Developed in the framework of the Curatorial Research Grant: Rencontres d’Arles / Institut Français' second Africa Projects, IF A TREE FALLS IN A FOREST expresses the will to investigate questions of perception, representation and knowledge in African photography, or, in other words, how photography documents silences and gaps.

The elusiveness of reality and the trickery of images that have both comforted many of our ‘modern’ illusions are not exclusive to the African context. Suspecting that they may reside in the historical relationship between images and reality, be it here (in Africa, or about Africa) or elsewhere, IF A TREE FALLS IN A FOREST will be focused on two aspects: 1) A collective exhibition that presents how these questions are discussed in African photography; 2) A conversation set beyond the photographic medium and beyond the geographical boundaries of the African continent. This conversation will take the form of a choir of voices discussing their work, their communities and references.

Over the past weeks, we drew inspiration from conversations with friends and colleagues, artists, researchers, filmmakers and writers to issue and design a project motivated by a spirit of collectivity and plurality to be implemented over two phases: Phase 01, An online program where we present the curated perspectives and thoughts by invited guests — in dialogue with our proposal, and exploring questions raised by the edges and lacunae of sights; and Phase 02, A photography exhibition to be presented in the 2022 edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles.


Phase 01 Kick-Off:
Research & Online Program


On a monthly basis, this series of online programs brings together free answers from artists, curators, filmmakers, writers and friends to the wide range of questions we have raised (See If A Tree Falls In A Forest. Draft 01). This way, it will mark out or broaden — depending on one's point of view — the possibilities of conversation in the time allotted to us between now and the execution of the exhibition which may or may not be nourished by it.

The design of this online program is a continuation of a classical and generative approach to collaboration — inspired by 20th century conceptualisms — that we've been experimenting in our young practice (See What is left of us, Dakar, 2018). As contemporary curating also takes place in a combination of mediums, where all kinds of communications, posts, stories, videos, photographs, articles, newsletters, graphic designs, websites, etc., converge, Phase 01 of IF A TREE FALLS IN A FOREST will offer a variety of formats: Research notes, articles, fragments (DRAFTS), videos (FILMS), audios (SOUNDS), selected bibliographies (READERS) collected on the sinuous paths of our quest, as well as synthetic publications such as this one (NEWSLETTERS). In short, we envision a device that takes advantage of the possibilities offered by the editorialization of a work in progress and, more broadly, by the infrastructure of the internet as a digital public space, a digital cultural space, and a conversational space. 


Gian Spina:
Images From The Same Forest


© Gian Spina, Jordaõ, 2019. Detail.

We are embarking this online journey with Gian Spina, an artist, writer and filmmaker based in Cairo, Egypt. We will have a pre-recorded discussion titled ‘Images from the same forest’ with Gian, which you can watch/liste on our website by the end of January. Some of Gian’s films will be available on our platform in the days leading up to the discussion, as well as a selection of texts by the artist.

By shedding light on Gian’s work (past and current) we hope to learn more about his historiographic practice, and potentially identify new narratives and ways to expand our research.

Do join us! 


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