Summary of a 15 minute telephone interview with Erik Kessels conducted on 26th October, 2016.
For Assignment 3, “We are all photographers now” my essay led me to an analysis of the language used in the 2011 Arles Manifesto “From Here On” drawn up by Erik Kessels, but I had some questions for which I needed specific answers. I wrote to Erik Kessels about 3 weeks before I had to submit my assignment but the answer did not arrive in time. Instead his PA asked me to phone him. Although I had permission to record the interview, I was not allowed to use it as such for any other purposes. What follows is a summary of the points discussed.
My contention was that the language used in the manifesto was very similar to that used in the Futurist Manifesto drawn up by Marinetti in 1909 and published in Le Figaro in France. I asked if this had in fact been the inspiration for it and was very surprised to hear from a very surprised curator that it was not and that it was very much a collaborative effort among the 5 male curators: Clément Chéroux, Joan Fontcuberta, Erik Kessels, Martin Parr & Joachim Schmid.
In the manifesto it was apparent that the 5 curators at the Arles photo festival were trying to make a break with the past – ‘yes it was a niche idea at the time’. ( Marinetti may have said the same thing had he been interviewed about his Futurist Manifesto.) The internet imagery was a starting point for the exhibition.
I asked about the composition of the curating team: could there have been a woman included in the team? Joan Fontcuberta had brought the team together and Kessels said that one of the main criticisms of the exhibition was that it was quite male orientated. He subsequently and very kindly sent me more information and material about the exhibition. Gosh! Male is the key there! He said that he would not like to be a full time curator because as a photographer he would find that boring. He did not have any other explanation for having had an all-male curating team.
He spoke quite colourfully about the experiences the curators had in deciding which images went in and which not.
It was a very interesting experience for me &, although I did not feel nervous at the time, the recording makes me sound very nervous. I will have to practise more of this, it would seem!