Over the past twelve years, the Circulation(s) Festival has established itself as a must-see photography event: not only because it offers a panorama of emerging European artists in visually striking exhibitions, but also because of how it is organized. Originally created by the Fétart collective, now composed of ten independent curators, the festival follows a unique selection process, which includes a Europe-wide (in the geographical sense) call for submissions. This 12th iteration brings together 30 artists from 15 countries: Germany, Italy, Poland, Finland, Spain, Turkey, etc. Most were selected by a jury of professionals, while others were spotted by the Fétart team.
Circulation(s) is an opportunity to make new discoveries, since it showcases photographers from often sidelined countries, such as Armenia, which is represented this year by four artists. In terms of formal innovation, true to its reputation, the festival offers a diverse cross-section of current photographic practices. Spread over more than 2,000 square meters of exhibition space, many works mix still and moving images, installations as well as traditional prints.
How do young European photographers see the world today? As it does every year, Circulation(s) reflects the tensions and the preoccupations of our time: environmental and animal issues, ethnic and gender identities, labor, war, discrimination, and social issues are the recurring themes in this year’s festival. One thing is clear: of the thirty projects presented, many are rooted in reality and often based on research. Below is a guided tour across two tendencies run through this twelfth iteration: appropriation and docufiction.
Just as the world was going into lockdown, Federico Ciamei’s Travel Without Moving took on a new meaning. His project appropriates historical documents and other archival material to conjure up the story of an imaginary journey, foregrounding our capacity for armchair travel while questioning the legitimacy of classic exploration narratives.
Appropriation takes another form in Spaniard Rubén Bermúdez’s series “And You, Why Are You Black?”: it makes use of details of cult images and popular icons, such as Tommie Smith’s raised fist at the 1968 Olympics, developing a political and identity-related discourse. In turn, the French artist Alexandra Dautel, who investigated an atypical Kibbutz, founded in 1989 in a southern Israel desert, juxtaposes her own and archival images to create resonance between different temporalities.
Louise Ernandez (France) borrows the codes of the photo novel to recount a love story entitled Obsessio in an installation mixing contrasting black-and-white prints and video. Elisabeth Gomes Barradas, French of Cape Verdean origin, recreates the world of R&B videos — from Beyoncé to Ashanti — which had fascinated her as a child. She studied her idols’ poses to have them reenacted by her models — family members or strangers recruited via social networks — in order to create portraits and album covers where glitter, color, and bright light take us back to the 2000s.
When it comes to the world of labor, and more generally social issues, they are often treated in the form of docufiction. Thus, for his project AMZN, Polish artist Tytus Szabelski got a short-term job at an Amazon fulfillment center in order to understand and experience the working methods of the online retail giant, which are regularly met with criticism. Rather than offering a direct testimony, Tytus Szabelski reconstructs what he had observed from the inside, using staging, exterior views of the warehouses marring the landscape, etc.
At the end of our tour of the 2022 festival, we notice that, while reality may be at the heart of many works, it is by taking a detour via fiction that the artists comment on the present state of the world.
Centquatre, 12th Circulation(s) Festival, Young European photography, from April 2 to May 29, 2022.
Catalog produced by the Fetart collective, 22€.