To watch the video portrait:
Valérie Jouve’s photographic and film work is rooted in the alchemy between bodies and space, humanity and the urban landscape. Titled “Bodies, Resisting”, this exhibition offers a substantial selection of works from the late 1980s up to the present day.
Born in Saint Etienne in 1964 and now living in Paris, Valérie Jouve studied anthropology before enrolling at the National School of Photography in Arles. Now a photographer and filmmaker, she is part of that generation of French artists which has moved away from the great humanist tradition without completely rejecting its fundamental concerns.
Her photographs and films draw as much on contemporary art and creative documentary as on
anthropology and sociology. In their combined portrayal of people in motion and buildings, they explore
physical presence in cities and ways of living in space. The classic subjects of landscape and portrait are brought together in a way that draws splendidly choreographed scenes out of the intensity of urban situations.
The ambiguity and deliberate indeterminacy of her photographic compositions is underscored by her use of the designation Untitled. These open-ended bodies of images are added to by the artist over time, and each is identified by a generic subtitle in parentheses: Characters, Facades, Passers-by, The Street, Situations, Trees, and so on.
The Jeu de Paume selection covers more than twenty years of Jouve’s work. The exhibition itinerary sets up a tension between these still images and a series of films looking at the city and its margins, ranging from Grand Littoral and Traversée to the artist’s new work, Blues. Created especially for the exhibition, Blues speaks to us of the abuse of power by countries and people. Jouve went to Guatemala to film and photograph changes to the landscape induced by the practices of those the local Indians call gringos. Comprising sequences of films, photographs, texts and sounds, the work revolves around Tania Carl, a French blues singer who has opted for living in Guatemala.
Jouve has approached the presentation of “Bodies, Resisting” as if it were a musical composition, imbued with a momentum that makes the viewer a participant.
I’m trying to conjure up a kind of intensity I feel in living things… I’m working on inhabiting a space
and I hope viewers come to experience that space through the images. (Valérie Jouve)
The bodies in Jouve’s images are dwelt in by the space they traverse, sometimes being rendered machine-like by the repetition of everyday acts. Situations, Itineraries and Leaving the Office illustrate the mechanics of bodies moving from an interior to a public space.
The artist’s eye calls up a powerful resistance to the impersonal norms of the territory in question, of these nameless subjects silently given names by the voice dwelling in the images. (Marie-José Mondzain)
In Valérie Jouve’s work urban and periurban spaces are built-up, leaving no room for earth. Some of her images are of implacably geometrical generic sites, while others show human beings on a human scale, as an active force within the city and a call to action.
Because she feels living beings as disconnected from an all-absorbing, not to say stifling, reality… Most of these figures – these men and women – abruptly break into the deep flow of the exhibition…
Her explorations take place on the side of resistance, strength and presence – of what she calls “being there”… She urges us towards a “shift” away from our habits and perceptions – and our resignation. (Arlette Farge)
Curators: Valérie Jouve, Marta Gili and Pia Viewing.
Exhibition produced by Jeu de Paume.
Our thanks also to Hôtel Chavanel, Paris