Nature Future, an exhibition curated by the Fetart collective and organised by the Institut français of Prague and Berlin
As June marks the end of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, we chose to give voice to the Fetart collective made up of 10 independent curators particularly committed to Europe by supporting young photographers around the continent. Interview with Clara Chalou and Emmanuelle Halkin, who organised, in collaboration with the Instituts français in Prague and Berlin, the Nature Future exhibition which shows how young European photographers are responding to the climate crisis.
As part of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union and with the support of the Institut français, EUNIC Global and EUNIC Berlin, the exhibition is featured in Prague since May 9 and in Berlin since June 4.
Updated on 24/06/2022
What was the Fetart collective set up to achieve?
Emmanuelle: Fetart’s goal is to help young photographers mature and be exhibited. We organise exhibitions and events with emerging young artists all over Europe. The most important event we have is the Circulation Festival, now in its 12th year. We have an entry competition with over 1000 applicants every year. Our artistic committee, which comprises ten curators, tries to choose the thirty most interesting and significant examples.
Clara: The goal is really to work with young artists at the beginning of their careers and to create events that can showcase them in a professional manner to a large audience. We always work in a very collaborative way which is why there is always two of us in interviews.
The exhibition Nature Future addresses the impact the climate crisis is having on the natural world. How have the photographers participating in the exhibition chosen to address the multiple issues arising from the crisis?
Clara: The main goal was to find artists who showed the diverse ways of thinking about it. We have some work which is quite documentary in form, but with a contemporary look, and we have more artistic works which think about the issues in an abstract manner. It was important for us to have a complete overview of these different approaches.
Emmanuelle: The exhibition is about the ecological crisis but we tried to go further than that. We are looking at the link that humans have with their country, with nature, with flowers – it’s more open than simply the crisis. In the work of Jana Hartmann and Vanja Bucan you can see that they are looking at human attitudes to nature. They show the importance of trying to change the way we think about our relationship to nature.
The younger generation seems to be particularly aware of the impact of the climate crisis. Is it an issue that young photographers focus on more than the older generation?
Emmanuelle: In a crisis artists are always the first ones to have a reaction. Now everyone is engaged with the ecological crisis. It is not a game anymore. But the young generation seems to be more active than the older one.
Clara: The younger generation we work with are really engaged with contemporary matters. For me it’s obvious that young people would be engaged with this issue and work on it.
What images in the exhibition do you find particularly powerful?
Clara: The image by Margaux Senlis of a gloved hand with dead bees in the palm. It’s a really strong, powerful image that speaks about what is happening now. It says we have to do something now. It’s so strong that we chose it to be the poster for the exhibition. The work of Ada Zielińska, which will only be shown in Prague, is also really strong. She created a large panel showing a fire in the middle of the desert. When you see it in Prague it is displayed in the middle of a garden and it looks as if there is a very large fire there. Images like that have a really strong visual impact.
Emmanuelle: For me one of the most powerful images is the one of the Novogen chickens by Daniel Szalai. Novogen chickens are a brand of chicken created solely for pharmaceutical means – vaccines and medicines and so on. He photographed the chickens in the manner of human portraits. It’s a very interesting way of making documentary photography. It shows how humans are playing with nature. Another powerful series is that by Ruben Martin de Lucas. It’s a portrait of a person standing on a small iceberg and holding a flag, as if it were a country and he were the king. But as you know icebergs are becoming smaller and smaller and the arctic is disappearing. It’s very symbolic of what is happening right now.
The exhibition was commissioned by the Instituts français in Berlin and Prague. How did they enable the project to develop?
Emmanuelle: It was a great opportunity for Fetart. We are now the specialists in France of emerging European photographers and for that reason they decided to ask us to work on the project with them. They had a lot of trust in us and gave us the freedom to suggest artists and create our own vision. It was a very good experience for us.
Clara: For us it was a beautiful example of European co-operation. It was a major event for us and a wonderful opportunity to show the diversity of Europe and work with the two institutes in Berlin and Prague on the project.
For the third consecutive year, the Fetart collective has joined forces with the EUNIC network to present the exhibition Visage(s) d'Europe (Faces of Europe), which can be seen in the public space on the Quai des Célestins in Paris. Can you tell us more about this project?
Clara: It was an invitation from EUNIC who started the project four years ago. The goal was to organise an outdoor exhibition during the Fête de l’Europe. They asked us to help with the artistic direction. Our expertise is Europe and outdoor exhibitions, so it was a perfect match. There is no overall theme, the goal is to show the diversity of work that can be found among European artists in terms of subject and form. So for three years we have had this amazing opportunity to work with EUNIC. It’s a great opportunity for the artists involved. It’s also a great artistic collaboration. We work with all the European Institutes.
Emmanuelle: This kind of project is the perfect fit for Fetart. It’s exactly the way we want to work – in co-operation with different countries and different cultural institutes. The Circulation Festival is the perfect name to illustrate the circulation of photographs and ideas.
You have been supporting emerging artists on a European scale for several years, especially though the Circulation Festival. How would you describe this new European scene? What do these photographic highlights of today’s Europe show?
Emmanuelle: Full of energy is the way I would describe it. We see so many ways of playing with the medium of photography each year. There is so much energy and diversity. Every year there are themes that stand out, this year themes around identity are important – gender, minorities, migration. I think young artists ask a lot of questions about themselves and their background.
Clara: I think what is also interesting about this new generation is that they reflect a lot on the materiality of images. It’s not just about creating photographs, it’s about how to use the image, how to show it, how to be an artist and photographer without even making images – for instance by using archives. The boundaries of photography and contemporary art are merging more and more. They are artists, not simply photographers. They work with sound and video and are really involved with reflecting on what images are and what it means to create them today.
The exhibition Nature Future is being presented with the support of the Institut français as part of the "European Creativity" call for proposals launched on the occasion of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union (FPEU) in the first half of 2022.
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