Al Zoe Leonard: Al río

The day after we went to Paris Photo we went to the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris and got tickets to the Zoe Leonard exhibit, Al río / To the River, recommended by classmates who had seen it the day before. It’s an immense show that goes on and on for rooms and rooms, vast expanses of white space, perhaps conveyed by the images above. We arrived late morning and were, initially, the only ones there, other than the guards. I was almost more impressed at the opportunity to wander through the vast, empty white space of the museum (reminiscent of my trips to NY’s Metropolitan as a kid, when it was often so empty you could go bowling without disturbing anyone) than I was by the photographs.

The images look at the US/Mexico border area, as loosely defined by the Rio Grande/Bravo. On each wall is a series of pictures, looking at a particular scene, over the course of time (seconds, or minutes, I would guess). Some of these are very affecting; cumulatively, they certainly are. But I was unable to guess at the reason for some of them. One entire room was dedicated to pictures of the swirling water taken, perhaps, over the side of a bridge. While they are far from identical, they are all the same. Another follows a man on horse from a distance, behind, as he travels a short way. The final room is a series of color pictures of a laptop showing security footage of people crossing a barbed-wire-surrounded bridge. No indication of whether this is a public website, or if she’d been granted access to a security control room. Beyond the brochure materials about the exhibit (shown at the link above) there are no placards, captions or other text to explain what you’re looking at or why – which is, in itself, a kind of statement, I suppose. I confess, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. Of course, the same might be said of my series of images of the exhibit.

As always, click any image to see them all full-size.

Blog Note

It’s been a busy week for travel. Friday we took the train to Waterloo, then the tube to St Pancras, the EuroStar to Paris, and 2 Metros and a short walk to the hotel for Paris Photo. Walked about 8 miles around Paris before the Expo opened Saturday afternoon then wandered through the glorious (exhaustive and exhausting) expanse of it, along the way picking up a copy of Justine Kurland’s Girl Pictures (the 2020 Aperture edition not the one at the link) and meeting her when she signed the book. Sunday walked another 8 miles around Paris including a stop at the Musée d’Art Moderne and the Zoe Leonard exhibit. Then took the 2 Metros back to Gare du Nord to get the EuroStar back to St Pancras, the tube to Paddington and the train to Bristol, then a short cab ride to the hotel for Monday’s collage workshop with Justine Kurland at the Martin Parr Foundation. The Workshop was an all day session with about 12 students. Justine was fantastic – very engaging, discursive, open, collaborative, erudite and discussions with her have really forced me to re-evaluate what I’m doing in photography and how I can better strive to achieve the level of artistic mastery that she displays in her work. In particular I think it is pushing me to start using film in medium or large format again and get serious about more deliberate photographic subjects. Martin Parr wandered in now and again and was truly charming, one of the few male photographers to reach out positively to Justine about her SCUMB Manifesto (which I had previously bought as a gift for my collaging daughter). In the evening she gave a talk to a packed house which walked through several of her projects and was again, insightful, engaging and inspiring.

The next morning the cab to the train station never arrived, the rain was dashing down as we trundled our suitcase to the bus stop, getting drenched, then sat in Bristol traffic and passed the train station where construction has closed the bus stop and walked back through the rain and puddles to Bristol’s Temple Meads train station, hustled to the ticket window to upgrade our tickets for an earlier train we needed to catch to Paddington. Then the tube to Waterloo and the train back to Farnham where, panting, I just made it to my lecture on Queer Theory. Alas, rain had seeped into one of our bags and badly damaged the cover of Girl Pictures although, at least, none of the pages or images seems to have been harmed.

All this by way of excuse for not posting. More pictures to process and post soon.