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Encounters [2003-2007]

Encounters is an extensive collection of Manuel Vason’s photographic collaborations with artists working in performance. Each photograph in the publication represents a site-specific performance for the camera, created with the aim to take the viewer to an intimate encounter with a new artwork. Through Encounters Vason destabilised the authority of the photographer over the photographed by sharing in equal part the copyright of each image with his collaborators and problematised the relationship between the action and its documentation by merging their time, space and memory.

Published by Arnolfini to accompany the first major exhibition of Vason’s work in the UK, and edited by Dominic Johnson, Encounters brings together new critical essays on Vason’s collaborative images, by Rebecca Schneider, Tracey Warr and Kate Random Love.

Through the lens of Vason’s practice, these essays explore performance and photography, documentation and portraiture, and the challenging historical relationships between each genre. The publication also contains a series of commissioned artist writings on the collaborative process, by Ernst Fischer, Helen Spackman, Richard Hancock and Traci Kelly, Anne Seagrave, and other performance practitioners.

The artists featured in Encounters are Sachiko Abe, Luiz de Abreu, Lee Adams, Tamara A

shley & Simone Kenyon, Ron Athey, Franko B, Alex Bradley, Stuart Brisley, Kris Canavan, Steven Cohen, Vaginal Davis, Ernst Fischer, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Michel Groisman, Richard Hancock & Traci Kelly, Maija Hirvanen, Paul Hurley, Dominic Johnson, Marcela Levi, Alastair MavLennon, Jorg Muller, Miguel Pereira, Kirsi Pitkanen, Fearghus O’Conchuir & Bernadette Iglich, Kira Oreilly, Niko Raes, Gwendoline Robin, Ewa Rybska & Wladyslaw Kazmierczak, Anne Seagrave, Rajni Shah & Lucille Acevedo-Jones, Helen Spackman, Francesca Steele, Monika Tichacek, Uninvited Guests, Veenus Votex and Velvet Hammer Burlesque.

‘Manuel Vason’s startling and stylised images, powerfully reproduced in Encounters, violently force bodily abjection into the arena of the sublime. Not since the era of Caravaggio and Bernini has pain been so exquisitely and beautifully rendered – here, through Vason’s capacity to connect, via the red-hot wire of aesthetic reduction, to the bodies that wield and convey it’

Amelia Jones, Robert A. Day Professor and Vice Dean of Research at the Roski School of Art and Design at University of Southern California, Encounters’ back cover endorsement, 2007

Published by Arnolfini Gallery Ltd, Bristol in 2007.

Hard Cover and paperback, 218 pages, colour photographs throughout, 28.2cmx22.6cm, ISBN 978-0907738848, UK.

‘Vason’s pieces are arguably both photograph and performance, asking us to engage a photograph not only as a record of a performance, but as the performance itself’

Rebecca Schneider, Associate Professor of Theatre, Speech and Dance Theatre, Speech & Dance, Brown University, USA (Schneider, 2007:34)

‘…Vason originally came to the world of performance as an ingénue, almost completely unfamiliar with the live art territory, stunned by these odd bodies in extreme contexts, bewitched by the unspeakable and the seemingly unrecordable. And it’s this challenge that propels Vason’s own practice forward as he takes some serious time to get to know his subjects: discussing their work at length, going on little adventures, repeatedly shooting the breeze before shooting a single frame.’

Tim Atack, Writer and Music Composer, RealTime Magazine, issue 80, Aug-Sept 2007

‘A recurring theme in the collaborators’ texts is their trust of Vason. They compliment his integrity, fidelity, and commitment to the joint project. The recurrent emphasis of trust belies the generalized anxiety in culture about photography and a specifically live-art-based anti-materialist dismissal of documentation.’

Laurie Beth Clark, Professor of the Department of Art History, University of Wisconsin,   Contemporary Theatre Review, Volume 18, Issue 3, 2008

‘A treasure trove of iconoclastic images that serve as a body of evidence for an extraordinary yet often elusive area of practice.’

Lois Keidan, Director, Live Art Development Agency  (Keidan, 2007:19)

‘Manuel Vason’s images exist somewhere between portraiture, performance documentation, and documentary – or perhaps, his images are fashion shots, but the bodies are clothed in performance.’

Tracy Warr, Independent Curator, Editor of The Artist’s Body, Encounters’ back cover endorsement, 2007

Encounters exhibition was launched at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol, in July 2007.The exhibition was then re-presented at the A Foundation in Liverpool as part of the Liverpool Biennial, in 2008.


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