The Galería Elba Benítez is pleased to present the exhibition Renaissance — Scenes of Industrial Reconversion in the NordPas-de-Calais Coalfield, an extensive documentary essay by Jorge Ribalta, opening April 11, 2019. Renaissance examines the conversion of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais — a former coal mining region in the north of France — into a post-industrial complex of culture, leisure and consumerism. Roughly equidistant from Paris, London and Brussels, the Nord-Pas-de-Calais is part of northern Europe's historical center of heavy industry, and as such has played a crucial political role in the history of the continent’s major nation-states. With the definitive decline and end of coal-mining in the 1980s, the region’s obsolete infrastructure and altered landscape were repurposed into a public-private nexus of changed forms and formats better suited to the late-capitalist economy, such as cultural institutions (including a franchise of Paris’s Louvre museum), transportation hubs, shopping malls and nodes in the new global workplace of non-material labor.
Renaissance presents photographic observation and analysis of a specific moment within this larger and ongoing transition.
Shot in the spring of 2014, Renaissance consists of 172 black-and-white photographs depicting historical artifacts, buildings and building construction, archives and archival material, individuals and landscapes. The photographs and accompanying texts are organized into eight groups based on geography and underlying concept, with sub-titles such as “Small History of Photography”, “New/Old Economy” and “Leisure,” while the images themselves — closely observed while often somewhat oblique — coolly span the corresponding range of people, places and things. More historiography than history, Renaissance aims to bring what Ribalta refers to as “historical density” to the “documentary idea,” combining an informed political position with a research-driven artistic practice, yet while remaining free from any disingenuous pose of neutrality.