“Why not create an original residency program that bridges two distinct worlds?,” pondered Philippe Guionie, the director of Residence 1+2. Since 2015, he has fearlessly merged two seemingly unrelated disciplines: photography and science.
The story can be traced to Toulouse, a city with a rich history in photography and a vibrant, diverse scientific community. Toulouse is renowned as the birthplace of the Ariane rocket, Concorde, Airbus, as well as being home to Château d’Eau, France’s first public gallery dedicated to fine-art photography. Within this environment, the synergy between photography and scientific expertise was conceived.
Guionie, the visionary behind the festival, had spent over two decades working as a photographer, including at the MYOP agency. He grappled with the challenges involved in residency: “We often shape a project based on our own experiences. Sometimes, I lacked the expertise, knowledge, or skills I needed.”
The rule of three
As the name implies, Residence 1+2 consists of three photographers in a creative residency. This trio includes one renowned and two emerging photographers who coexist for two months, from March to April. They have no prior acquaintance with each other, and come from diverse backgrounds with distinct aesthetics. Guionie emphasizes that the goal is to “bring together, for the duration of the residency, people who had never met before.”
While the two photographers involved in the creative process are selected through an open call for applications, the third member is handpicked by Guionie himself: “[It’s] someone who, in general, has never been to Toulouse and is able to bring a fresh perspective.” This year, Almudena Romero, a Spanish artist, has the honor of being paired with Téo Becher and Marion Elena.
“We’re not in school, a workshop, or a masterclass. We try to ensure that everyone listens to one another,” says Guionie, citing Article 1 of the residency: “Excellence with a smile.” This joyful artistic collaboration culminates in a collective work that will be exhibited in Toulouse and published as a book.
The works of the three artists from the 2023 residency are featured in a box set of three books published by Éditions Filigranes as part of its Toulouse collection titled Re-connexions. The collection is a way to celebrate the connections between photography and life and to inspire a broader philosophical, ecological, and anthropological reflection. This urgency is evident in Romero’s fluorescent images of pistils, petals, and various floral parts in her work titled The Museum of Plant Art, in which plants become the true artists. Similarly, Téo Becher’s Emmêlement et autres histoires de forêt [Entanglement and Other Forest Stories] invites us to reconsider our perception of the environment and reconnect with life. Marion Elena’s series, Tu te souviens de la couleur de ma chambre ? [Do You Remember the Color of My Room?] takes us on an exploration of memory-regeneration mechanisms, rekindling our connection to our shared memory.
“Everything has been done; everything is yet to be done”
Eight years and some fifty residents later, the worlds of science and photography continue to engage in dialogue. When asked if he fears exhausting the subject, Philippe Guionie quotes Joseph Koudelka: “Everything has been done; everything is yet to be done.” Even when the themes are somewhat similar, the creative aspect remains very different.
In recent years, there has been a growing momentum related to environmental issues, which the residency supports by bringing artists and researchers together. It’s a way to bridge two worlds: “I’ve noticed over the past two years that scientists come back to attend our exhibitions and conferences, even if it’s not their field,” Guionie rejoices.
Indeed, despite the commonalities between the two disciplines highlighted by the residency, sometimes words don’t have the same meaning. Images then become a means for both the artist and the scientist to rediscover their own discipline through a distant perspective: “Because, in the end, photography and science are about telling stories, narrating, and attempting to build a society.”
More than just knowledge, new iconography, and awareness, Residence 1+2 aims to contribute to a new relationship with the world. Guionie adds: “Resilience is a means, a tool, a pretext to go further.”
RE-CONNEXIONS, 2023, Éditions Filigranes. Almudena Romero, Téo Becher, Marion Ellena. With texts by Fabien Ribery, Michel Poivert. €25.00.
For more information about the residency program, please visit the Residence 1+2 website. Téo Becher’s work, Emmêlement et autres histoires de forêts, is on view at the Bonnefoy Cultural Center until December 9, 2023. Marion Ellena’s work, Tu te souviens de la couleur de ma chambre? is on display at the Bellegarde Cultural Center until December 9, 2023.