Reversing the Eye

Arte Povera and Beyond 1960-75: Photography, film, video
Exhibition from 11 Octobre 2022 to 29 january 2023

Emilio Prini, Introduzione alle statue [Introduction aux statues], 1968

For the first time, Jeu de Paume and LE BAL are presenting a shared exhibition, on the use of media—photography, film and video—by Italian artists of the 1960s and early 1970s. Focusing on Arte Povera, the exhibition opens up to various fellow travellers of the movement and beyond, in order to study the position of the Italian avant-gardes in relation to photography and the moving image.

This exhibition will display the extraordinary richness of a period in which Italian artists began to be familiar with the narrative power of photography, video and film. From Michelangelo Pistoletto's mirror paintings to Giulio Paolini's or Giovanni Anselmo's large-scale photographs on canvas, from Alighiero Boetti's photocopied works to Franco Vaccari's photo-booth strips or Luciano Giaccari's performance videos, it will provide a panorama of the visual experiments of the Italian avant-gardes of the period in the field of the image.

It will deploy a reflection structured by four thematic sections, spread across the two venues: Body (LE BAL), Experience, Image and Theater (Jeu de Paume).

The point of departure for our overview is Arte Povera in its broadest sense—a radical avant-garde alternative to pop, modernist culture, and conceptual iconoclasm—artists who shared a dialectical attitude, using media as instruments of analysis, as documents, as icons. The ability of Italian art to appropriate all kinds of materials has often been emphasized. It is therefore hardly surprising that for artists versed in disruption, the media was alternately a filter, a material, or an artistic medium.

Photography becomes picture, document, report, sculpture, book, album; videos and films become allegory, projection, installation—like so many spaces enlisted to create a new field of investigation, to transform life into the metaphor of a quest. More than giving a new image to modernity, by using the media, the avant-garde sought to dismantle its structure, its roots, to deconstruct the discourse around its function and its aura. Art was no longer about affirmation but raising consciousness. Documents lost their simple textual function to become relics, fulfilling what Michel Foucault called in the late 1960s, their passage ‘from document to monument.’”

Giuliano Sergio, curator of the exhibition

"With photography I change identity: from a spectator disguised as a painter, I find myself turned into an author disguised as a spectator." Giulio Paolini

Practical info

Commented tours of the exhibition by the BAL's lecturers will take place on the following dates:

  • Wednesday 16 November at 7PM
  • Wednesday 7 December at 7PM
  • Wednesday 25 January at 7PM

Joint visits will also be organized between the two venues:

  • Saturday 19 November at 2:30PM at Jeu de Paume, then at 4:30PM at LE BAL
  • Saturday 14 January at 3PM at LE BAL, then at 5PM at Jeu de Paume

Finally, specific visits will be proposed:

  • Thursday 24 November at 6PM and 7PM, with art historian Didier Semin
  • Sunday 11 December at 12PM, with the curators Giuliano Sergio and Diane Dufour
  • Thursday 19 January at 6PM and 7PM, with art historian Didier Semin​

Curators: Quentin Bajac, Jeu de Paume director; Diane Dufour, LE BAL director; Giuliano Sergio, independent curator.
Associated curator: Lorenza Bravetta, curator of Photography, Cinema, and New Media, Triennale Milan.
Exhibition coproduce by Jeu de Paume and LE BAL with Triennale Milano.
LE BAL receives support from the Ville de Paris and the Région Île-de-France.
Media partners: Connaissance des artsLe MondeRadio NovaParis PremièrePolkaTélérama.

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