PARIS—In the Galerie de Photographies, the Centre Pompidou is presenting for the first time a monumental piece by artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Divine Violence, which recently entered the collection. Violence and questions relating to it are central to the artistic approach of this duo, who are celebrating twenty years of collaboration in 2018.
This radical, provocative installation consists of 57 frames, each corresponding to a book in the Bible, and brings together its 721 pages. It compares the patent violence expressed in the Bible with violent images from today’s world.
To create this series, the two artists took inspiration from Bertolt Brecht’s personal Bible, which he annotated and illustrated with cuttings from newspapers during the Second World War.
They themselves took the 1611 King James Bible, illustrating it chapter by chapter, with no explanations or comments, by inserting prints of photographs from the Archive of Modern Conflict. This private collection containing tens of thousands of vernacular images produced by the press or amateurs is certainly the photo collection with the most abundant archive content on the violence and absurdity of war. On each page of text, the two artists highlight in red a passage reflecting the image chosen. Through this very simple, implacably effective process, Broomberg and Chanarin confront the sacred text with anonymous photographs from the Archive of Modern Conflict, emphasising the icons and visual stereotypes of violence. The breadth of its subject (the Bible) and its radical method make Divine Violence the magnum opus of the two « artist-editors ».
The exhibition also reveals their sources of information : educational and propaganda books illustrated with photographs denouncing violence or, in contrast, glorifying it. Some of these books from the 1920s and 1930s contain the work of thinkers who used editing and photography to support and disseminate their ideology, whether Conservative or progressive.