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Yann Mingard


Rencontres d’Arles 2024 Author Book Award Shortlist

Publication date : 2023/10/15
Weight 601 g / dimensions 20 x 28 cm / 168 pages
ISBN 9791094060421

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In a cleft, between two stones, near a motorway rail, in the shade of a rubbish dump or lamppost, in a corner of the forest, it rises upwards where others would like to lie down and wither in silence. Without excessive pomp, it grows hastily, its roots working downwards, its stem reaching for the light. It lives at the junction of two worlds. It pays little heed to being unwanted; it grows, not without intention, but without apparent awareness. Its way of being in the world is to resist, to be there, governed as we are by laws that go beyond us and from which no living being can be exempt. As a concrete expression of Darwinian intuition, it adapts, perhaps better than others, and its very existence depends on it. The rhetoric used to describe it is negative, invasive, exotic or bad, but who are we to call it that? The nomenclature is also imaginary: tree of the gods, devil’s grass, angel’s trumpet, fly’s clover, ragweed. “Yann Mingard, whose photographic research is rooted in the anthropocene and its representations, looks at them with a more obliging eye and gives them a different state of consciousness: they are indomitable, travellers. In the end, they are no more exotic or indigenous than others – oak trees or tomatoes, before becoming icons of a European identity, also crossed oceans and borders, carried by birds, the wind or people. While some consider these plants to be one of the main causes of the collapse of biodiversity, they are unique in that they thrive in soils polluted by heavy metals and are able to assimilate large quantities of arsenic, barium, chromium and cadmium, all of which are the sediment of the fruits of capitalism, industrial modernity and human activity. They survive where others die. Where modernity consumes oxygen, plants produce it – breath – and to the idea that nature is something original and static, they oppose their resilience. Nature is not something that has already happened: natura means “that which is going to be generated”, and its etymology carries the force of a becoming that is being written. A strange dichotomy: from the metals we use to make ammunition, electronic circuits and servers, plants synthesise the oxygen necessary for life. Beyond the anxiety conveyed by this herbarium and these depigmented landscapes, made of the dense fabric of the rustling matter of the undergrowth, Yann Mingard refuses the temptation of desolation and views the world in the manner of an archaeologist, through the traces and scars inscribed on the landscape, which refers us as much to the dislocation of a cannibalistic humanity as to the possibility of a future that is reinventing itself.

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