An exhibition that will haunt you: ‘Controverses’ (Botanique)
Do tell me which picture has haunted you, long after you’ve been to Controverses. The new exhibition at Botanique (Brussels) shows us how pictures don’t always tell the truth. It’s a powerful exhibition about censorship, manipulation and copyrights. But at the same time, it’s an exhibition with plenty of striking images. Want to know the one that has haunted me? A chopped-off hand, found on the streets of New York, right after 9-11.
Is there any picture that doés tell the truth? With that confusing thought I left Controverses, an exhibition that was made for the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne in 2008, and that’s now being shown at Botanique in Brussels (till November 22). It takes you on an interesting trip through the history of photography and tells you the stories behind lots of famous pictures.
You see how pictures get manipulated to serve a political cause. You get confronted with questions that photographers have to face: is it immoral to take a picture of a dying child and walk away, or do I have to help? You read about photographers being accused of pornography, about court-cases that raise the question if a picture of naked young child is art or pedophilia. And then there’s that other issue: who owns the rights to a certain image?
Underneath each picture on the wall, you’ll find a text (beware: only in French and Dutch) explaining the story behind it. You see lesser-known photo’s and iconic ones. There’s that kiss in the streets of Paris of Robert Doisneau and the dying soldier of Robert Capa. You’ll see the kissing nun (Oliviero Toscani for Benetton), and pictures of Robert Mapplethorpe, Sebastiao Salgado, Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson and David Lachapelle.
You’ll need some time, to visit Controverses, with all those stories to read. But then you’ll find yourself walking along those walls again, just to look at the pictures. And when you’ll be outside, on the streets again, you’ll notice that your mind is whirling. Lots of images will be coming back to you. Lots of questions will be nagging you.
PS: Want to know more about the link between Controverses and the Brooke Shields/Tate Gallery-controversy, click here.
(photo credit: Oliviero Toscani)