by the idyllic bliss of the English garden, such as D. H. Lawrence taking Lady Chatterley and her lover in the middle of the woods of blue hyacinths and forget-me-not.

The most beautiful answer of art to the constraint may just be the only man who looks at the landscape as The Traveller contemplating a sea of clouds of Caspar David Friedrich (1818). By his practice of performance isolation in River , the German Sebastian Stumpf puts the individual at the heart of the world: it sets the nose in a puddle, he stands on the small island of site flooded, he lets himself be led by the channel film of Los Angeles, he slides it in acrobat as a portal closes, he jumps from a bridge. And suddenly, all is said.

The chinese photographer in Sichuan, Zhang Kechun, instead of “small people in large environments,” in his latest series called “China”. It is necessary to magnify the image to see the walkers who climb the hundreds of steps to the sugar-loaf mountain. Zhang Kechun / Lianzhou Foto Festival