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IFAS Talks / Photography: Territory and The Other

IFAS Talks / Photography: Territory and The Other
featuring Mame-Diarra Niang (France) and Laurence Leblanc (France)
Friday 27 March at 6pm
French Institute of South Africa,1st floor,  62 Juta Str, Braamfontein
Free | Limited seatings | RSVP This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 From Metropolis in progress Courtesy of Mame-Diarra Niang and Stevenson Cape Town and Johannesburg Laurence Leblanc

Photos from left to right: From Metropolis (in progress), Courtesy of Mame-Diarra Niang and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg / D’argile, Cambodia 2013, Laurence Leblanc

The double bill features French photographers Mame-Diarra Niang and Laurence Leblanc, who have spent a month residency exploring and photographing Johannesburg.

Mame-Diarra Niang will present her work Metropolis questioning the paradigm of the wall in our contemporary societies, in a discussion with writer, curator and artist Bettina Malcomess.

Laurence Leblanc will speak about her work she developed for more than 10 years and her current work on Johannesburg entitled To go beyond the surface.

Mame-Diarra Niang's work + Biography

In Mame-Diarra Niang's photographic process and her travels, she draws step by step the map of her territory, one of which she is the unique observer. She chose to come to Johannesburg purely for esthetical and geographic reasons, following her series “Sahel Gris” and “At the Wall” which interrogate the paradigm of the wall within our contemporary societies.

In her creative work, the country that she photographs is never described, it is used as a creative tool and food for thought. However, it was challenging to photograph this city, because of the difficulty encountered while moving around, amongst other reasons. She felt it was relevant to question this territory photographed and archived so many times and archived by important photographers. In doing so, she tried to create something else and decontextualize the city from its heavy past. "Metropolis", literally the mother city, uses Johannesburg networks to create the heart of her “citadel”.

Mame-Diarra Niang was born in 1982, in Lyon, France and currently lives in Paris. She was raised between Ivory Coast, Senegal and France and is a self-taught artist and photographer. In her creations, she chooses to explore the thematic of the plasticity of territory. At the wall is her second solo show (2014) and the first at the Stevenson Gallery. Niang's first solo show, Sahel Gris, took place at the Institut Français of Dakar (2013). Group exhibitions include the Dakar Biennal (2014) and Le Piéton de Dakar at the Institut Français of Dakar (2013). She's represented by STEVENSON Cape Town & Johannesburg.


Laurence Leblanc's work + Biography

"Winner of the 2003 HSBC Foundation prize, Laurence Leblanc has continued in quiet solitude a work that is taking a lasting place in the field of contemporary photography. She is careful not to dissipate her curiosity or her interests by multiplying shots and approaches. While she publishes, shows, and distributes her work regularly, Laurence Leblanc makes a faithful ally of the time for observation and gestation. » (Benoît Rivero/Actes Sud)

In 2009, photographer Laurence Leblanc showed works shot primarily on the African continent, entitled “Seul l’air” (Only Air), during the 40th Rencontres d’Arles, in France. A book of this work was also published.

Her photographs are featured in many private collections as well as in the French Fonds National d’Art Contemporain.

In 2014, she received a grant in France for a photographic project in South Africa. 

"From my very earliest investigations, the relationship to the other has been at the centre of my photographic practice. “Facing” signifies taking time, stopping, not being afraid of my doubts, trying to get past the surface of things, and communicating my impression of the world with my own words while challenging stereotypes.

Whether it was my first work on childhood, or with nuns in Cambodia, I have always approached the Other by trying to question the constant pain of this world. Similarly, in the book “Seul l’air”, I questioned what we call Africa, trying to show each place I journeyed through in a unique way. The photographic act is always built by a gradual permeation of the subject and its environment with a sort of restraint. In addition, I devote special attention to the resulting proof, because it is the culmination of that ongoing discussion I have with myself. A need to feel, to think, and to say. That’s what I’m doing today in South Africa".

Born in Paris in 1967, Laurence Leblanc took courses at a very young age in design and in painting, as well as undergoing training in engraving at the "Ecole des Arts décoratifs du Louvre". She finally chose photography and made her debut in 1993, with a project on the DAL association ( Droit au Logement - The right to accommodation ) and a collaboration with the artist Peter Gabriel.

Then she broached the theme of childhood, using out-of-focus dreamlike images in black and white, and a long meditation on time and memory. Essentially, this work is set "in countries where memories have been forgotten, deliberately obliterated, as in Cambodia. How do all these children live with the terrible memories and traces of so many massacres?" She decided to confront the gestures of childhood, to use photography to understand and reconstruct the reality of these country where the incomprehension of the past, nigtmares and evidence of great horrors are omnipresent. 

Laurence leblanc does not testify, she interprets. The gestures she portrays are sometimes joyful and the children's games in the pictures are full of tension and suffering. Her account creates a painful yet dreamlike world inhabited by tiny, innocent phantoms which seem to want to emerge and break free from a nigtmare.

Winner in 2000 of the "Villa Medicis Hors-les-Murs" prize for her project in Cambodia, she has received other several awards, including that of the foundation HSBC pour la photographie en 2003. 

In 2006, she conceived the project "Objets perdus" (Lost objects), a series which forms part of her current line of questioning: "Should we resist in vain, or adapt our thinking, ignoring the past? " These objects gathered as time goes by without any intention of putting together a collection" seem like an attempt to "conserve memories of human fragility, of what remains after everyhing has disappeared". The images are accompagnied by a soundtrack which keeps repeating the title over and over again. Between self-effacement and melancholy, she wonders if she is attached to these lost objects, or is detaching herself from them by photographing them.

Laurence Leblanc has, in particular, participated exhibitions such as Made in Paris at the Photographer's Galerie in london, Paris Photo and Dfoto in Spain...

In 2006, she was selected for the first edition of the Prix Photo du Jeu de Paume. 

She has been represented by Christian Caujolle and the Gallery VU' since 2001.


About Bettina Malcomess

Bettina works across disciplines as a writer, curator and artist. Her work is interdisciplinary, collaborative and site-specific, working with ways to visualise and imagine the minor histories of spaces. Malcomess’ work combines artistic practice, research and writing. She teaches at the Wits School of Arts and the School of Architecture. She is one of the co-founders of Keleketla! Media Arts Project based at the Drill Hall. Since 2010 she has been producing the Millennium Bar, a temporary structure consisting of modular fragments collected from demolition sites and scrap yards. Malcomess does performance under the name Anne Historical and has produced site-specific projects locally and internationally, working with collectives Erf 81 in and Doing it for Daddy. She is the co-author with Dorothee Kreutzfeldt of the book 'Not No Place. Johannesburg, Fragments of Spaces and Times' (Jacana, 2013). She is the visual editor of the upcoming publication: Routes and Rites, an exploration of diverse religious practices in the city of Johannesburg.

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