Inaugurated in 2018, the Curiosa sector is dedicated to emerging artists and young galleries presenting solo shows. The goal is to boost a new generation of artists/gallery owners who, after all, represent the future of art. “It is important to project oneself… This is why the galleries exhibiting at Curiosa fall into a more accessible price range,” notes Florence Bourgeois.
This year, this sector has grown from fourteen to twenty participants, some of whom are exhibiting in France for the first time. It is curated by Shoair Mavlian, director of Photoworks, an online platform dedicated to the medium. Formerly assistant curator of photography at Tate Modern, she co-organized the exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography in 2014.
Whether they represent the new documentary practice, deal with intimacy, memory, or history, the twenty artists from eleven countries gathered in Curiosa share an original, if not necessarily experimental, approach to photography. Self-portraiture features prominently, for example in the work of Taiwanese artist John Yuyi. Calling herself a post-internet artist, Yuyi creates photomontages featuring different parts of her body. Strange to some, funny to others, her visual paintings presage a futuristic world, between cyborg and transhumanism.
Gosette Lubondo, in turn, first discovered by the public in the exhibition “Who is gazing?” at the Musée du Quai Branly last year, stages double exposures where she is wandering around derelict places in her series “Imaginary Trip”. This self-taught Congolese artist refutes the term “self-portrait,” because it is not so much her own self she seeks to portray as the characters she embodies. Like a ghost, she haunts places that bear witness to a colonial past.
Another form of strangeness reigns in the wacky portraits by the Polish artist Karolina Wojtas, which show children in bizarre situations. Marked by the extremely strict, overbearing Polish educational system, she now gives free rein to her imagination and creativity. The black-and-white universe of Kincső Bede, another Eastern European, which straddles surrealism and the absurd is just as abrasive. When the reality is too hard to bear, the imagination is a wonderful refuge, these artists seem to be saying.
This also applies to the work of José Guerrero who has chosen abstraction. He photographs miniature architectural models which he reworks in post-production. He too blurs the line between reality and fiction, playing on the cross-penetration of the two.
By contrast, the images of the polar night captured by Mark Mahaney in Utqiagvik, the northernmost town in Alaska, represent unvarnished reality. And yet, the universe they depict, at once fascinating and disturbing, plants a seed of doubt in our minds and seems to belong to the register of phantasmagoria.
By Sophie Bernard
Sophie Bernard is a journalist specializing in photography, a contributor to La Gazette de Drouot and Le Quotidien de l’Art, a curator, and a teacher at EFET in Paris.
More information on Curiosa on Paris Photo website.