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We introduce you to a new Genevan art project that explores "the truth of the image"

IMAGE—MOUVEMENT launched its ambitious arts project at the weekend in Geneva. The project aims to provide a platform of thought and experimentation surrounding the moving image, which combines installations, screenings and performance with an eagerness for artistic and cultural discussion. Along with major events positioned throughout the year, the project will continue online where the discussions, questions and ideas that arise from this first movement.

For the inaugural launch of IMAGE—MOUVEMENT, focus is placed on the concept of the truth of the image: looking at what images mean and how we deal with images. It’s a pertinent and fascinating concept that forces itself on all aspects of media coverage, from getting a nation to gun for a war effort to building aspiration for a brand of toothpaste.

Katya García-Antón, curator of the event, explains the idea further: ‘Very often we’re informed through media, through images; images that are structured in a particular way as to give a certain message. And so what a lot of these artists are doing is positioning themselves with regards to what the truth of an image is, to question the image and to question the image through different types of experiments.’

In one of the rooms, an exhibition Atlas, Truths, Details, Intervals And The Afterlives Of The Image used Aby Warburg’s semi-mystical ideas of relations in images, as exemplified in his major work ‘Mnemosyne Atlas’. In this constellation of images, which he referred to as ‘a ghost story for adults’, Warburg matched images by an intuitive sense of similarity as opposed to a structured ordering such as ‘subject’ or ‘period’. The emphasis in this exhibition is the influence of the concept as being part of the image. Turner Prize nominees The Otolith Group screened ‘Otolith I’, which merges archive footage with recent footage. Set in the 22nd century in which the artists’ decedents observe back through time, in which microgravity is used as a metaphor for suspension of political will and historical awareness. In the next room, the hilarious ‘The Girl Chewing Gum’ from British artist John Smith shows footage of a street scene in Dalston in the 1970s. As the narrator attempts to direct the unfolding action, of which he has no control over, his efforts become more frantic and surreal.

Some of the most powerful work in IMAGE—MOUVEMENT explores how we accept what an image represents within documentary, in terms of truth and historical accuracy. As Katya adds: ‘We’re confronting the image and confronting the supposed truth of the image. Just as when you’re put in front of a camera you behave in a different way as you would ordinarily, as soon as you go behind a camera you position yourself in a certain way; looking for a certain thing. So all of these positions, the artists are trying to make them visible to the viewer and trying to work with them and trying to create new meaning. So it’s quite a playful approach.’

Renzo Martens’ bizarre film ‘Episode 3: Enjoy Poverty’ was shown as part of the platform’s Atlas On Screen section, in which he filmed the poverty in Congo and the exploitation suffered by its people. Along side his unique style, which includes asking locals whether they think he is handsome and spending most of the time filming himself looking at the scenes of poverty, he captures some remarkable shots which betray a cynical Western perspective on poverty. At one point he captures a photojournalist shouting ‘fantastic’, as he snaps pictures of a starving man. He then questions the government’s representatives with dry humour about their exploitation of the starved population, referring to them as a natural resource; a means of acquiring aid.

There’s a huge feeling of progressiveness and optimism for IMAGE—MOUVEMENT that expands into the spaces of its exhibitions. For the first event, 59 artists from around the world were brought together to discuss and show their work. With so much diversity there are always those moments of discovering unknown wonders. Definitely high in the list were the collection of Indian experimental films and footage from the Hungarian studio Balázs Béla – both of which showed a strong tradition of high concept, comedic surrealism and entertainment. Exhibitions and installations are insightful and humorous, and the commitment to creating discussion makes the experience artistically involved and intellectually rewarding. Geneva is also an incredibly dramatic setting for an arts event. You can see Mont Blanc from the city centre, and the old town is a winding maze of hidden cafes that holds as much intrigue as the galleries.

Atlas, Truths, Details, Intervals And The Afterlives Of The Image runs until 13 February 2011