Photography and Politics of the Earth

The research and creation support programme aims to develop diverse approaches to photography. For the third edition, the Institut has proposed to turn towards the Earth, now understood in its power of hospitality with regard to today’s ecological issues.

The theme of photography and the politics of the earth enabled us to discover 96 projects on an international scale, many of which were very interesting and demanding, and which met the criteria of the call. Nevertheless, after long and rich discussions, the jury selected 4 projects that the Institut will accompany throughout the year.

The research and creation projects of the winners below will take into account the different aspects of the creation of the subject photography and politics of the Earth.

The laureates


Four Corners

Fours Corners deals with the footprint of US nuclear research in the eponymous region formed by four adjoining states: Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. This region was built around uranium: mining, bomb design during World War II and the Cold War, and now radioactive waste management.
Dissecting this scientific-military-industrial complex, Four Corners questions the desert as the ultimate testing ground and posits these radioactive ruins as the last monuments of our civilization.

Théodora Barat is a graduate of the Beaux-Arts de Nantes and Le Fresnoy – Studio National des Arts Contemporains. She is currently developing a research and creation thesis within the RADIAN doctoral programme.
Théodora Barat’s work mixes film, photography and installation. Working on the permeability between these different media, she brings narration to one, volume to the other. She is interested in changing environments, in those ultimate moments when the artificial landscape becomes a sign. She auscultates the figures of modernity, dissecting its chimeras in order to question our future.
Her work has been presented at the Cneai, the Emily Harvey Foundation (New York), at Nuit Blanche (Paris), at the Friche de la Belle de Mai (Marseille), at Mains d’Œuvres (Saint-Ouen), at the Palais de Tokyo, the Villa Médicis and in many international festivals. She was the winner of the Audi talents Prize (2016) and the Face / Étant Donnés scholarship (2020).

Find Theodora Barat’s work on her website and her Instagram profile.


DéTerre Corners

“There’s another world, but he’s in this one.”
Ignaz Paul Vital Troxler

With DéTerre, Grégory Chatonsky continues a reflection begun with Télofossiles in Taipei and Wuhan, then Terre Seconde at the Palais de Tokyo, linking artificial intelligence and extinction. The aim is to experiment the consequences of Artificial Intelligence on the automation of representation. For if artificial neural networks feed on photographs, they produce a realism that is no longer photographic. This closure of realism inherited from the industrial revolution produces images of images and comes to destabilise the very notion of truth.
It is from a device producing artificial images of a possible Earth and searching our planet for resembling images, that work sessions will open with theorists. These sessions, open to the public, will aim to explore the relationship between Earth and AI.

Since the mid-1990s, Grégory Chatonsky has been working on the Web, leading him to question the new fictions emerging from the network. In 2001, he began a series on dislocation, aesthetics, ruins and extinction as an inextricably artificial and natural phenomenon. Over the years, he has turned his attention to the capacity of machines to produce almost autonomously results that resemble human production.
These three issues have become convergent thanks to artificial imagination, which uses data accumulated on the Web as Artificial Intelligence learning material to produce a likeness. In the context of a possible extinction of the human species, AI then appears as an attempt to create a monument by anticipation that would continue after our disappearance.
He was a teacher at Le Fresnoy, UQAM and now at Artec. He was an associate researcher at ENS Ulm and Unige de Genève.

Find Grégory Chatonsky’s work on his site and his Instagram profile


L’ombre de la terre

L’ombre de la terre is a long-term project that originates in the exploration of contemporary knowledge production chains. A first chapter focused on research in optics, exploring light as a tool, as a research object and as an industrial issue.
The “laboratories” are seen as staging areas, spaces for the production of fiction. A bridge has been built between oceanographic research and optical research. The “depths” of the ocean respond to the mountains, which rose from the bottom of ancient oceans. After light as an object, the second chapter of The Earth’s Shadow will focus on the depths: terrestrial and maritime.
Photography has participated in the enterprise of reducing the earth to a calculable, quantifiable, homogeneous and undifferentiated space. In this sense, it is undoubtedly one of the least well-placed tools to produce a space of alteration of the capitalist order – to produce heterogeneity within the calculable and calculated space. But following Flusser, Sarah Ritter thinks that it is possible to use photography to open breaches, to puncture holes in maps, to darken the transparent and digitised horizon. Photography here is a poetics of the gaze.
How can photography propose other movements to the gaze than that of a reassuring and edged recognition?
This chapter, like the first one, will have several sources, with different companions on the road, such as the Oceanology Department of the University of Lille, its technological platform, the National Archives of the World of Work, and Elsa Dorlin with whom the artist will go to French Guiana, the first French region of contemporary mining extraction.

Sarah Ritter is a photographic artist. Her method is heuristic. In fact, the artist, a graduate of the Ecole supérieure de la photographie d’Arles and the Ecole nationale de Paris-Cergy, does not work in series, but by accumulating images that find their order and associative logic over time. The process is therefore a long one, allowing the photographs to mature and to match formally or metaphorically.
She published a monograph with Éditions Loco in 2019, “La nuit craque sous nos doigts”, accompanied by an unpublished piece by Christophe Fiat. Her work is present in two public collections, that of the FRAC Auvergne and that of the FNAC, since 2020. It has been shown in France (Centre photographique d’Ile-de-France, Rencontres d’Arles, Biennale de Mulhouse among others) and abroad (Finland, Germany, Slovakia, Mexico).
She is currently in residence at the Mignotgraphie printing house, with the Ministry of Culture, and co-directs the art research project “Leviathan” at the École supérieure d’art de Clermont-Métropole.
“L’ombre de la terre”, the first chapter of which was supported by the CNAP, is initially an exploration of the spaces of knowledge production, particularly research in optics. This second chapter, which is being initiated with the Institut pour la photographie of Lille, will focus on extraction, both contemporary and past, which mixes with those of the sciences.

Find Sarah Ritter’s work on her site


Le Jaguar Bleu

Le Jaguar Bleu follows the pre-Colombian anthropogenic soils of pre-Colombian origin in the Brazilian Amazon: terra preta, a compost that contradicts the colonial myth of virgin nature and reveals the Amazon forest as a garden maintained by the advanced agricultural techniques of the Amerindian peoples. Here the terra preta becomes a speculative figure for an anthropology that is (a)symmetrical between the peoples of the forest, those who cultivate and maintain this land, and the peoples of the laboratories, the scientists who study it with their vision machines

Ana Vaz is a Brazilian artist and filmmaker whose filmography is based on experimental collages of images and sounds, found and produced, to reflect on situations and contexts historically and geographically marked by stories of violence and repression.
The impact of colonialism and ecological ruin are the backdrop to his immersive “film-poems”. Expansion or consequence of her films, her practice can also be embodied in writing, critical pedagogy, installations, film programming or ephemeral events. His films have been screened and discussed in film festivals, seminars and institutions such as Tate Modern, the Palais de Tokyo, the Jeu de Paume, the Centre Pompidou, LUX Moving Images, New York Film Festival, Berlinale Forum Expanded, BFI, Cinéma du Réel, Courtisane

Find Ana Vaz’s work on her Instagram profile