le journal de la triennale #2 - Centre national des arts plastiques



le journal de la triennale #2 - Centre national des arts plastiques
le journal
de la triennale
Émilie Renard
4 heads and one ear p. 4
Denis Roche Le boîtier de mélancolie
p. 7
Jean-Marc Berlière On File? Photography
et Pierre Fournié and Identification from the second
Empire to the 1960s
Denis Roche Le boîtier de mélancolie p. 9
p. 16
Lili Reynaud – Dewar Princesse X
p. 18
Nathalie Delbard Surfacing Clichés
That We Cannot See
p. 20
Denis Roche Le boîtier de mélancolie p. 28
Ewa Małgorzata Tatar The modes of surfaces – Ewa Partum’s
and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s
feminist projects
p. 30
Elvan Zabunyan
Pissed Off
p. 40
Anna Colin
& Latifa Laâbissi Écran Somnambule, interview
p. 42
Denis Roche
Le boîtier de mélancolie
Elisabeth Lebovici A Simple Chorus
p. 49
Ariella Azoulay
p. 52
The Civil Contract of Photography
Emmanuelle Lainé Untitled, série Effet Cocktail
p. 55
Why Is It Important – today –
to show and look at images
of destroyed human bodies?
p. 62
Denis Roche
Le boîtier de mélancolie
p. 68
Ewa Małgorzata Tatar The modes of surfaces
p. 30
– Ewa Partum’s and Teresa
Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects, 2012
Women’s Art, 1980 Ewa Partum, Self-Identification, 1980
Ewa Partum, Hommage à Solidarnosc, 1982
Teresa Tyszkiewicz, Day by Day, 1980
Teresa Tyszkiewicz, The Grain, 1980
Elvan Zabunyan
Pissed Off, 2012
p. 40 David Hammons, Pissed Off, 1981
Émilie Renard 4 heads and one ear, 2012
p. 4
William Klein, 4 heads, New York 1955
Denis Roche Le boîtier de mélancolie,
p. 7
Paris, éd. Hazan, 1999, p. 90
Romualdo Garcia, Joaquim Mora, musician and dancer
for traditional religious celebrations, c. 1910
Jean-Marc Berlière
On File?
and Pierre Fournié Photography and identification
p. 9
from the second Empire
to the 1960s,
exh. cat., ed. Archives Nationales, Paris, 2011
The register of “courtesans”, 1872-73
Anna Colin Écran Somnambule, 2012
& Latifa Laâbissi
p. 42 Latifa Laâbissi, Loredreamsong , 2010
Latifa Laâbissi, Self-Portrait Camouflage, 2006
Denis Roche p. 47
Le boîtier de mélancolie,
Paris, éd. Hazan, 1999, p. 88
Edward S. Curtis, Before the Storm. Apache, 1907
Elisabeth Lebovici p. 49
Un chœur simple, 2012
Judith Butler at Occupy Wall Street, New York, oct. 2011
Ariella Azoulay p. 52
Register of obscene images, 1862-65
The Civil Contract of Photography,
éd. Zone Books, 2008
Miki Kratsman, Mrs. Abu-Zohir, 1988
Album of photographs of criminals, 1864
Léon Cahun in Asian Turkey, 1879
Denis Roche Le boîtier de mélancolie,
p. 16
Paris, éd. Hazan, 1999, p. 74
Pierre Louÿs, Louise Coletta et Amélie Palombo, 1897
Emmanuelle Lainé, Sans titre, série Effet Cocktail, 2010
p. 55
Thomas Hirschhorn p. 62
Lili Reynaud – Dewar
Princesse X
p. 18
Constantin Brancusi, Princesse X, vers 1916
Nathalie Delbard p. 20
Surfacing Clichés That We
Cannot See
in Jean-Luc Moulène, Corps : social,
Paris, éd. Petra, 2009
Jean-Luc Moulène,
Thomas Hirschhorn, Touching Reality, 2012
The “Situation Room” in Washington, 2011
Denis Roche Le boîtier de mélancolie,
p. 68
Paris, éd. Hazan, 1999, p. 42
Alexander Gardner, A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep,
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 6 July 1863
La mer (pourLL), Le Conquet, 08 décembre 2004 Les Filles d’Amsterdam / Laura, Amsterdam, 02 avril 2004
Les Filles d’Amsterdam / Ramona, Amsterdam, 04 avril 2004 Les Filles d’Amsterdam / Sorana, Amsterdam, 18 mars 2004
Denis Roche
Le boîtier de mélancolie,
p. 28
Paris, éd. Hazan, 1999, p. 98
Ernest James Bellocq, Sans titre, 1912
Why Is It Important – today – to show and look at images
of destroyed human bodies?, 2012
The authors
p. 70
p. 72
p. 73
p. 2
William Klein
4 heads, New York 1955
p. 3
Editorial — Émilie Renard
4 heads and one ear
William Klein’s title for his photograph 4 heads, New York
1955 points out the essence both of what you see in the
image – four heads – and what you don’t see: New York
in 1955. Calling the image 4 heads implies an anatomical
approach to these human beings: it means neither four
people in particular nor four faces, but heads – cropped
body parts – counted four times. This numerical and corporal precision gives the image an inflexion all of its own.
As a way of describing what photographic framing does with
reality and these bodies, it effects a severance, forcing the
rest of the world out of frame. Through the title we come
to see that these four heads are so close only within the
framing of the image: one for each corner of the photograph,
the four “touching” solely at the moment when the shutter
clicks and in the foreshortening of a flattened depth of field.
Playing with the gap between the singularity of the image
and the generality of language the photograph and its title
point equally to the present tense of the constructed image
and the moment on that day in 1955 when these four people
crossed paths: four specific faces, four gazes diverging in
four different directions, four individuals reduced, by the
pitiless blade of the text, to four heads inside a rectangle.
To this clearly defined group, ordered and watchful in spite
of itself, I am adding, for the occasion, one ear: something
visible, but left out of the original title. By adding another
element – one ear – to the truncated 4 heads title, I stress
the presence of this small body part as a foil to the perfect,
squared-up equilibrium of the image; and in doing so I make
the image and its recomposed title the starting point for this
Journal and a potential approach strategy for the Intense
Proximity exhibition. 4 heads one ear is an introduction to the
motif – and the motivation – underlying an issue intended to
show, describe, and look at images of human bodies.
With its mix of republished and specially written texts, the
Journal as a whole follows a form of image analysis developed by Denis Roche in his book Le boîtier de mélancolie: five
short excerpts from the book, accompanied by photographs,
are scattered through the issue. Here too, text and image are
placed so as to actively balance each other out: the texts are
intended not solely as a commentary, but also as a means of
sparking a process of reciprocation between text and image.
The various texts in this issue represent, then, a range of
analytical and literary approaches offering a close fit with
both the contextual and pictorial aspects of the images.
The many works making up Intense Proximity hinge on different representations of the human in terms of the body, its
anatomy and its identity. The sheer number of body images
in the exhibition generates a motif whose density reflects an
equivalent presence in a visual culture in which body images
define points of interconnection between a shared public
space and the expression of an acute subjectivity. Do these
representations of the body function differently within the
exhibition space? Are they tools for self-analysis, objectification and a break with the expression of interiority? What
re­presentations of bodies does the Triennial context construct? How is the image of the body tied to the definition
of an identity? If we take as our starting point the classical
ambiguity of images “which are simultaneously presences
and surrogates for what is not present1 ” and the duality
of our own body – “at once a body like any other (situated
among other bodies) and an aspect of the self (its manner of
being in the world 2 ” – how can the image of a body replace
that body without changing its context and its nature,
without deforming it?
It is this falseness of the image to an undeniably singular
feature of the human person which, on the cusp of the
19th and 20th centuries, enabled anthropometry to fabricate
sexist, racist theories out of meticulously orchestrated
photo­g raphic portraits. And it was this same falseness,
at the same period, that opened up interpretation gaps
between the observations of ethnographers “in the field”
and the conclusions of “armchair” ethnologists. Modeled by
police photography on the one hand and ethnography on the
other, this harsh history of identity was scrupulously documented in the exhibition On File? at the National Archives in
Paris in 2011. In this Journal, late-19th century material from
1 Carlo Ginzburg, Wooden Eyes: Nine Reflections on
Distance, trans. Martin Ryle and Kate Soper, New York,
Columbia University Press, 2001, p. 14.
2 Paul Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, trans. Kathleen
Blamey, University of Chicago Press, 1995, p. 33.
p. 4
Émilie Renard
the exhibition chronicles a historical construction of identification and monitoring of individuals via both image and
text, and their classification using criteria of “sex”, “race”,
and “class” as norms for social identity and self-definition.
clarify how the dancer-choreographer follows in the footsteps of Mary Wigman in a performance of the latter’s Witch
Dance; and how, using a mask, she succeeds in transcending
her source material and legitimizing her own interpretation.
Around 1916 Constantin Brancusi took a photograph of his
sculpture Princesse X which transcended mere documentation, transferring a work with a name (and, who knows,
maybe a function?) into an colorful world that added slightly
to its inherent eroticism. Lili Reynaud-Dewar takes a fresh
look at the nature of this photograph of a sculpture whose
sexual content of the title rivals that of the image.
Taking as her example a speech by Judith Butler in support
of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, Elisabeth
Lebovici describes ways of making oneself heard, of elab­
orating on one’s message, and getting it across. Combining
artistic gesture and solutions invented by activists, she demonstrates that neither lack of technical facilities nor legal
constraints can prevent a voice being heard and a collective
entity being formed.
Once again it is the age-old falseness of the image, that
“perversion of the representational relationship” as Roger
Chartier 3 puts it – but this time free of any presupposition
of a direct connection between the image and an external
referent – which postulates that “the thing has no existence
except in the image that displays it.” Given its autonomy by
modernity, the image as representation is the product of
a predicament, of the fact that “the representation masks,
instead of adequately depicting, its referent.” Working from
the equivocality of photography caught between fidelity to
its model and the autonomy of the image, Nathalie Delbard
situates photographer Jean-Luc Moulène’s series Les Filles
d’Amsterdam at the convergence of two historical forms: the
judicial identity photograph developed by Alphonse Bertillon
and the simultaneous, covert practice of visual pornography,
by Auguste Belloc. Looking at these images we feel able to
answer the question raised above: Yes, the image of a body
replaces that body, changes its context and its nature, and
deforms it.
Beginning with a relationship with the exhibited naked body,
Ewa Małgorzata Tatar describes the particular place of selfrepresentation in the work of two Polish artists of different
generations: Ewa Partum and Teresa Tyszkievicz. Here the
body functions as a visual instrument of differentiation,
against a historical backdrop of state control of the movements of individuals.
In Pissed Off, David Hammons leaves the “mark” of his
passing on a public sculpture by Richard Serra, urinating
on it as he might have done on any wall in any street.
Elvan Zabunyan situates the image of this irreverent act in
Hammons’s own artistic career and the cultural context of
New York in the 1980s.
In an interview with Latifa Laâbissi, Anna Colin sets out to
Once the photographic image becomes a sign in its own
right, with its value not dependent on some exclusionary
referent, room for interpretation opens up, together with
a role for the spectator. Ariella Azoulay stresses the threeway relationship between the subject photographed, the
photographer, and the spectator, whom she describes as the
parties in The Civil Contract of Photography that gave its title
to her book published in 2008. Concentrating in particular
on photographs of the occupied Palestinian territories and
the position of photographed subjects designated as stateless, she calls for a “civic use of photography” which takes
the image beyond the status of mere testimony and into the
shared political field of human rights.
With the series of photographs making up Effet Cocktail,
Emmanuelle Lainé puts on display a sculptural process
its creator seems to have abandoned in mid-course. To
capture this unfinished state she called on André Morin,
well known for his photographs of works of art in exhibition
situations. Entrusting all the photography to him, she left
him to establish where the work in question was to be found
in the studio: where it began and where it ended. This led
to an alternation of overall views and details that shifts, for
example, from the centre of the room to a corner and then
on to a pile of materials. Testifying to the undecidability of
the photographic subject in terms of both state and location, the series offers a close-up look at the viscous, oozing,
entangled inner components of a sculpture in progress:
a magma of geological strata, perhaps, or some beached,
anatomically unconstrained body. In the midst of a colorful
semiotic and materiological shambles ruled by random subterranean relationships, the images yield an interweaving of
clues to the originating and the making of a kind of larval
3 For this and subsequent quotations, see Roger
Chartier, “Le monde comme représentation” (The World
as Representation) in: Annales. Économies, Sociétés,
Civilisations, 1989, vol. 44, no. 6, pp. 1513-15, consultable
on line: http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/
p. 5
Émilie Renard
In a text whose structural emphasis is on efficacy, Thomas
Hirschhorn explains in eight points “Why Is It Important
– today – to show and look at images of destroyed human
bodies?” He reminds us of the need to show and look at the
effects of war on bodies, and to resist the confusion evident
in the proliferation of these images and their blatant indifference to facts. In this way he reminds the viewer of his obligation to face up to the reality of physical violence.
The point of this Journal is to retrace the different ways in
which representations of the self and others are developing
today, and how they intertwine with images from near and
far, and with feelings of familiarity and strangeness, fascination and repulsion. In order to appraise the reciprocal effects
of representations making up a visual culture which we need
to decode – even if only partially – we can begin in a very
literal way by evaluating the physical distance separating the
observer from the subject represented (the observer being
just as much the author as the viewer). Adopting opposite
points of view, i.e. excessive distance or proximity in relation to the subject under study, the aim here is to examine
the roles of both the visual and exhibition tools. Reciprocal
re­presentations of the self and others can be revealed by
visual signs such as the positioning of the photographer in
relation to the photographed object – the distance can often
be deduced from the photograph itself – or that of the viewer
in relation to the image. They can also involve the absence of
any physical relationship – a refusal to see, a kind of denial
of the existence of the image of the other. Out of this polarity
between exaggerated distance and proximity a variety of
relationships can be retraced: from the blind embrace to
the refusal of adversity, from confusion between oneself and
another to identity construction games whose social representations are fashioned by categories from the past.
“I love the duality of props, or objects: their usefulness and
obstructiveness in relation to the human body. Also the duality of
the body: the body as a moving, thinking, decision-making entity
and the body as an inert entity, object-like… oddly, the body can
become object-like; the human being can be treated as an object,
dealt with as an entity without feeling or desire. The body itself can
be handled and manipulated as though lacking in the capacity for
Yvonne Rainer, Works 1961-73, Halifax, Nova Scotia,
Nova Scotia, College of Art and Design, New York,
New York University Press, 1974, p. 134
p. 6
Denis Roche
Romualdo Garcia
Le boîtier de mélancolie
Intervals are like contrasting sediments, kept together by a slow movement of
the inter-world inside kinds of imaginary bookends that now hold side by side
not our valiant slabs of endlessly printed knowledge, but vertical bundles of
time. These intervals, though, also add up to chords, series, and harmonics
that play endlessly on the surface of our mind. Thus are constructed singular
aesthetics that line up tightly in Indian file, sometimes stretching out like a
farandole of gesticulating ghosts or, at times when the period is no longer
propitious, slowly collapsing before ending up as a vivid burst of light at the
feet, for example, of a revolution.
Take a look at this full-length portrait: this is an Indian chief whose image
has been piously preserved in a museum in northern Mexico. That’s all we
know of him: even his real name has been lost along the way, along some
stony path amid dappled clouds and thorny bushes. It was doubtlessly him
who asked Garcia to take his portrait, with his feathers and celebratory robes,
in his “studio” in the old, twisting streets of Guanajuato, a name that is a
distortion of the Tarascan Cuahaxnato, which means “the hill of frogs”.
So the meeting took place as arranged. Garcia asked him – as he would any
notable, any matron, any young married couple – to stand in front of the box
so as to make his silhouette stand out clearly against the painted backdrop,
the same foolish but perfectly effective colored set Emperor Maximilian’s
bourgeoisie had posed in front of. The subject seized his mandolin and
brandished it like a shield, doubtlessly as protection against the magnesium
flash. He looks scared, he’s staring off to one side, stunned by what’s happening to him: sandwiched in the inter-world, a ghost deprived of his music,
unaware that the high plateau he’s returning to later in the day, desiccated
by wind and sand, will not be immune to the revolution to come; he already
belongs to the sediments, to limbo, and not at all to the splendors he had
put his faith in.
p. 7
Le boîtier de mélancolie
Denis Roche
Romualdo Garcia
Joaquín Mora, musician and dancer for traditional religious celebrations, c. 1910
p. 8
Jean-Marc Berlière and Pierre Fournié
On File? Photography and Identification
from the second Empire to the 1960s
Photography at police headquarters
Under the second Empire the prefecture began collecting the portrait-cards – invented in 1854 by
photographer Eugene Disdéri – as a means of visual identification. […] Put together just after the
uprising that was the Commune and the fire that swept through the prefecture’s archives, this
imposing register is evidence of the need to recreate police files and so re-establish the records
of a large number of individuals who now believed themselves safe from retrospective checking.
In these registers we see how the portrait-cards very quickly filled albums devoted into categor­ies
particularly under scrutiny by the vice squad: prostitutes and women of doubtful morality, homosexuals, and men and women trading in licentious images. Often distributed by theatre people,
a host of portrait-cards were in circulation and fell easily into police hands. This rechanneling
of a specific kind of image gave rise to strange collections used as sources of information on
a small number of people, the portraits being complemented by brief background notes on
careers, social circles, and particular deviations and specialities.
Initially only a few of the most notable criminals were photographed by the prefecture. The
intention was to build up a record of their faces, but also to enable the circulation of portraits of
criminals condemned to death on the guillotine.
p. 9
On File?
Jean-Marc Berlière and Pierre Fournié
Register of obscene images seized in Paris for the vice squad, 1862-65
p. 10
On File?
Jean-Marc Berlière and Pierre Fournié
Register of obscene images seized in Paris for the vice squad, 1862-65
p. 11
On File?
Jean-Marc Berlière and Pierre Fournié
Register of obscene images seized in Paris for the vice squad, 1862-65
p. 12
On File?
Jean-Marc Berlière and Pierre Fournié
The coming of judicial identity
In 1879 Alphonse Bertillon, a simple assistant clerk at the prefecture, designed a new criminal
identification system based on a series of bone measurements. Combined with the use of photographic portraits, a standardized descriptive vocabulary and meticulous classification, this
“anthropometric” method gave rise to the “Bertillon System”. Officially adopted by the prefecture in 1883, it quickly found favor with police forces everywhere. In photographic terms Bertillon
enjoyed the benefits of a favorable technical and scientific context: doctors and anthropologists
pointed out all the new possibilities of the snapshot revolution and, notably, of the invention of
lightweight gelatin negative plates, which meant that the police no longer had to call in professional photographers.
Starting in the late nineteenth century, when fingerprinting came to be seen as the sole reliable
means of identification, voices were raised against scientific images produced by an obsessive
search for the “born criminal”, attempts at classification of types of insane persons and the
endless cataloguing of “types and races”. Out of this ferment, however, emerged all kinds of
descriptive procedures, including that of judicial photography.
To complete his research and promote both anthropometry and judicial photography, Alphonse
Bertillon drew on work done by scientific missions. […] Government-financed travelers were
required to collect observations, photographs, and objects, and provide information about
them to the relevant minister. […] Librarian Léon Cahun (1841-1900) was one of these “in-thefield scholars” financed by the Ministry of Education. His first mission to Syria in 1878-79 was
devoted to studying the people of the Ansairi mountains. He returned with methodically taken
photographs and measurements for the Ethnography Museum, and gave images to Alphonse
Davanne, president of the Société française de Photographie. This earned him a further anthropological mission, covering an area from Syria to the Turkish-Persian border. […] Once back in
France he provided the Ministry with the results of his work as a means of countering the criticism directed at him by scientific circles.
p. 13
On File?
Jean-Marc Berlière and Pierre Fournié
Album of photographs of criminals, March 1864
p. 14
On File?
Jean-Marc Berlière and Pierre Fournié
Anthropological work backed up by photographs. Anthropological research by Léon Cahun in Asian Turkey:
images of subjects taken frontally and in profile, 1879.
p. 15
Denis Roche
Pierre Louÿs
Le boîtier de mélancolie
André Gide to Pierre Louÿs, June 1894, “My sole obsession just now is my
waiting for you. […] You must ensure that we lack enough of the days and
hours we always have sufficient spirit and passion to fill […] You will decide
what you should bring in the way of ideas, projects and manuscripts to be
read in shady spots I will have chosen in advance.”
Nonetheless, knowing his friend’s tastes, he gives him the address in Algeria
of a young Ouled Nail woman, Meryem ben Ali, with whom Gide, who was
soon to write The Fruits of the Earth, had spent (to use a euphemism he would
have appreciated) a most enjoyable time. On 20 July, Louÿs landed in Algiers
and rushed straight to Biskra to see the beauteous Meryem; and immediately
wrote to Debussy, “Her French is so good that, in a situation that I cannot
in all decency describe, she breathily exclaimed: ‘Tarrarraboum!! That’s it!!’”
Three years later, Louÿs came back to Paris with another young Moorish
woman, Zohra ben Brahim, whom he had met in Algeria. “We are stuck,
each to the other, like two dogs in the street,” he would say of her to a friend.
It was in the apartment he had just moved into on Boulevard Malesherbes
that Louÿs took most of the nude photographs of his young mistress, who
was so lacking in shyness that she would open the door to visitors completely
Here Zohra – although we cannot be sure it is she – has followed her lover’s
instructions: on all fours, face pressed into her joined hands, and her arms
spread to each side like the wings of a dragonfly, she presents her rump
to what looks like a stage curtain on the verge of opening. After inspecting
her from every angle, Louÿs has found what he was looking for: a rump
transformed into a splendidly white-lit phallus stressed by a shadow he accentuates in the printing process: thick, tumescent, and given a totally new
function. And as if that were not enough, he sets it within a second, bigger
phallus seemingly laid down by the perspective effect and defined by a line
that follows the gathering of the curtain then returns toward the viewer via
the dark outline of a cast-iron stove on the left. All he needed to perfect his
masterpiece was an even more symbolic finishing touch: a stain on the carpet, for example – but the stain was already there, and in just the right place.
At the same period, Freud was travelling in northern Italy and down towards
Florence, continuing on a little to Perugia. However, he refused to go any
further, his identification with Hannibal preventing him from going beyond
Lake Trasimene.
p. 16
Le boîtier de mélancolie
Denis Roche
Pierre Louÿs
Photograph from the album Louise Coletta et Amélie Palombo, 1897.
p. 17
Lili Reynaud – Dewar
Princesse X
Because my short note on Princess X discusses the notions
of duplicity and instability, I have decided to produce my
own English translation of the French version, and even to
work on both texts simultaneously. This is a way for me to
write a double text, the French and English possibly not mirroring each other exactly, and to make use, for one of them,
of a language which is not mine, and through which I feel
rather unstable in the writing form.
The photograph of Princesse X, the sculpture, taken by
Brancusi in 1916, and the sculpture itself, are a double principle. They are an accumulation altogether evanescent and
impossible – or contradictory – by nature, precisely because
of their arguments: instability and duplicity. They are not
ambivalent, neither ambiguous but, indeed, unstable and
deceitful. That is to say never fixed, rather tortuous, but
with a strong sense of availability (possibly because of its
reflecting surface, its mirror look – although this is undermined by the photograph –, or because it belongs to both
feminine and masculine genders.)
I would like to view Princesse X as a sort of double (in the
present instance I am discussing the personified object).
It maybe a bit of a shortcut to read it through the lens of
contemporary gender discourses and their associated concept of performativity, but I can not and I do not want to
not discuss what it represents: a very beautiful and sleek
woman (Princesse X), and a very beautiful and sleek phallus
(Princesse X). It performs these Princesses by various means.
One of them consists of posing at the exact centre of the
image, gazing at the photographer (also its creator / matrix)
in an absolute solitude, accentuated by the green, sexually
intriguing, halo of the print. Its anatomic rigidity and strange
resemblance with a specimen convey a sense of petrification
(behind a natural history museum glass cabinet, maybe?).
Another means for the success of this performance is the
material of which we know it is made, behind the picture: a
polished bronze, reflecting the space and its spectator like a
mirror: narcissistic, vampiric even. Finally, there is the exaggerated silhouette: a burlesque and camp figure. Through
its title, and the insistence with which Brancusi was denying
it any familiarity with a beautiful penis, Princess X presents
itself like possibly something else than what it is, playing
the game of a revendicative duplicity: the “I am not what
you see” paradox of which are made all constructive and
reflexive postures regarding sexuality.
The photograph of Princess X, the sculpture, plays a similar
kind of game, but in a more elastic and unstable mode,
less revendicative maybe (in the present instance I am discussing its medium, extended and undefined). Talking about
construction and self-reflexion […] The exhibition where
this photograph was presented, Images Sans Fin (Centre
Pompidou, summer 2011), struck me as one of the most
beautiful I have seen. I wish to use it as a tool for thinking
about my practice and its chaotic and unlinear construction. This is, amongst other reasons, because the exhibition
was affirming the instability of Brancusi’s photographs and
films as the very principle of his work, an oeuvre precisely
impossible to circumscribe within statuses, definitions,
taxonomies, etc. […] Brancusi used photography to multiple
ends for recording multiple versions of his sculptures, but
also as a way to inhabit the place of their production, and
enhance them with a cinematic and precarious aura, not so
much in movement than constantly on the verge of falling
down the fascinating and enigmatic void of the “indefinable
piece of work”. That is to say: not a document, not an “art
photograph”, not a fragment of a film, not a testimony, not
even a “decisive instant”, but rather, all of this cumulated
and consequently troubled and blurred for ever. This is how I
find the photograph of Princesse X, the sculpture, exemplary.
First because of its use of technique and technology (in this
case: the relation to photography and its potential for circulation) that operates by means of invention, manipulation,
and practice, i.e. an appropriation (or acquisition?) characterized by its non-conformity to technical prescriptions. But
also because it thinks the construction of an oeuvre as a
space with possibly no origin and no linearity, a space which
never ceases to process through self-definition, self generation, and regeneration, and to precariously procrastinate.
p. 18
Princesse X
Constantin Brancusi
Princesse X, vers 1916
Lili Reynaud – Dewar
Épreuve aux sels d’argent 39,8 x 29,8 cm.
p. 19
Nathalie Delbard
Surfacing Clichés That We Cannot See
Photography cannot be considered in isolation from its history, and this may be especially true for the work of Jean-Luc
Moulène. As evidenced by the works Image Blanche (White
Image) and Après la Loi (After the Law), which reexamine
dominant photographic paradigms, the recognition of his
work’s historical roots as an integral part of its sensuous
A series like Les Filles d’Amsterdam (The Girls of Amsterdam)
stands particularly in need of clarification because it presents an extraordinarily novel perspective, especially since
it isn’t immediately clear to the viewer what makes that
perspective so novel. In fact, in producing these portraits
of prostitutes, Moulène refers to two nineteenth-century
photographers whom he regards, as it were, as the founding
fathers of what he calls, respectively, “le tout judiciare” (the
world as seen from an exclusively legal perspective) and
“le tout économie” (the world as seen exclusively through
the filter of economics) 1. The first is Alphonse Bertillon, an
anthropologist by training, who in 1885 established a strict
photographic protocol (two shots of the suspect at 1/7
scale, one full-face and the other in profile) in an effort to
improve his system of anthropometric analysis developed at
the Paris police department. While in 1871 Eugène Appert’s
photographs of communards 2 had already enabled the
judicial authorities to establish a sizeable catalogue, which
they distributed throughout the country for repressive purposes, with Bertillon the procedure for capturing and storing
identities became more organized and more systematic,
marking a major turning point in the history of representation. At the end of the nineteenth century, photography fully
entered the service of the Law, permanently establishing
bertillonnage, or the Bertillon System, as a component of
the judicial machinery, 3 and photography in general as a
1 Jean-Luc Moulène, in Parade, journal of the ERSEP,
no. 5 (Tourcoing 2005), p. 16.
2 In addition to the photographs he took during the
Semaine Sanglante and in prison, Appert also created anticommunard photomontages which he collected under
the title Crimes de la Commune (Crimes of the Commune)
and which represent the first beginnings of propaganda
3 Measurements of various body parts continued to be
used to identify criminals in France until 1970, while fullface and profile shots are still in use today.
servant of the State, a tool for confirming and monitoring
identities. Moulène now juxtaposes this major historical and
political observation with another, this one involving not the
individual’s face but rather her body and more specifically
her genitalia. In addition to nude photography, which, as
Sylvie Aubenas has suggested, “is probably as old as photography itself,” “very early on there emerged a parallel and
underground world of unabashedly pornographic images.4 ”
It is this illicit and highly lucrative type of photography,
the precursor of the pornographic industry, that interests
Moulène. He focuses specifically on Auguste Belloc’s
remarkable photo­graphs of female genitalia, stereoscopic
views of which only a handful survive today (five thousand
were seized at his residence in 1860); while not the first of
the genre, they are unquestionably the most emblematic.
The pioneering practices of Bertillon and Belloc, one in the
area of identity and the other in that of the economy of sex,
thus mark two decisive moments in the history not just of
photography but of society that undeniably have more or
less directly conditioned a substantial portion of photographic production and continue to do so today.
Paradoxically, however, although their legacy is everywhere,
in most cases it goes unperceived. More precisely, while it is
easy to pick out certain strictly legal or pornographic representations within the sensuous field, the actual protocols of
Bertillon and Belloc, their reorganization of the sensuous in
the medium term, do not appear as such and cannot easily
be detected (and hence the reasons some viewers cite to
explain their discomfort with or even rejection of the Filles
d’Amsterdam must be reexamined in light of these underlying procedures).
Thus, if “portraits and nudes are an absolute constant of
photography,5 ” how exactly is the individual represented
in the photographs of Bertillon and Belloc? Quite simply,
(s)he is divided in two, with the body excluded on the one
hand, the head and eyes on the other. In Bertillon’s case,
the photograph includes only the head, which is regarded
as the privileged seat of morphological uniqueness due to
4 Sylvie Aubenas, Obscénités, Photographies Interdites
d’Auguste Belloc (Paris, éd. Albin Michel/Bibliothèque
Nationale de France, 2001), p. 5.
5 Jean-Luc Moulène, in: Parade, no. 5, p. 16.
p. 20
Surfacing Clichés That We Cannot See
Jean-Luc Moulène
Nathalie Delbard
La mer (pour LL), Le Conquet, 08 décembre 2004, 120 x 120 cm
p. 21
Surfacing Clichés That We Cannot See
the specificity of its features (while the rest of the body is
ignored and merely the object of isolated measurements).
There is clearly no interest here in the subject’s corporeality
or sexuality; as in the realm of physiognomic research, the
photograph is essentially a marker in which only the features
are important, not as a communicative medium (the face)
but as measurable objects in and of themselves. With Belloc,
the situation is exactly the opposite; the hierarchy of head
and body is inverted by the pornographic logic. Here, the
only thing that’s important is the sexual organ, “captured at
point-blank range. 6 ” Sometimes the head is banished from
the frame entirely by a tight close-up on the pubis; more
often, it is present but denied, by hiked-up skirts which hide
the rest of the body or by the woman’s arms which cover
her face, no doubt at Belloc’s request (with the genitalia
highlighted in color if need be to point out the exclusive area
of interest) 7. Quite clearly, then, for Bertillon and Belloc the
head and genitalia are completely disconnected, exiled from
each other.
It is on the basis of this observation that Moulène produced
the Filles d’Amsterdam, and this is why a digression on the
photographs of Bertillon and Belloc is indispensable. With
these two archetypes as his starting point, the artist wishes
to explore juxtaposing them so as to bring together what
has historically been separated, that is, head and genitalia.
Before he took the pictures, Moulène showed the prostitutes
reproductions of photographs by Bertillon and Belloc and
explained his desire to combine pornographic nude and
portrait within a single body. For this reason – because the
subjects’ gaze was informed and could therefore influence
their active participation in the process – these historical
documents shape the image even in terms of the postures
adopted by the Filles. Moreover, it must be emphasized that
the collage undertaken, while it did take place, was by no
means simply an exercise in “copy and paste.” The prostitutes do not simply replicate the poses of the stereoscopic
views, and their heads are never shown in profile; everything
is frontal, absolutely frontal, but in such a manner that head
and genitalia are given equal importance, thus reiterating
the imperious character of the respective focuses of Bertillon
and Belloc. A memory is thus at work in the approach, but it
is processual rather than mimetic, emerging in the specific
context of the photographic procedure. As a result, even
if the body, as it appears to the viewer, recalls many other
6 Philippe Comar, “Sous le Manteau du Photographe,”
in: Sylvie Aubenas, Obscénités, p. 21.
7 Without going into the subject in greater depth, and as
fundamentally different as Belloc’s photographs are from
L’Origine du Monde, which is contemporaneous with them,
it isn’t hard to understand what makes Thierry Savatier
hypothesize that G. Courbet may have used Belloc’s
views in developing his work: the visual decapitation
of the woman’s body. See Thierry Savatier, L’Origine du
Monde, Histoire d’un Tableau de Gustave Courbet, Paris,
éd. Bartillat, 2006, pp. 65–66.
Nathalie Delbard
images, it is as unexpected a figure as it is constitutionally
unprecedented. The reason it is so immediately unsettling
has to do with the implicit collision of the two photographic
postulates, the way they coexist within the image, lining
up vertically one above the other. Due to the simultaneous
presence of the almost clinically exhibited sexual organ and
the direct, even slightly intimidating gaze of the prostitute,
the image issues two commands at once. Caught between
these two imperatives, alternately drawn by the vagina and
the head, the viewer’s gaze (once again) becomes schizophrenic. As in the case of the waves with two crests that the
artist photographed in Le Conquet, 8 the central visual event
of the Filles d’Amsterdam appears in two different places at
once, which are united by the prostitute’s body. Moreover,
with its compact posture, how it folds together while also
pulling apart, that body is set vibrating around its two focal
points, describing an almost animal shape with its bentknee silhouette. Reinforced by the contrast of the red or
black background, the meaning of the gaze is thus inverted,
as if the hairless vagina – like the vulva in Belloc’s images,
which becomes “fascinating and frightening like the face
of the Medusa 9 ” – were the eye of some strange creature.
What is more, the life-size prints, in which the viewers inevitably see themselves mirrored, reinforce this boomerang
effect in which the image seems to look back at the observer.
Largely responsible for this experience of shock is the fact
that nothing whatsoever is hidden, that everything is shown.
The rigorously full-face view, coupled with the crudely open
position of the body, makes all escape impossible. Noting
the kinship between so-called obscene photography and
the medical iconography of the time, P. Comar nonetheless
brings out a not insignificant difference between them: in
Belloc’s case, the petticoats are retained (and merely hiked
up) around the vagina, while in scientific images the corolla
of drapery is dispensed with in the interest of objectivity.
And according to the author, it is precisely this “shimmering
cloud of fabric […] that makes the gaze spill over into emotion, 10 ” by contrast with the medical images which for this
very reason are without the slightest hint of eroticism.
While Moulène does not ask that the prostitutes be completely naked but allows them to keep some of their accessories, he aligns himself more closely with the scientific
approach. In addition to the fact that all clothing, all seductive folds, are eliminated, the body’s posture seems to suggest a desire to objectively display the genital apparatus,
8 Documents / La Mer, Le Conquet, 2004. Black and
white bromide print on aluminum, 120 x 120 cm.
9 Philippe Comar, “Sous le Manteau du Photographe,”
pp. 19–20.
10 Ibid., p. 28.
p. 22
Surfacing Clichés That We Cannot See
Jean-Luc Moulène
Nathalie Delbard
Les Filles d’Amsterdam / Ramona, Amsterdam, 04 04 04, 140 x 110 cm
p. 23
Surfacing Clichés That We Cannot See
often resembling that of a gynecological examination.11 “To
me,” remarks Moulène, “they seem completely virgin.12 ” As
others have noted, everything about the artist’s approach is
in the service of this transparency, this total unveiling, be it
the use of natural light 13 or the decision to make life-size
prints. In addition, however – and here the textual element
once again influences the visual – every image of the series
is given the stage name of the prostitute photographed as
its title. This aspect of the work is a significant indicator,
since it goes hand in hand with the objectivity 14 adopted,
whose aim, once again, is to present a completely unvarnished picture of the body’s exterior. And here that exterior
is the sex trade; it is the body-as-commodity objectively
depicted by the photograph, that is, shown as such together
with its face. What primarily differentiates the series from
pornographic images, even if there are strong historical
echoes between them, is the presence of the head as the
locus of social identity, not staged as it traditionally is in
pornography (where the principal aim is to “make it appear
that an emotion is being expressed”). 15 For Moulène, what
is obscene is “the lack of connection” 16 between head and
genitalia, in which the body’s economy simply eclipses its
owner, reducing him or her to the status of commodity. This
is why he seeks to obtain as clear an image of his subject’s
face as he does of her vagina, in order to produce a genuine
portrait and thus reinstate the social status of the person17. The prostitute’s stage name is hence an additional means
for reminding the viewer that the Filles play a role for which
Nathalie Delbard
they are paid. In the same way, because the photographer is
determined to hide nothing, the many visible marks on their
bodies signal the violence they are exposed to. And in the
11 It should be pointed out that not all of the poses are
identical; some of the prostitutes are seated while others
are on their backs in a position more reminiscent of a
clinical examination. However, none escapes the logic
of wall hanging, which stands up all thirteen bodies and
makes for the frontal encounter with the viewer. Finally, it
is also worth recalling that the artist had already explored
a medical perspective in Nu Assis (Seated Nude), in
which the body is posed the same way it is for a general
practitioner during auscultation, undressed but concealing
its most intimate areas and with the spinal column visible.
12 Jean-Luc Moulène and Régis Durand, Entretiens,
Document 1, Paris, éd. du Jeu de Paume, 2005, p. 32.
13 The artist worked with a large picture window behind
him, which provided all the natural light he needed.
14 Objectivity, which considers the body as it is, is not
the same thing as objectification, which reduces it to an
object; this is precisely not Moulène’s approach (but the
work of the economy).
15 Ovidie, interview, “La pornographie sans obscène,
c’est triste,” interview, in: La Voix du Regard, no. 15 (2002),
p. 80. The pornographic movie actress explains that as a
general rule, in pornography and the sex industry it is a
question of miming pleasure. A key part of the process is
exaggerated facial expressions, which one also finds in Les
Filles d’Amsterdam, since some of the prostitutes clearly
have a harder time refraining from this reflex than others.
16 Jean-Luc Moulène, Entretiens, Document 1.
17 This is the primary reason why the artist turned to the
Netherlands, a country where prostitutes “have a legal
status, with a union that represents them,” and where
prostitutes’ rights groups “are associations that really seek
to improve their working conditions.” Jean-Luc Moulène,
interview with Régis Durand, p. 9.
p. 24
Surfacing Clichés That We Cannot See
Jean-Luc Moulène
Nathalie Delbard
Les Filles d’Amsterdam / Sorana, Amsterdam, 18 03 04, Les Filles d’Amsterdam, 107 x 86 cm
p. 25
Surfacing Clichés That We Cannot See
self-assured gaze of the Filles turned toward the viewer, that
social reality is fully visible.
It seems to me that in just this respect the series resembles
Jeff Wall’s famous Picture for Women. For if, as Jean-François
Chevrier observes, Un Bar aux Folies Bergères, to which Wall’s
work refers, “points out that prostitution is the backdrop
for the painter’s relationship with his female model, and
more generally for the male gaze at a woman on display,
reduced to an object,18 ” this photograph with its distinctive
approach marks a break, which is also a reclaiming of the
female subject; indeed, “while the gaze of Manet’s servant
girl is impassive, introverted, melancholy, that of the woman
depicted in Picture for Women is forceful; it fixes the spectator (or the eye of the camera) fiercely, suggesting a situation of confrontation.19 ” With the intrusion of the camera
into the artist’s relationship to the model, a shift occurs. The
woman, now positioned at the side, is freed from her servitude while also revealing the imaging device. Now, while its
protocol certainly differs from Jeff Wall’s in many respects,
Les Filles d’Amsterdam is also in its own way a “picture for
women,” in that the reconciliation of the genitalia with the
head within the photograph prevents the reduction of the
body to an object. In the end, this gaze, which is active,
persistent, and “fierce” like that of the woman in Jeff Wall’s
photograph – and which Belloc, as we recall, takes great care
to conceal – hinders the prostitutional relationship. The artist originally intended to call his images Portraits de
Travailleuses avec Leur Outil de Travail (Portraits of Women
Workers with the Tools of Their Trade), which provides a clear
indication of the function he wished them to perform: their
purpose was not to satisfy libidinal desire but on the contrary to expose the economic system that governs it. While
today, as Bernard Stiegler notes, “the libidinal economy,
that is, the organization and production of desire,” becomes,
“by destroying consciousness, the destruction of desire,20 ”
Moulène’s work, by making it possible to sensuously perceive that economy’s photographic means of production,
liberates consciousness, allowing it to stop confusing
desire with drives. What makes the figure of the body he
produces so unprecedented is certainly not that he shows a
woman’s vagina but that he shows it as he does, in all its disturbing – and necessary – objectivity. For Alain Badiou, “the
gynecologist is the one who sustains the theme of a purely
objective relation to the avatars of sex. Not for nothing is
the State today pushing for his disappearance. Sheltered by
the objectivity of the gynecologist’s relation to sex, millions
of women have found ways of secretly defending certain
bodily zones of their subjectivation. This is what the modern
18 Jean-François Chevrier, Jeff Wall, Paris, éd. Hazan,
2006, p. 67.
19 Ibid., p. 68.
20 Bernard Stiegler & Ars Industrialis, Réenchanter le
Monde, La Valeur Esprit contre le Populisme Industriel, Paris,
éd. Flammarion, 2006, p. 12.
Nathalie Delbard
economy cannot abide.21 ” While of course it is important
to differentiate the gynecological approach from that of
the artist, in a sense this same objectivity is at work in Les
Filles d’Amsterdam, where it subverts an economic system
based on the subordination of desire to the logics of profit,
reinstating the entire body, including the conscious head. In
the end, the faces of these women held above their exposed
genitalia force the spectator to set aside his or her own
drives in order to perceive the economy that is their engine.
As one moves forward in time from Bertillon and Belloc to
today, the Filles d’Amsterdam thus become a window on an
entire photographic genealogy. Unrecognized by the public
at large, this memory inherent in images themselves is activated by Moulène within the sensuous field, without, however, necessarily being identified (only the statement distributed at the exhibition explicitly mentions the two photographic paradigms on which the series is based). It is above
all empirically that this legacy comes to be perceived by the
viewer, in the act of confronting this body that imposes its
schizophrenic movement on the gaze. In experiencing the
work, the historical dichotomy imposed on the body and
siphoned off into the collective unconscious finally comes
to consciousness, revealing the economy of many images
in circulation today. This is why, according to the artist, the
Filles d’Amsterdam are genuine “clichés,” like “the two little
cats in their wicker basket.22 ” As surprising as it may seem,
the photographs in question evoke procedures and motifs
that, taken separately, have led to the most archetypal forms
of our contemporary representations. It is simply that, unlike
the little kittens, they are unseen clichés, not recognized as
such, which must therefore be made explicit.
21 Alain Badiou, The Century, Cambridge (UK)
and Malden, Mass.: Polity, 2007, p. 108.
22 Jean-Luc Moulène, in: Parade no. 5, p. 16.
p. 26
Surfacing Clichés That We Cannot See
Jean-Luc Moulène
Nathalie Delbard
Les Filles d’Amsterdam / Laura, Amsterdam, 02 04 04, 105 x 84 cm
p. 27
Denis Roche
Ernest James Bellocq
Le boîtier de mélancolie
Just as you can play “hot hands” (aka “slapsies”), you can also play at heaping up secrets: using the first one to hide the second, which in turn hides a
third, and so on.
For example:
A man enters an old building and for no real reason goes into a long disused
office. Opening a drawer, he finds a packet of photographic plates made
decades earlier in the brothels of New Orleans. He makes his own set of
prints of them and shows them to his friends and acquaintances.
In some of the negatives there is scratching on the faces. Question: who
did it and why? The photographer? The subject? Someone else, later on?
Someone acting out of discretion? You can’t be sure. You could maybe see it
as an act of vandalism or exorcism dictated by revenge or frustration. I read
somewhere that what could be dangerous for these women was not the fact
of being seen naked, but the possible discovery that they were working as
prostitutes. But what difference can there be between the image of a naked
woman and the image of a naked prostitute?
And why the scratching of the negative just between the breasts, as if someone had wanted to attack her heart rather than her bosom?
And don’t these two bits of scratching only accentuate the dark patch of the
A further question: why this unnatural pose, with the back-thrust arm, and
the leg pushed abnormally forward as if in continuation of the direction
indicated by the forearm?
p. 28
Le boîtier de mélancolie
Denis Roche
Ernest James Bellocq
Untitled, 1912
p. 29
Ewa Malgorzata Tatar
The modes of surfaces — Ewa Partum’s and
Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects
Around 1980, the first (two!) articles 1 exploring the phenomena of feminist art in Western Europe and the USA were
published in Polish art magazines. It was also in those days
that the first modest exhibitions of feminist art were created,
exhibitions of the ‘women-choose-women’ type, organized
by artists who were also exhibitors themselves. The very
first one was Three Women, held in Poznań in 1978 and
showing works by Anna Bednarczuk, Izabella Gustowska,
and Krystyna Piotrowska. This was followed by Women’s Art
in Wrocław, also held in 1978 and curated by Natalia LL, with
her participation and that of three ‘Western’ artists, Carolee
Schneemann, Noemi Maidan, and Suzy Lake. At that time,
however, some Polish artists had already been invited to
exhibit abroad at international feminist art shows and their
art practices, predominantly Natalia LL’s, had become part
of the feminist discourse; for example, her Consumption
Art appeared on the cover of the German magazine Heute
Kunst, in an issue from 1975 edited by Gislind Nabakowsky
and dedicated to feminist art.
Works by Ewa Partum, who was born in 1945, and Teresa
Tyszkiewicz, born in 1953, were shown together for the first
time at the 1980 Women’s Art exhibition at the ON Gallery
in Poznań. Until then, neither of them had been very wellknown outside Poland. With its seven participants, this first
nationwide show of the practices of Polish women artists
interested in the negotiations of feminine subjectivity was
organized by the two artists who ran the gallery, itself associated with the city’s Academy of Fine Arts, Izabella Gustowska
and Krystyna Piotrowska. The curators invited definitive figures of the time such as Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Natalia LL,
and Partum to participate, as well as representatives of the
1 S. Morawski, “Neofeminizm w sztuce”, in: Sztuka, 1977,
no 4. - B. Baworowska, “Wystawa sztuki feministycznej w
Holandii”, in: Sztuka, 1980, no 3. In 1978, after her New
York residency the previous year, Natalia LL appeared in
cycles of gallery lectures on feminist art phenomena.
younger generation, such as Tyszkiewicz. Asked about the
concept of the show, Gustowska said that she was familiar
with most of the artists, apart from Ewa Partum, whom
they had invited owing to her clear-cut artistic position, and
Maria Pinińska-Bereś, whom, in turn, they wanted to honor
as a pioneer of a certain kind of sensitivity. This was why
the gallery’s smaller room was devoted entirely to PinińskaBereś, while the fluid pink quilted rug spilling out of her Well
of Pink ran across the larger room above, where the younger
artists’ photographic works, films and works on paper were
on display. The invited artists presented performance art
pieces during the symposium and, in my view, what the different presentations had in common was their focus on the
issue of space and their representations of the subjectivelyunderstood feminine body. Both Partum and Tyszkiewicz,
showed their most significant art works there, pieces which
can be taken as metaphors of their art strategies and feminist visions of social change.
In accord with Elizabeth Grosz, what I understand as feminist practices, albeit that, in this context of Polish exhibitions of women’s art, the word ‘feminism’ does not appear,
are those practices which are not a neutral embodiment
of ideas, but must question the power of phallogocentric
presumptions in their production, reception and assessment, must problematize the traditional ways in which the
‘author’s’ function is established, and must try to establish
unknown or unthought of discursive spaces “that contest
the limits and constraints currently at work in the regulation
of textual production and reception.2 ” Those conditions, so
obvious now, were very often overlooked in early feminist
artistic practices, which were more concentrated on constructing a visual field for the representation of women’s
repression in the public sphere than on reflections as to
how the practices themselves were established. This is what
2 E. Grosz, “Sexual signatures. Feminism after the death
of the author” in: Space, times and perversion. Essays on the
politics of bodies, Routledge, New York/London 1995, p. 23.
p. 30
The modes of surfaces – Ewa Partum’s and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects
Ewa Malgorzata Tatar
Left column
Exhibition views: Women’s Art, 1980, ON Gallery, Poznań
— Ewa Partum, Women, Marriage is against You!, performance
— Natalia LL, States of concentration, performance
— from left to right:
Teresa Tyszkiewicz, Day by day, photo from the plan, 1980, photos of the
Teresa Tyszkiewicz, Untitled, pines in paper, 1980
Teresa Tyszkiewicz, Grain, photos of the shooting
Maria Pinińska-Bereś, The Well of Pink, 1977
Natalia LL, Seans Pyramid, camera-performance, 1980
Ewa Partum, Self-Identification, 1980, collages
Krystyna Piotrowska, Portrait Exercises, c.1980
Right column
— Natalia LL, Seans Piramid, camera-performance
— Anna Kutera, lecture-performance with film projection
Women’s Art, 1980, ON Gallery, Poznań
p. 31
The modes of surfaces – Ewa Partum’s and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects
I would like to examine in Partum’s and Tyszkiewicz’s work,
through an analysis of the ways in which the body frontiers,
the modes of the surface, established in space, became the
modes of feminine subjectivity.
Rhetoric through the pose
Amongst the works Ewa Partum showed in Poznań was
her cycle of photomontages, Self-Identification (1980). In
each image, she stands naked in a different public place
in Warsaw, in an everyday setting; at a street intersection,
amongst passers-by, in front of a shop, inside an electronics
store, by the statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski in front
of the then Governor’s, now the Presidential Palace, or in
front of a policewoman, this last being the one most often
reproduced. During the primary show of the cycle, at the
opening of a similarly titled exhibition at the Association
of Polish Art Photographers’ Mała Gallery ZPAF, 3 Partum,
naked, read out a manifesto and made a statement in which
she declared her nakedness to be a form of protest at social
discrimination against women. The way in which the entire
event was filmed by Ryszard Brylski in My Touch Is the Touch
of a Woman (1981), showing Partum in front of an audience,
but tightly surrounded by art critics connected with the gallery who are not looking at her, as if they were astonished
or ashamed by her appearance and ‘outfit’, suggests that
the performance can also be considered in the context of
the exclusion of women artists from the male-dominated
art world. After commenting on the performance and her
nakedness, Partum ran out of the gallery, which was situated next to the Warszawa-Stare Miasto (Warsaw Old Town)
Register Office, right at the very moment when a newly-wed
couple was leaving it. Some of the onlookers and wedding
guests noticed Partum, but before the event was disrupted,
she returned to the gallery for fear of being arrested. The
entire exterior action took less than five minutes.
Her photomontages and, especially, this performance, could
be interpreted as a political provocation. The context of the
Warsaw show reflects the radicalism of the artist’s gallery
appearance and highlights the social-project aspect of her
work. From this perspective, the photomontage series is like
a scenario for a public performance. One could reproach
the artist for the conservative or conformist character of the
manifestation; instead of using photomontages, she could
have actually posed for the photos as part of a for-camera
street performance. However, I would rather insist upon
3 Some of the photomontages were removed at
the censors’ behest. Allegations of the promotion of
pornography were also feared. Cf. G. Nabakowski,
“Apprehension and Masquerade. ‘Letter Millionaire’
– Ewa Partum’s path to conceptual poetry and feminist
gender theory”, in: Ewa Partum 1965 – 2001, (ed. Angelika
Stepken), exh. cat. Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe 2001,
p. 137.
Ewa Malgorzata Tatar
looking at her gesture in the context of the Self-Identification
manifesto: “Woman lives in a social structure that is alien
to her. Its model, not in keeping with her current role, was
created by and for men. Woman can function in a social
structure that is alien to her if she masters the school of
camouflage and omits her own personality. At the moment
of discovering her own awareness, which may have not
much in common with the realities of her current life, there
will arise a social and cultural problem. Not fitting into the
social structure created for her, she will create a new one.
This possibility of discovering oneself and the authenticity
of one’s own experiences, working on one’s own problem
and awareness, through the very specific experiences of
being a woman in a patriarchal society in a world that is
alien to oneself, is the problem of what is called feminist
art. It is the motivation for creating art for a woman artist.
The phenomenon of feminist art reveals to woman her new
role, the possibility for self-realisation 4 ”. Partum clearly
postulates an alternative society mode here, founded on different principles from the patriarchal one in which she lives,
as well as raising the issue of the feminine subject’s alienation. In this context, the medium of photomontage can be
viewed as a politically and rhetorically determined choice.
The gesture of pasting the image of a naked woman, a
feminine subjectivity conscious of her rights, into a camerafrozen reality preventing that subject from expressing what
she desires, is a gesture of political negation, indicating a
space of oppression. Importantly, there are many women in
the montage photographs, carrying heavy shopping bags,
queuing, pushing baby carriages, chiefly performing the socalled ‘female’ chores related to reproduction and nourishment. Only one woman, the policewoman, represents power
and authority. Her profession, usually carried out by men,
was, I believe, chosen deliberately by the artist. As with the
Governor’s Palace montage, Partum is pointing here to both
the exclusion of women from the sphere of authority and, in
this particular case, to the false emancipation of the ‘women
on tractors’ in the pseudo-socialist reality of the People’s
Republic of Poland.
I like to see the Self-Identification series as the reverse of
a later performance piece, Hommage à Solidarnosc (1982),
in which the artist’s naked figure can be interpreted as an
alternative, living allegory of Poland. In analysing the social
and national phantasms, Partum tried to give a voice to
Woman, mute, excluded from heroic narratives, and treated
instrumentally. However, in contrast to her static appearance in Self-Identification and the mute lip marks from her
early conceptual poems, here she chooses the action of the
4 The excerpts from the manifestos are taken from a
catalogue for Partum’s 2006 exhibition at the Wyspa Art
Institute in Gdańsk, Poland. At the time of writing, the
catalogue was in the stage of pre-publication.
p. 32
The modes of surfaces – Ewa Partum’s and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects
Ewa Malgorzata Tatar
Ewa Partum, Self-Identification (1980), collages, 40x50 cm
p. 33
The modes of surfaces – Ewa Partum’s and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects
speaking subject, while performing, in the presence of an
audience, her signature artistic creation; onto white paper,
she implants red lipstick marks speaking every sound of a
specific word and fixes black Letraset letters marking every
symbol that goes to make it up. That word is ‘solidarity’.
In Self-Identification, she prefers to analyze the allegory of
Freedom involved in the iconographical politic of the state
as the personalization of itself 5. While Poland was depicted
as oppressed, weary, and enslaved in 19th century icono­
graphy, Freedom, as portrayed by Delacroix, for example,
was shown as a woman capable of passion. Partum reverses
the codes here and, with this gesture, gives a transgressive meaning to both figures. Poland becomes the woman
leading the charge on the barricades and, through an act of
masquerade 6 or, even, through the rhetoric of the pose 7, the
artist’s body in Self-Identification is situated beyond the act of
fetishization, assuming the role of a living allegory, one that
opposes a particular spirituality, understood metaphorically
in the immobility of statues 8.
The rhetoric of the pose, defined by Craig Owens, is
behavior whereby the subject presents itself in a certain
way, transforming the image. This means that the subject is
aware of her behavior, as if creating it and creating her own
representation, while functioning as a subject of discourse 9.
This perspective leads me to question Partum’s practice in
line with the significant and emphasized position of the one
who is speaking. Does she objectify those to whom the act
of speaking is addressed? In her texts, Partum constructed
a diagnosis of women’s condition in a patriarchal society
without consideration of the specifics of the contemporary
Polish social reality and without defining either the ‘whatis-public’ or how we can understand the concept in a totali5 See A. Jakubowska, “Czy w Polsce okresu PRL-u
wolność była kobietą? Śladami pewnej alegorii”, in: Sztuka
w okresie PRL-u, ed. T. Gryglewicz/A. Szczerski, Cracow
1999, pp. 151-152.
6 The category of the masquerade was defined for the
first time by the Freudian psychoanalytic, Joan Riviere.
Eadem, “Womanliness as a Masquerade”, in: Formation of
Fantasy, ed. V. Burgin/J. Donald/C. Kaplan, London/New
York 1986, p. 35-44. She described the situation whereby
women where forced by social and cultural context to hide
their power or skills and ‘take the shape’ of a womanlike
woman, the weak one, the stereotypical one or, in
psychoanalytical terms, the castrated one.
7 C. Owens, “The Medusa effect”, in: Beyond Recognition,
ed. S. Bryson, Los Angeles/Berkley 1992.
8 Ewa Partum’s most outstanding work with the concept
of allegory was as the costume and set designer for Wanda
Gościmińska. The Woman Textile Worker (1975). Directed by
Wojciech Wiszniewski, it is a documentary problematizing
the state’s rhetoric regarding work and the figure of worker
in the People’s Republic of Poland. On the living allegory:
Maria Janion, Kobiety i duch inności, Warszawa 1996.
9 Partum’s performance art practice can be also seen
through the category of feminine narcissism, as described
by Amelia Jones in: “The Rhetoric of the Pose: Hannah
Wilke and the Radical Narcissism of Feminist Body Art,” in
Body Art/Performing the Subject, University of Minnesota
Press, Minneapolis, 1998.
Ewa Malgorzata Tatar
tarian society without the sine qua non, democracy 10. Putting
herself in opposition to the anonymous women, she even
deepens the alienation of (the members of) masses as well
as that of the creating subject themselves. At the same time,
while using the rhetorical means of such socially engaged
art as Russian constructivism and the revolutionary form
of the manifesto, paradoxically, she deals with the idea of
the artist’s exclusion from the category of alienated work,
and turns to the concept of Genius, grounded in the 19 th
century, which somehow questioned the notions of rhetoric
and allegory 11. The Genius genesis of art, on the other hand,
was profoundly rejected through the Marxist and feminist
critical tradition, the very one from which Partum originates.
Is there a deep contradiction between the theoretical background and the practical means by which artists postulate
the revolutionary break? Do her works of art seem to be no
more than an illustration to her thesis, or may they be seen
as a subversive form in themselves? And how is the matter
itself supportive of this transgression? Here, we cannot
forget the performative aspects of her work and her naked
appearances among the audience, mostly male and mostly
professional. In this context, the two works that interest
me can rather be said to show how Partum saw the woman
artist’s situation in the field of art and how she described
her role in society. The static photomontages, instead of
emphasizing the problem of women’s alienation, turn our
attention to the problem of the lack of language and space
with, and within, which to communicate between the artist
and the audience.
Practice through the body
Teresa Tyszkiewicz appeared in the field of fine arts through
her collaboration with her husband, the artist Zdzisław
Sosnowski; in the mid 1970s, she was one of the women
who accorded him their bodies in his Goalkeeper project 12.
The couple went on to make two movies together, Permanent
Position and The Other Side, where they analyze the space
and gaps in between the man-woman relationship. After
that, Teresa started working on her own 16mm film projects,
Day by Day and Grain, both dating from 1980, which were
displayed in Women’s Art, together with her unique drawing
made on paper with tailor’s pins painstakingly stuck into the
white surface 13.
10 H. Arendt, Kondycja ludzka, [The Human Condition]
(transl. A. Łagodzka), Warszawa 2000, pp. 57-58.
11 H.G. Gadamer, “Symbol i alegoria [Symbol and
Allegory]”, (transl. M. Łukasiewicz), in: Symbole i
symbolika, ed. M. Głowiński, Warszawa 1990.
12 This access to the art field via her legs was ironically
noted by the film critic, Szymon Bojko, in his article “Film
poza kinem”, in: Kino 1981, no 5.
13 The artist continued her own, original pin-practice in
paper, photography, painting, and sculpture.
p. 34
The modes of surfaces – Ewa Partum’s and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects
Ewa Partum
Ewa Malgorzata Tatar
Ewa Partum, Hommage à Solidarnosc, performance, 1982, Lodz
p. 35
The modes of surfaces – Ewa Partum’s and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects
Both movies were shot in private spaces strongly connected
with Tyszkiewicz’s life and both refer to female sexuality. Day
by Day was filmed in the artist couple’s Warsaw apartment
and The Grain at her family home in central Poland. She
returns to her origins at the level of sound; in the most significant part of the movie, we can hear the clattering of the
amateur threshing machine constructed by her father and
we can see her naked body in the old granary. She searches
for her subjectivity as a woman at the level of the image.
Even though she combines her nudity with natural attributes
such as grain, vegetables, or the feather with which she plays
with her body, the simple conclusion that she is dualistically
equating the feminine and the natural against the cultural,
suggested here by the Father figure in the background,
cannot be drawn. The movie begins and ends with boards
(for the credits), held in the artist’s hands, with her redvarnished nails visible, which might offer us some sexual
femme fatale connotations here, as well as underlining the
position of the speaking subject, conscious that sexual identity is a cultural construct, rather than something which is
simply naturally given. This thesis of mine can be supported
by Tyskiewicz’s use of other cultural attributes, such as
high-heeled shoes or tights, the latter appearing both on the
artist’s legs and in her hands, as a tool of creation, while she
‘grainbathes’. The title can be seen as referring here not only
to the matter of the grain in the granary, already dry, dead
and yet not living, but also to the grain of the film stock and
image. The tights, full of grains, are used both to underline
the sexuality of the woman we are looking at, and to deform,
defragment, and multiply the perfect shape of the body.
While rolling in the grain, she fills the tights with that material and produces informe forms, an antithesis of herself, but
pictures of her jouissance, the pleasure taken from the environment and given back in the act of art. Rosalind Krauss
and Yve-Alain Bois, looking at the history of art and pointing
to the ways in which form has been contested, undermined,
and deconstructed, refer to Georges Bataille, whose term
informe supposes more to convey something of labor, than
to catch a static sense14. They indicate certain features which
I also find in Tyszkiewicz’s movie; an affirmative materialism which defies symbolization in art, the breakdown of
the static, timeless art form, which is to be actualized in
the material and a horizontality which opposes the act of
transcendence and refers to what is earthly. I would propose
seeing the formlessnesses created by Tyszkiewicz in the context of some of Alina Szapocznikow or Louise Bourgeois’s
sculptures and, from that perspective, place her vision of
female sexuality and immanency on the side of what Lucy
Lippard called ‘eccentric abstraction’, which also supports
the artist’s proposition for the depiction of feminine sexu14 R. Kraus, Y.A. Bois, Informe: mode d’emploi, Paris
1996, p. 12.
Ewa Malgorzata Tatar
ality. Day by Day makes its references through the figures
of female madness and the analysis of the hysterical, with
the sexual body, the space of desire, as in Virginia Woolf ’s
A Room of One’s Own, on the one hand and oppression and
exclusion from life, like the figure of the mad woman in the
attic from Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey on the other, and
is thus much more an example of the feminist problematic
in a movie than of the feminist movie per se, by which I
understand one made with a consciousness of the medium
itself, such as The Grain or Carolee Schneemann’s Fusses 15.
The most significant role in creating the erotic character
of The Grain – besides the somehow culminating featherbath scene, with its phallic-like symbolization, referring,
in my opinion, mostly to the act of fetishization, Teresa is
playing out on herself, and besides the out-of-shot sound
of breathing – was given to the aspect of touch. As MerleauPonty posits in his essay, this sense is the only one which
has no single organ responsible for it; he also points out
that touching is equal to being touched 16. Through the act of
touching, the film’s reception seems to be transferred from
the image of the body to the act of experiencing it, for the
artist, and, for the viewer, from the voyeristic act of looking
at the body to the more self-referential act of experiencing
how the artist depicts the act of experiencing her body. At
the same time, the frontier of the filmed body , as well as the
frontier body of the image, seem to have been shaken.
So different in their forms and the strategies they bring to
their means, both Partum and Tyszkiewicz touch upon the
problem of the space as the place of becoming; for Partum
it is more the gallery space where she becomes a sexuated 17
artist who introduces the feminist problematic through her
personal experience of standing in front of her audience
as a figure both oppressed and emancipated, showing
herself being watched; while, for Tyszkiewicz, it is a private
space, viewed and shown in a feminist way as the place of
becoming the feminine subject through the act of working
through her personal experience via the medium and her
image, itself beyond representation. In both approaches,
the most significant is the means chosen to draw or blur the
15 S. MacDonald, “Carolee Schneemann’s Fuses as
erotic self-portraiture”, CineAction!, Winter 2007, http://
16 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “The Intertwining- The
chiasm”, in: The Visible and The Invisible, ed. Claude
Leford, trans. A. Lingis, Illinois, Northwestern University
Press 1968.
17 I will stay with the category of sex here, rather than
gender, which is more a sociological than a philosophical
term. In terms of psychoanalysis, subject as such is
already sexuated: “sex is no longer conceivable as a
secondary characteristic of the subject […] but becomes
for psychoanalysis a primary or ontological fact. Or: sex is
not a predicate of the subject, it predicates that there is a
subject.” J. Copjec, “The fable of the stork and other false
sexual theories”, in: Differences, vol.21, no 1, p. 65.
p. 36
The modes of surfaces – Ewa Partum’s and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects
Ewa Malgorzata Tatar
Teresa Tyszkiewicz, Day by Day, 1980, 16 mm, 15 min
p. 37
The modes of surfaces – Ewa Partum’s and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects
Ewa Malgorzata Tatar
frontiers between the speaking subject who is also the object
of reference and the viewer. Using existing means and tools,
both artists seize the power of the image and the viewers’
power of sight, which makes the act of art a political one
that, in line with Jacques Rancière, we can assume as being
le partage du sensible, the dividing, sharing, and distributing
of what-is-sensitive, in the sense of both tenderness and
sensibility, or ways of perceiving and participating in the
world 18, and of what is feminist, because of their focus on
the production of knowledge through practice 19. Those art
practices dealing with the performing of feminine narcissism enrich the feminist critic of the gaze; the viewer seems
to be untaught as to how to view, and the writer seems to be
forced to find a way to perceive them as subversive.
18 J. Ranciere, The politics of aesthetics. The distribution of
the sensible, Continuum International Publishing Group,
19 M. Meskimmon, “Feminisms and Art Theory”
in: A Companion to Art Theory, ed. P. Smith, C. Wilde,
Blackwell 2002, pp. 380-396.
p. 38
The modes of surfaces – Ewa Partum’s and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects
Teresa Tyszkiewicz
Ewa Malgorzata Tatar
The Grain, 1980, 16 mm, 11 min
p. 39
Elvan Zabunyan
Pissed Off
We look at the black and white photo: it shows a bearded
man in profile, dressed in a short-sleeve wax print shirt with
stylized patterns and light-colored, loose-fitting pants. He is
wearing a visor cap on his head, Puma Clydes (1973 model)
on his feet, and he’s got a bag, also made of African cloth,
slung over his shoulder. He is urinating in a corner formed
by walls covered in graffiti and posters. On the floor is
detritus in the form of empty and dented cans.
It is 1981, and we are in downtown Manhattan, New York,
exactly on the corner of West Broadway and Franklin
Street. One year earlier, T.W.U., Richard Serra’s sculpture,
consisting of three panels rising ten meters high and four
meters wide was erected with a grant from the Public Art
Fund, a private foundation based in New York. Its location
was temporary. The work remained there for two years.
From the very moment it was installed, actions were carried
out against its presence. Slogans were spray-painted on
the inner walls (“No future”) and external surfaces (“Public
enemy #1 = Chemical companies”), the remains of tossed
eggs, poorly glued posters that were already peeling off
partially covered the monumental sculpture located not far
from Serra’s home.
David Hammons is an African-American artist living in
New York as of 1974 after having lived ten years in Los
Angeles. He loves walking through the city streets, strolling
through neighborhoods from Harlem to the Lower East
Side, observing inhabitants and habitats, vacant lots and
basketball courts, stopping to pick up a newspaper, a dead
leaf, a paper or plastic bag, studying displacements in urban
space, turning his physical movement, his walking, into a
union with his environment. A subtle analyst of the art world
and caustic critic of the contemporary art scene, the vandalism inflicted on Serra’s imposing piece could not have
escaped him. So he in turn decided to add to it by urinating
on the already dirty walls. He transformed his act into a performance, named it Pissed Off and asked his friend Dawoud
Bey to photograph it.
Hammons often mentioned his interest in puns, more particularly in reference to his reading of Marcel Duchamp’s
work. One might say that, here, he brings together gesture
and speech, and transforms a linguistic expression into a
physical one. While the term “piss” refers both to the noun
and to the verb, by urinating on this surface, Hammons
provokes a double short-circuit where his action (in the
end, rather banal – many men do it in the street) becomes
a performance because he decided it would be one (the
Duchampian precept is applied here by the book) and, in
so doing, allows himself to bring together the critique of
a situation and the artistic becoming of an illegal act (the
artist is stopped by a police officer who catches him in the
act). Because, in the end, what is at stake is the physical
confrontation between two propositions defined here as
“art”: Hammons’s performance versus Serra’s sculpture.
The former would not have taken on as great an importance
if the wall receiving the urine had been a simple wall with
graffiti on it.
The question nevertheless remains if David Hammons’s
being “pissed off ” is exclusively aimed at Serra or if it is
not also a gesture participating in the sculptural work’s
inscription in urban space and in its logical degradation. Is
it possible to protect a work of art which, despite its monumentality, is abandoned, naked in early 1980s New York,
known for its subways redecorated in colored graffiti, for its
blind and direct violence, feeding the processes of powerful
visual and musical creativity, notably with the cultures of
punk and hip hop? In this sense the expression, “pissed off ”,
is not very far from a “no future” or a “public enemy”. They
are all part of a social construction that advocates exclusion
by defying it.
p. 40
Elvan Zabunyan
Pissed Off
photo: Dawoud Bey
David Hammons
Pissed Off, 1981
p. 41
Anna Colin & Latifa Laâbissi
Écran Somnambule, interview
The subject of this interview, Écran Somnambule, is a solo
choreography by Latifa Laâbissi which reinterprets and
lengthens Mary Wigman’s Witch Dance. In this interview,
which recounts the choreographic process and the formal
research behind this creation, Latifa Laâbissi addresses
the space of the margin, the ghost figure and the domain
of the repressed. All of these themes inhabit her work and
contribute to a non-linear reflection on French socio-political
current events.
Anna Colin: Mary Wigman spent twelve years developing
Witch Dance. She first presented it in 1914 while studying
under Rudolph Laban and completed it in 1926. Similarly,
you performed it for the first time in 2001. Then you rearranged it in 2009 for Rebutoh at the invitation of Boris
Charmatz and now you’re finalizing it in 2012. Could you
talk about your relationship with this dance, from your first
encounter with it until its present completion?
Latifa Laâbissi: When I discovered Witch Dance, I thought
it was a sort of choreographic oddity, something between
a dance clearly dealing with the questions of modernity of
1920’s Germany and a dance which embodies very particular
choreographic figures and patterns: a form of savagery both
assumed and contained. The first time I saw it, it made a
strong impression on me and I remembered it many years
later. During my training in the 1980s, the prevailing aesthetic regime in France was the American abstract school.
However, I was missing something in my dance history
and education and when I saw Witch Dance, it really reassured me to know that you could also dance in such a way.
Nevertheless, at the same time I understood you had to
choose which side you were on; there was German expressionist dance on one side and abstract American dance on
the other. Many French artists thought the first was related
to pathos and that the second represented the avant-garde.
My desire remained to not separate these two styles. I’d
never come across Valeska Gert’s work during my training
and it was another source of fascination for me. A few years
later, I wanted to learn and to dance Wigman and Gert’s
works and to physically embody them. It was rather a performer’s type of work even if the idea was to problematize
the following question: what does it mean to reinterpret
such dances today with a body which isn’t influenced by the
same context and isn’t facing the same aesthetic regimes?
In Phasmes, the first work that I imagined in 2001, you could
see the authors and I dancing the borrowed source in a reinterpretation without costumes. We just wore sportswear as a
form of false neutrality. This project didn’t play with the idea
of the complete figure, like in the works of Valeska Gert, Dore
Hoyer, and in Witch Dance. In the case of Phasmes, there was
a physical contact with the dance and then a collaboration
with theorists – Isabelle Launay, Hubert Godard, and Claude
Rabant – to re-problematize the gap between these dances
and their original contexts on the one hand, and the issue of
re-establishing them in the present on the other.
AC Recently
you told me about the great difficulty of reinterpreting Witch Dance in 2001. Could you elaborate on this
and tell us what your strategies were to circumvent these
It’s a very tense dance, as though it’s carved out of a solid
block. People don’t dance like that anymore nowadays. It’s
as though reality doesn’t yield this type of tense regime
anymore. Since then, dance has integrated what are known
as “release techniques” or “somatic techniques” like the
Feldenkrais or Alexander practices, for instance. These
techniques tend towards visualization patterns and induce a
much more fluid body quality. By reinterpreting Witch Dance,
I was interested in physically confronting myself with a body
state which I hadn’t a priori experienced until then.
I don’t want to make this dance too much of a mystery,
however, it did take me a long time to find a hold that would
allow me to get into it and to assimilate it. I couldn’t find
the necessary physical motors to perform it at the beginning
and I couldn’t understand where Wigman found her springs,
rhythmic impacts, and the relationship between tension and
loosening. I had to imagine a learning process that I hadn’t
at all foreseen. This was made possible by collaborating with
Catherine Germain who works a lot with masks, particularly
Balinese masks. I rearranged these movements like a form
of incarnation of a figure and concentrated on how I could
p. 42
Écran Somnambule, interview
Anna Colin & Latifa Laâbissi
Photo : Nadia Lauro
Latifa Laâbissi
Loredreamsong, 2010
p. 43
Écran Somnambule, interview
disappear behind the mask. It was as though the mask could
contain and transmit a whole figure. I also worked with
music. Musician Henri-Bertrand Lesguillier would play the
sound score and I would break loose from Wigman’s score
to improvise other movements. It was like finding the body
of this dance before even thinking its pattern; understanding
through practice why it’s bound to the ground and at the
same time anchored in a very strong verticality. For the
apparent immobility of this dance is far from being fixed:
it’s forever projecting an image and retaining it, a dumbfounding captive image.
According to dance historian Sally Banes, Mary Wigman
contributed to mystifying this dance, particularly in her writings in which she was constantly analyzing the process that
allowed her to finish her dance. She insists on the liberating
character of Witch Dance while talking about a state of possession and about surpassing herself.
Isabelle Launay always reassured me by telling me that
even Wigman rearranged the dance a lot and came back to it
on several occasions. Wigman said this dance came to her,
as though she hadn’t chosen it. She said she found herself in
a physicality that was foreign to her, as if she was performing
something dictated by an unknown force.
For having passed it on to other artists as part of Boris
Charmatz’s educational project Gift (2010), at the Rennes
Dance Museum, it became clear that this dance couldn’t be
assimilated using the conventional modalities of learning
movements. You had to embody it, inhabit it and only a
very strong intimate relationship with this dance would
allow its incarnation. This near-mythical side of Witch Dance
goes beyond its own form. Actually, I realized that in the
dance milieu, to claim to reinterpret it was nearly a sort
of profanation. When I told other dancers and choreographers that I was going to perform it, some of them found it
unimaginable or even pretentious whereas others thought it
was sheer heresy. It was classed in the pantheon of sacred
and therefore untouchable dances. I worked with the Albert
Knust Quatuor on this project and he was the only one
who showed a lot of enthusiasm about someone taking the
liberty of revisiting this dance. The issue of reinterpretation
also interests me because of this dance’s singularity in the
whole of Wigman’s work. I have the feeling she allowed
herself to do something incredible with this dance, breaking
away from all that she’d choreographed before. In my
opinion, it’s her strongest authorial gesture. But go back to
how Witch Dance became Écran Somnambule, it happened
at the invitation of Boris Charmatz in 2009. His invitation
wasn’t intended to create a specific work. Instead, he asked
a few authors the same question: in your repertoire, would
there be one work you could lengthen? From that moment
Anna Colin & Latifa Laâbissi
on, I delved back into in the core of Witch Dance to change
its duration. The patterns remained the same but the
stretched time brought about a completely different story
and made another writing appear.
What type of story is that and to what extent does it connect to your artistic preoccupations?
After having danced the slow version of Witch Dance for
the first time, a person in the audience said that reinterpreting it by lengthening it was a means of reaffirming its
subversive and resistance potential. I also think this version
has the capacity of resisting a dominant regime, of delving
into the margins and it’s in this respect that it echoes back
to my work. This new duration creates a sort of deceptive
image which forces the viewer’s eye. Here the eye isn’t really
contemplative: it’s caught between attraction and repulsion.
This dichotomy was already present in Wigman’s Witch
Dance. By using a grimacing figure, it projected an image
opposite to that of a sublimated woman. You find this same
tension later in Tatsumi Hijikata’s work which was very
much influenced by Mary Wigman’s. As for Valeska Gert, she
said she was very consciously capturing contestatory and
minority figures, things we don’t want to see. She thought
they were a possible incarnation in her “cabinet of pictures”.
In a certain respect, the editing processes I use in my projects are closer to Valeska Gert’s than to Mary Wigman’s.
Having talked about lengthening the movements, what
was your approach for sound and for the costume in this
new version?
The sound piece follows the same process as the dance.
We recorded the musician on the same original temporality
that we had access to, that is to say one minute forty. Then
I gave it to composer Olivier Renouf who electronically
lengthened it by thirty-two minutes. The effect creates a kind
of sound gap while keeping the original impacts. As for the
masks, Nadia Lauro, who made the costume, worked with
me on a similar operation as Mary Wigman did. She froze
her own facial expression to make a mask bearing a slight
smile. Wearing the mask is a way of completing this figure. It
multiplies the state and its potential rather than harboring it.
Even with Japanese neutral masks, the slightest inclination
produces a whole different expression and calls upon completely different affects not only for the person using it but
also for the viewer. The mask gives the possibility of being in
an area of the performance that I’m interested in. It involves
playing with the subject’s appearance and disappearance,
like a self-effacement. What does it mean to wear a mask?
p. 44
Écran Somnambule, interview
Anna Colin & Latifa Laâbissi
Photo : Nadia Lauro
Latifa Laâbissi
Self-Portrait Camouflage, 2006
p. 45
Écran Somnambule, interview
About the subject of speech which is very present in your
work, how do masks and speech relate in your works? Is the
mask a substitute for speech?
I’m not directly broaching the question of speech in this
dance because it isn’t involved in this case. Yet, generally
speaking speech is indeed also a form of mask in my work.
It’s a possibility to play with a form of subjectivity and to keep
it at a distance. If the question of the character is something
completely foreign to me, the mask is used metaphorically
in speech, for example in Loredreamsong with the accents, in
the way of acting which is closer to travesty than to disguise.
Used as a mask, speech allows to multiply identities and to
avoid being trapped in a question of unilateral identity.
Anna Colin & Latifa Laâbissi
ghost in Loredreamsong was calling upon quite a simple
figure but at the same time suggesting the burqa or the Ku
Klux Klan through analogy. Both of these subjects are also
part of contemporary obsessive fears but for different reasons of course. It’s complicated to get rid of our fears and
projections because to me it seems as though our ghosts
and fears are a bit like the objects that we store in a cellar:
they don’t completely disappear from our lives, they lurk
there while waiting to resurface.
A mask is also a surface which makes one thing visible
while obscuring another. In the introduction of Ghostly
Matters: Haunting and the Social Imagination (1996), socio­
logist Avery Gordon refers to two important texts of postcolonial fictional literature: Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison
and Invisible Man (1952) by Ralph Ellison, published the
same year as Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon.
Ellison talks about the “non-visibility of the hyper-visible
Afro-American ‘man’” whereas Toni Morrison maintains
that “invisible things are not necessarily not-there.” Further
on in her introduction, Gordon puts forth the idea that “To
write stories concerning exclusions and invisibilities is to
write ghost stories.” From my point of view, these few quotes
seem to be deeply related to your work, particularly with
Loredreamsong and Écran Somnambule. Could you elaborate on your relationship with the question of the invisible
and of the ghost figure that you also define as a projection
surface? To start with, maybe you could explain the title
Écran Somnambule and its relationship with these different
I found the expression ‘the somnambulist screen’ in a
book on the work of filmmaker Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau.
This book talks a lot about the ghost figure and of how it’s
being linked to the figure of the sleepwalker. Earlier on I was
talking about how Witch Dance both projects and retains
an image. It acts as a screen that absorbs and reflects the
other person’s image. Maybe it’s related to somnambulism
because it’s been hanging around my work in quite a ghostly
manner for several years. I was also very marked by Freud’s
text The Unhomely (1919). It’s linked to the invisible, which I
think surrounds everyone and belongs to both the domains
of fear and comfort. In Loredreamsong, the choice of the
ghost figure was at first more intuitive than conceptual. It
appeared like a reverie. I immediately tried it out with material such as racist jokes or Lydia Lunch’s text Dear whores to
see what physical experience I could challenge. Using the
p. 46
Denis Roche
Edward S. Curtis
Le boîtier de mélancolie
Cruelty or the irony of history?
The massacre of hundreds of Sioux families in South Dakota, on the banks
of Wounded Knee Creek in 1890 – an event that signaled the definitive subjugation of the Indian nations – took place not far from the rock face of Mt
Rushmore, on which were later sculpted the images of America’s great men.
Shortly after opening his photography studio in Seattle, Edward S. Curtis
took his first outdoor portraits of Indians near his house on Puget Sound.
Among them was “Princess Angelina”, aged eighty-four and the daughter
of chief Sealth who, in spite of himself, would see his name given to the city
that was to become the vast industrial center we know today. A little more
consideration for that name would have been appropriate.
When, at the beginning of the 20th century, Curtis undertook his colossal
task – photographing, recording, noting, collating, filming, describing, commenting on, and publishing the daily lives of the last Indian nations west of
the Mississippi; and not only in the United States, but in Canada and Alaska
as well – his subjects had long since lost their freedom everywhere. Now
they had been humiliated, consigned to reservations, and handed over to
the mercies of missionaries and tourists. In terms of the Golden Age and
the mythic splendor of life in the wild, Curtis’s magnificent images are no
more than an illusion.
The twenty volumes of The North American Indians, which, accompanied
by their twenty portfolios of photographs, would occupy Curtis from 1907 to
1930 and would bankrupt him several times, were prefaced – enthusiastically,
it must be said – by Theodore Roosevelt. Even so the same Roosevelt, then
President of the United States and destined to immortality on Mt Rushmore,
had written of the Indian some thirty years earlier as a “lazy, dirty, drunken
beggar [whom the frontiersmen] despised.”
When he died in 1952 Curtis, who left a corpus of forty thousand images,
was known only to a handful of initiates. The New York Times published a
brief obituary mentioning The North American Indians and closing with the
words, “Mr Curtis was also known as a photographer.”
p. 47
Le boîtier de mélancolie
Denis Roche
Edward S. Curtis
Before the Storm. Apache, 1907
p. 48
Elisabeth Lebovici
A Simple Chorus
Judith Butler’s words at Occupy Wall Street, fortunately
spread through numerous lesbian and gay websites, have
struck a chord. “I came here to lend my support to you
today,” she begins. The crowd repeats her sentence. “…
to offer my solidarity for this unprecedented display of
democracy and popular wil…” The crowd repeats: “offer
my solidarity…” It’s no accident that the philosopher uses
a word that comes close – so close it touches – the world
of art and collecting: the term “display”. It is, in fact, an
arrangement, a system of display transformed into forum.
She then continues, each sentence fragment being simultaneously suspended and followed by the crowd’s repetition in
unison. Divided up into pieces, an element of tension is also
added to the speech through the suspense of the repetition:
“But, what are the demands / all these people are making? /
Either they say / there are no demands / and that leaves
your critics confused. / Or they say / that the demands for
social equality / and the demands of economic justice / are
impossible demands / and impossible demands, they say /
are just not practical. / But we do not agree. / If hope is an
impossible demand / than, we demand the impossible. / If
the right to shelter, and food, and employment / are impossible demands / than, we demand the impossible. / If it is
impossible to demand / that those who profit / from the
recession / redistribute their wealth / and cease their greed /
then, yes / we demand the impossible.”
It is in her final peroration that Judith Butler inscribes the
context, the realization, the performance of this display, “We
are assembling in public, / we are coming together as bodies
in alliance, / in the street and in the square…” It is as a body
that the politics of the body and the body politic, that the
term, “We the People” returns and is enacted. From the you
to the I to the we, or even to the final thanks, Judith Butler
quite simply sealed the demonstration of the very functioning of activism — this astounding passage towards the
singular of the community-based plural. From the Manifeste
des 343 salopes (1971) declaring “I have aborted,” to the cries
of Act Up militants who, with every police interpellation
during a public event, yelled as I did when I was an activist
in the 1990s, “I have AIDS, you’re touching a sick person,”
you had to use an I in order to say we. In the activist experience of Occupy Wall Street, this is very conveniently called
a human microphone, beginning each time with a sound
test, “Mic Check?,” a voice asks. “MIC CHECK!” answers
the crowd, in unison. The passage from I to we, from the
monophonic voice to the stereo sound of a chorus has,
indeed, been made necessary given the absence of microphones and loudspeakers, both of which in New York require
a permit, at least as far as public spaces are concerned, and
this is made even more complicated by the fact that the
park occupied by the activists is private. And so, here as
elsewhere, every harangue takes place unplugged. Bodies are
the conductors of the spreading current, affecting what is
said until comprehension, because this grasping of meaning
is firstly felt, repeated, spread. The word is immediately
attributed to a multiple author. The acclamations, however,
are silent, and the contradiction does not always spread into
this texture, where the thread of something said is thereby
cut, then rewoven into it by the assembled crowd. In this
political theatre, it is also a question of texture and assembly.
As one of the many blogs commenting on the matter have
signaled, Judith Butler, in another conference (this one, more
traditional and amplified by the more common method of
using a microphone) she held in Venice last September1,
evoked the chorus in Place Tahrir. Against potential or actually inflicted violence, she observed, a collective chant would
rise up, a word repeated over and over again “silmiyya”,
“Most usually, the chanting of “Silmiyya” comes across as
a gentle exhortation: ‘peaceful, peaceful’… What interests
me here is the chant, the way in which language worked not
to incite an action, but to restrain one.” I’m now thinking
of another chorus that, this time, inscribes itself against
another tradition of restraint: Artur Zmijewski, in his famous
Singing Lesson (2002), has a group of deaf people sing one
of Bach’s Cantatas in Leipzig’s Thomaskirche, the very place
where the composer was hired as “Cantor”, and where he is
now buried. The fragility of the imperfect voices, all the more
moving because they in no way correspond to the norms
of what might be considered to be beautiful singing, challenges the Catholic Church’s old ban on giving Communion
to deaf people.
1 “The Politics of the Street and New Forms of Alliance,”
conference that took place 7 September 2011, as part of
Norway’s official contribution at the 2011 Venice Biennale.
p. 49
A Simple Chorus
Elisabeth Lebovici
However, it is in the very body of dance that I must enter to
find this community of singularities which the OWS movement would embody in its “impossible demand” – this is,
in any case, the effect that Boris Charmatz’s dance piece,
Levée des Conflits (2010), has on me: it is a solo performance
repeated at an interval of several dozen seconds, almost in
canon, by as many dancers as the stage will hold, and who
start again, doubling up and then redoubling, most certainly
until exhaustion. The movements are repeated, like some
sort of spiraling clockwork, simultaneously collective, where
each body, male and female, individually unfolds with his/
her own energy, violence, gentleness, and yet is also conf­
ronted with the group’s same energy and emotion. It is not
at all a question of mirror-like repetition – on the contrary
– but of a spiralling of the I into the we that I would like to
juxtapose with the words of philosopher Roberto Esposito,
“…communitas isn’t a property, a whole, a territory to defend
and isolate from those who aren’t part of it. It is a void, a
debt, a gift” – in the sense of the word munus, which gave
way to the Latin expression cum-munus, and not, cum-unus,
in other words, “as united”. Thus founded on that which fills
(us) with holes, rather than that which makes us one, community takes place in addressing “with respect to others,
and also reminds us at the same time of our constitutive
otherness with ourselves,” which frees us from common
PDF of the TIDAL review, “Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy”
Judith Butler: http://occupywriters.com/works/by-judith-butler
Judith Butler: http://www.oca.no/programme/audiovisual/thestate-of-things-an-excerpt-from-the-politics-of-the-street-and-newforms-of-alliance
Boris Charmatz: http://www.festival-automne.com/boris-charmatzspectacle1438.html
Roberto Esposito, Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community
transl. Timothy C. Campbell, Stanford University Press, 2009.
p. 50
A Simple Chorus
Elisabeth Lebovici
Judith Butler at Occupy Wall Street, she speaks at Washington Square Park, New York, oct. 2011
p. 51
Ariella Azoulay
The Civil Contract of Photography
In photography – and this is evident in every single photo
– there is something that extends beyond the photographer’s action, and no photographer, even the most gifted,
can claim ownership of what appears in the photograph.
Every photograph bears the traces of a meeting between
photographed persons and photographer neither of which
can, on their own, determine how this meeting will be
inscribed in the photo. The photograph exceeds any presumption to ownership or monopoly and any attempt
at being exhaustive. Even when it seems possible to correctly name what it shows in the statement “this is X”– it
will always turn out that something else can be read in it,
some other event can be reconstructed from it, some other
player’s presence can be discerned through it, constructing
the social relations that allowed its production. My main
interest was in photographs from the occupied territories,
and the more I looked at them, the more I felt that they
showed more than evidence of what was being done to the
Palestinians. Over time it became progressively clearer to
me that not only it is impossible to reduce photography to
its role as a producer of pictures but that, in addition, its
broad dissemination over the second half of the nineteenth
century has created a space of political relations which are
not mediated exclusively by the ruling power of the state
and are not completely subject to the national logic that still
overshadows the familiar political arena. This civil political
space, which I invent theoretically in the present book, is one
that the people using photography – photographers, spectators, and photographed people – imagine every day.
[…] However, photography has come into the world with the
wrong users’ manual. The existing manual reduces photo­
graphy to the photograph and the gaze concentrated on it
in an attempt to identify the subject. It takes part in the stabilization of what is seen, in making it distinct, accessible,
readily available, easy to capture, and open to ownership and
exchange. Photography is much more than what is printed
on this standardized support – the photographic paper –
transforming any event into a picture. The photograph bears
the seal of the event and reconstructing it requires more
than just identifying what is shown in it. One needs to start
watching the photograph. The wrong users’ manual hinders
the spectator’s understanding that the photograph – every
photograph – belongs to no one, that he/she can become
not only its addressee but also its addressor, one who can
produce a meaning for it and disseminate this meaning further. At times and places where the civil status of the people
involved in the act of photography is impaired, a viewing of
the photographs that mines them towards reconstructing
the photographic situation is an attempt on the part of the
spectator to keep his/her side of the contract between him/
her and the photographed figure. Watching photographs
that allow a reading of injury inflicted upon others is a civic
skill. This skill is activated the moment one grasps that citizenship is not merely a status, a good, or a piece of private
property owned by the citizen but rather a tool of struggle
entrusted to oneself, that he/she has a duty to employ the
day he/she encounters photographs of injury being inflicted
upon others who are governed, along with him/her. However,
in order to make such civic use of photographs one must
already be a citizen – not just a person with citizen status
but one in possession of a civic skill with the aid of which
he seeks to negotiate the manner in which he is ruled. In
becoming a citizen one may begin using photography.
Here is a photograph, which exemplifies the civil contract of
photography. In 1988, the newspaper Hadashot sent reporter
Zvi Gilat, translator Amira Hassan, and photographer Miki
Kratsman on assignment to report on a soldiers’ post built
on the roof of the Abu-Zohir family’s house. Mrs. Abu-Zohir
demanded that the photographer take a picture of her legs,
which had been shot with rubber bullets by IDF soldiers. The
photographer – who regularly took pictures of the marks of
the Occupation left on the Palestinian body, who had seen
rubber bullet injuries before, and who was familiar with the
habitus of his editors and their expectations in regard to
photography – dismissed her request, claiming that rubber
bullets do not make good pictures. He still had not seen her
wound. His knowledge, however, was based on past experience, which was abundant. But the woman was insistent
– after all, she’s a signatory of the civil contract of photo­
graphy. She knows that her wound is singular, and that her
right to be photographed does not oblige anyone to see the
photo (and certainly cannot demand that an editor publish
p. 52
The Civil Contract of Photography
Ariella Azoulay
Miki Kratsman
Mrs. Abu-Zohir, 1988
p. 53
The Civil Contract of Photography
it). But she acts, nonetheless, as if it is her right to demand
her photo be taken, and that it is everyone’s duty to witness
it. The editor and the spectator are civilly obliged. The right
or duty does not stem from the law, but from the civil contract of photography. She is seeking to become a citizen by
means of, through, and with photography. By becoming a
citizen she enables others to become citizens. She has come
face-to-face with one citizen: the photographer. He asks to
see the wound before he fulfills her request. She refuses.
She will not expose her legs in public, her body is her own.
Her participation in the civil contract of photography is
an agreement to be photographed – not to be seen – by a
Ariella Azoulay
put an end to the photographic act. But the photo, existing
in the public space, will not allow photography to end, nor
she will alone dictate its course. This photo, from which her
silent gaze looks out at me, will not let go. Nothing has concluded, though the hour of photography has passed.
Photographer: “Show me your legs.”
Mrs. Abu-Zohir: “I won’t show you my legs. You’re not going
to see my legs.”
Photographer via translator: “Explain to her that this photo
is going to appear in the newspapers and the entire world is
going to see her legs.”
Mrs. Abu-Zohir: “A photo’s a photo. I don’t care if the photo
is seen, but you’re not going to be in the room with me when
I expose my legs.”
An agreement on photography? “Yes,” says Mrs. Abu-Zohir,
but there will be no wholesale agreement on photographerphotographed relations as the press dictates. Mrs. AbuZohir demands the picture of her wound. The photographer
prepares the camera, directs its gaze, determines the
exposure length, focuses the lens, deposits the camera in
the translator’s hands, and leaves the room. The translator
shoots an entire roll of film in order to obtain a single image,
the one in which I now stand in front of, as a spectator. Mrs.
Abu-Zohir’s bare feet are planted on the ground, pressed
to the floor, supporting the entire weight of her body as
she stands staunch and upright. She levels her gaze at the
camera – not at the photographer, he is clearly of no concern
to her – she rolls up her pants legs, pulls up her skirt, and
frames the injury. It’s as if she was saying: “I, Mrs. Abu-Zohir,
am showing you, the spectator, my wound. I am holding my
skirt like a folded screen so that you will see my wound.”
Alongside her stands a little girl, perhaps her daughter, who
feels comfortable enough to walk barefoot. She is allowed to
look. Perhaps she’s even required to look, unlike myself – the
spectator of the photo – but similar to whoever she is presently with. The girl signifies the distance between whoever
looks at her and whoever looks at the photo. Mrs. Abu-Zohir
has placed the girl beside her as a reminder – so that no
one can mistake the photo for that which is photographed
in it, but also to insure that no one will forget the continuity
between the photo and what has been photographed. Mrs.
Abu-Zohir, when she lets her skirt fall back down, seeks to
p. 54
Photo: André Morin
Emmanuelle Lainé
Sans titre, série Effet Cocktail, 2011, dimensions variables
p. 55
Sans titre, série Effet Cocktail
Emmanuelle Lainé
Photo: André Morin
p. 56
Sans titre, série Effet Cocktail
Emmanuelle Lainé
Photo: André Morin
p. 57
Sans titre, série Effet Cocktail
Emmanuelle Lainé
Photo: André Morin
p. 58
Sans titre, série Effet Cocktail
Emmanuelle Lainé
Photo: André Morin
p. 59
Sans titre, série Effet Cocktail
Emmanuelle Lainé
Photo: André Morin
p. 60
Sans titre, série Effet Cocktail
Emmanuelle Lainé
Photo: André Morin
p. 61
Thomas Hirschhorn
Why is it important — today– — to show and
look at images of destroyed human bodies?
I will try to clarify, in eight points, why it is important – today –
to look at images of destroyed human bodies like those
I have used and integrated in different works such as
Superficial Engagement (2006), The Incommensurable Banner
(2008), Ur-Collage (2008), Crystal of Resistance (2011), and
Touching Reality (2012).
important here. I want to take it as something important,
and I want to see this redundancy as a form. We do not want
to accept the redundancy of such images because we don’t
want to accept the redundancy of cruelty toward the human
being. This is why it is important to look at images of destroyed human bodies in their very redundancy.
1. Provenance
The images of destroyed human bodies are made by nonphotographers. Most of them were taken by witnesses, passersby, soldiers, security or police officers, or rescuers and
first-aid helpers. The provenance of the images is unclear
and often unverifiable; there is a lack of source in our
understand­ing of what “source” is here. This unclear provenance and this unverifiability reflect today’s unclearness.
This is what I am interested in. Often the provenance is
not guaranteed – but what, in our world today can claim a
guarantee and how can “under guarantee” still make sense?
These images are available on the Internet mostly to be
downloaded; they have the status of witnessing and were
put online by their authors for multiple and various reasons.
Furthermore, the origin of these images is not signaled;
sometimes it is confused, with an unclear, perhaps even
manipulated or stolen address, as is true of many things on
the Internet and social communication networks often are
today. We confront this everyday. The undefined provenance
is one of the reasons why it is important to look at such
3. Invisibility
Today, in the newspapers, magazines, and TV news, we
very seldom see images of destroyed bodies because
they are very rarely shown. These pictures are nonvisible
and invisible: the presupposition is that they will hurt the
viewer’s sensitivity or only satisfy voyeurism, and the pretext
is to protect us from this threat. But the invisibility is not
innocent. The invisibility is the strategy of supporting, or
at least not discouraging, the war effort. It’s about making
war acceptable and its effects commensurable, as was
formulated, for example, by Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S.
Secretary of Defense (2001-06): “Death has the tendency
to encourage a depressing view of war.” But is there really
another view to have on war than a depressing one? To look
at images of destroyed human bodies is a way to engage
against war and against its justification and propaganda.
Since 9/11 this phenomena of invisibility has been reinforced
in the West. Not to accept this invisibility as a given fact or as
a “protection” is why it is important to look at such images.
2. Redundancy
The images of destroyed human bodies are important in
their redundancy. What is redundant is precisely that such
an incommensurable amount of images of destroyed
human bodies exists today. Redundancy is not repetition,
the repetition of the same, because it is always another
human body that is destroyed and appears as such redundantly. But it’s not about images – it’s about human bodies,
about the human, of which the image is only a testimony.
The images are redundant pictures because it is redundant,
as such, that human beings are destroyed. Redundancy is
4. “Iconism-Tendency”
The tendency to “iconism” still exists, even today. “Iconism”
is the habit of “selecting”, “choosing”, or “finding” the
image that “stands out,” the image that is “the important
one,” the image that “says more,” the image that “counts
more” than the others. In other words, the tendency to “iconism” is the tendency to “highlight”; it’s the old, classical
procedure of favoring and imposing, in an authoritarian
way, a hierarchy. This is not a declaration of importance
toward something or somebody, but a declaration of importance toward others. The goal is to establish a common
importance, a common weight, a common measure. But
“Iconism-Tendency” and “highlighting” also have the effect
p. 62
Why Is It Important–today–to show and look at images of destroyed human bodies?
Thomas Hirschhorn
Thomas Hirschhorn
Touching Reality, 2012, Video still
p. 63
Why Is It Important–today–to show and look at images of destroyed human bodies?
of avoiding the existence of differences, of the non-iconic
and of the non-highlighted. In the field of war and conflict
images, this leads to choosing the “acceptable” for others.
It’s the “acceptable” image that stands for another image,
for all other images, for something else, and perhaps even
for a non-image. This image or icon has to be, of course, the
correct, the good, the right, the allowed, the chosen – the
consensual image. This is the manipulation. One example is
the image, much discussed (even by art historians), of the
“Situation-Room” in Washington during the killing of Bin
Laden by the “Navy Seals” in 2011. I refuse to accept this
image as an icon; I refuse its “iconism”, and I refuse the fact
that this image – and all other “icons” – stand for something
other than itself. To fight “Iconism-tendency” is the reason
why looking at images of destroyed bodies is important.
5. Reduction to Facts
In today’s world of facts, of information, of opinion, and
of comments, a lot is reduced to being factual. Fact is the
new “golden calf” of journalism, and the journalist wants to
give it the assurance and guarantee of veracity. But I am not
interested in the verification of a fact.
I am interested in Truth, Truth as such, which is not a verified
fact or the “right information” of a journalistic story. The
truth I am interested in resists facts, opinions, comments,
and journalism. Truth is irreducible; therefore the images of
destroyed human bodies are irreducible and resist factuality.
I don’t deny facts and actuality, but I want to oppose the
texture of facts today. The habit of reducing things to facts is
a comfortable way to avoid touching Truth, and to resist this
is a way to touch Truth. Such an acceptance wants to impose
on us factual information as the measure, instead of looking
and seeing with our own eyes.
I want to see with my own eyes. Resistance to today’s world
of facts is what makes it important to look at such images.
6. Victim-Syndrome
To look at images of destroyed human bodies is important
because it can contribute to an understanding that the
incommensurable act is not the looking; what is incommensurable is that destruction has happened in the first
place – that a human, a human body, was destroyed, indeed,
that an incommensurable amount of human beings were
destroyed. It is important – before and beyond anything
else – to understand this. It’s only by being capable of
touching this incommensurable act that I can resist the suggestive question: Is this a victim or not? And whose victim?
Or is this perhaps a killer, a torturer? Is it perhaps not about
the victim? Perhaps this destroyed human body shouldn’t be
considered and counted as a victim? To classify destroyed
human bodies as victim or not-victim is an attempt to make
them commensurable instead of thinking that all these
Thomas Hirschhorn
bodies are the incommensurable. The Victim-Syndrome is
the syndrome that wants me to give a response, an explanation, a reason to the incommensurable and finally to declare
who is “the innocent.” The only surviving terrorist in the
Mumbai killings in 2008 declared to the court where he was
sentenced to death: “I don’t think I am innocent.” I think the
incommensurable in this world has no reason, no explanation, and no response – before and beyond. In this incommensurable world, I have to refuse the commensurability of
accepting classification as victim or not-victim. I do not want
to be neutralized by what wants to make the world commensurable. To look at images of destroyed human bodies
is important because I don’t want to be resigned in facing
the Victim Syndrome.
7. Irrelevance of Quality
These images – because they were taken by witnesses – don’t
have any photographic quality.
I am interested by this. It is the confirmation that, in conditions of urgency, “quality” is not necessary. I always believed
in “Quality = No, Energy = Yes.” There is no aesthetic
approach here beyond the objective to take the image.
Concerns of quality are irrelevant facing the incommensurable. The images of destroyed bodies express this. No
technical know-how is needed. No photographer is needed.
The argument of “photographic quality” is the argument of
the one who stands apart, is not present, and who, on behalf
of the “quality” argument, expresses his distance and his
attempt to be the supervisor. But there is no supervising
anymore; what is “needed” is to be a witness, to be there,
to be here and to be here now, to be present, to be present
at the “right time” at the “right place”. Most images are
taken with small cameras, smart phones or mobile phones.
They match our way of witnessing “today’s everything” and
“today’s nothing” in daily life and making it “public”. The
irrelevance of quality of these images is an implicit critique
of “embedded” photo-journalism and journalism. This irrelevance of quality is what makes it important to look at such
8. Distantiation through “Hyper-Sensitivity”
I am sensitive and I want to be sensitive, and at the same
time I want to be awake, to pay attention. I don’t want to
take distance; I don’t want to look away and I don’t want to
turn my eyes. Sometimes I hear viewers saying, while looking at images of destroyed human bodies, “I can’t look at
this, I must not see this, I’m too sensitive.” This is a way of
keeping a comfortable, narcissistic, and exclusive distance
from today’s reality, from the world. From our world, the
unique and only world. The discourse of sensitivity – which is
actually “Hyper-Sensitivity” – is about keeping one’s comfort,
calm, and luxury. Distance is only taken by those who – with
p. 64
Why Is It Important–today–to show and look at images of destroyed human bodies?
Thomas Hirschhorn
Thomas Hirschhorn
Touching Reality, 2012, Video still
p. 65
Why Is It Important–today–to show and look at images of destroyed human bodies?
Thomas Hirschhorn
their own eyes – won’t confront the incommensurable of
reality. Distance is never a gift; it’s something taken by very
few to keep intact their exclusivity. “Hyper-Sensitivity” is the
opposite of the “non-exclusive public”. In order to confront
the world, to struggle with its chaos, its incommensurability, in order to coexist and to cooperate in this world and
with the other, I need to confront reality without distance.
Therefore it is necessary to distinguish “sensitivity”, which
means to me being “awake” and “attentive”, from “HyperSensitivity”, which means “self-enclosure” and “exclusion”.
To resist “Hyper-Sensitivity”, it is important to look at those
images of destroyed human bodies.
The “Situation-Room” in Washington
during the killing of Bin Laden by the
“Navy Seals” in 2011.
p. 66
Why Is It Important–today–to show and look at images of destroyed human bodies?
Thomas Hirschhorn
Thomas Hirschhorn
Touching Reality, 2012, Video still
p. 67
Denis Roche
Alexander Gardner
Le boîtier de mélancolie
Photographers covering the Crimean War were forbidden to show corpses
in any shape or form. Clearly the orders came from elsewhere, but we know
they were obeyed to the letter.
Ten years later it was a mad scramble to see who – in the name of moral
instructiveness – could most graphically portray the frightful carnage of the
American Civil War; and this on a new continent, where Victorian principles
held no sway.
When, at the end of hostilities, Alexander Gardner published the famous images of his Photographic Sketch Book of the War, he naively believed he was
showing “the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry.
Here are the dreadful details! Let them aid in preventing such another calamity falling upon the nation.” At Gettysburg, with its more than forty thousand
dead, he and his team were spoiled for choice.
Gardner concentrated on an area of a few dozen square meters in a hollow known as the “slaughterhouse”, between Big Round Top and Devil’s
Den, which was under constant fire from the redoubtable Confederate
Already a dedicated rearranger of reality, Gardener, along with the photographers working with him, is said to have moved this bloated corpse, together
with the rifle, tin cup and hat, several times in search of the ideal combination. Yet what strikes us now is the persisting chaos of the image; rocks,
roots, and weeds seem even more mangled, as if embodying a blackness
destined for burial. The blackish slime of death has pursued its grim work
beyond the intentions of someone we dare not call the artist, and the result
is that this nightmare-drenched setting – reminiscent of Victor Hugo’s ink
drawings – highlights a kind of freshness in the body and an overt elegance
in its pose. Which is not necessarily the effect Gardner was seeking.
p. 68
Le boîtier de mélancolie
Denis Roche
Alexander Gardner
A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 6 July 1863.
p. 69
The authors
Ariella Azoulay
Visual theorist, independent curator, and filmmaker, Ariella
Azoulay teaches visual culture and contemporary philosophy at the Program for Culture and Interpretation at Israel’s
Bar Ilan University. She is the author of several books for
photo­graphy: From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record
of Destruction and State Formation, 1947-1950 (2011), The
Civil Contract of Photography (2008); Atto di Stato – PalestinaIsraele, 1967–2007, Storia fotografica dell’occupazione (2008);
Once Upon a Time: Photography Following Walter Benjamin
(2006); and Death’s Showcase: The Power of Image in
Contemporary Democracy (2001).
For Intense Proximité, Ariella Azoulay Different Ways Not To
Say Deportation, 2011.
Jean-Marc Berlière and Pierre Fournié
Jean-Marc Berlière and Pierre Fournié are the scientific curators of the show On File? Photography and Identification from
the second Empire to the 1960s at Archives Nationales, in
Paris, 2011.
Jean-Marc Berlière is a professor of Con­temporary History
at the université de Bourgogne, Last publications: Histoire
des polices en France de l’Ancien Régime à nos jours (avec René
Lévy), éd. Nouveau Monde, 2011 and La Naissance de la
police moderne, éd. Perrin, 2011.
Pierre Fournié is head curator of patrimony, head of the
Public department at Archives Nationales.
Anna Colin
Anna Colin is a curator and critic. She has been associate
director of Bétonsalon, Paris since 2011 and is guest curator
at La Maison populaire in Montreuil for the year 2012. Prior
to relocating to Paris, she was curator at Gasworks, London
(2007-11), contributing editor for Untitled magazine (200708) and a radio programmer/presenter for Resonance
104.4FM, London (2002-06).
Thomas Hirschhorn
The Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn, was born in 1957 in
Berne. He studied at the Schule für Gestaltung, Zurich
from 1978 to 1983 and moved to Paris in 1984, where he has
been living since. His work has been exhibited in numerous
museums, galleries, and group shows, for instance the
Venice Biennale (1999), Documenta11 (2002), 27th São
Paulo Biennale (2006), and the 55th Carnegie International
(2008). With his exhibitions in museums, galleries or
alternative spaces and his specific works in public space,
Thomas Hirschhorn asserts his commitment toward a nonexclusive public. Thomas Hirschhorn has received various
awards and prizes, among others: Preis für Junge Schweizer
Kunst (1999), Prix Marcel Duchamp (2000), Joseph BeuysPreis (2004), and the Kurt Schwitters-Preis (2011). Thomas
Hirschhorn has exhibited «Crystal of Resistance» in the
swiss Pavillion of the 54th Venice Biennale 2011. For Intense
Proximity, he shows Touching Reality, 2012.
Nathalie Delbard
Nathalie Delbard is an art critic and an associate professor in the visual arts department of the université Lille 3
(France). She also teaches art history and theory at the École
Supérieure d’Art in Tourcoing (France). Her research focuses
on the processes of production, exhibition, and dissemination of contemporary photography envisaged in their historical, legal, and political dimensions. As part of her activities
within the CEAC (Center for the Study of Contemporary Arts
of the université Lille 3) research lab she is currently investigating the issue of the spatial display and perception of still
images. She is the author of Jean-Luc Moulène, a monograph
published in 2009 by Editions Petra, and is preparing a book
on the relation between images and binocular vision.
Latifa Laâbissi
Latifa Laâbissi begins contemporary dance in France before
completing her studies at the Merce Cunningham Studio
in New York. Since 1990, she works as a dancer and choreographer. She successively created Phasmes (2001), I love
like animals (2002), Love (2004) together with Loïc Touzé,
Habiter (2005), Distraction (2006) in collaboration with
Isabelle Launay. She then created and performed the solo
Self-Portrait Camouflage (2006), a piece for four performers,
Histoire par celui qui la raconte (2008) and Loredreamsong
(2010). As a dancer she worked with Jean-Claude Gallotta,
Thierry Baë, Georges Appaix, Loïc Touzé, Jennifer Lacey,
Robyn Orlin and is now collaborating with Nadia Lauro,
p. 70
Boris Charmatz, and Dominique Brun. In 2008, she created
in Rennes (France) the association Figure Project. http://
Emmanuelle Lainé
Emmanuelle Lainé was born in 1973, lives Paris. Her work
has been exhibited in numerous personnal and group shows,
among which: Manufacture, Centre d’Art contemporain, Parc
Saint-Léger, Pougues-les-eaux et John Hansard Gallery,
Southampton, Royaume-Uni (2012), The Rise and Fall of
Matter, David Robert Foundation, Camden site, Londres
(2011), Ingenium 40mcubes, Rennes (2010), Goldfingia,
Module du Palais de tokyo (2008), WANI, Fondation
d’Entreprise Ricard, Paris (2008). In Intense Proximité, she
presents a series of photographs Stellatopia, 2012.
Elisabeth Lebovici
Elisabeth Lebovici is an art critic, lecturer at EHESS (201112), and at Sciences-Po, Paris. Worked as an arts editor for
the daily newspaper Libération, (1991-2006) and has a blog:
http//le-beau-vice.blogspot.com/. Co-wrote, with Catherine
Gonnard, a history of women artists in Paris, 1880-2000’s
(Paris, Hazan, 2007). Since 2006, she co-organizes with
Patricia Falguières, Natasa Petresin-Bachelez & Hans-Ulrich
Obrist, the seminar “Something You Should Know”: artists
and producers” at EHESS, Paris.
Lili Reynaud – Dewar
Lili Reynaud – Dewar was born in 1975, she lives in Paris.
Her works has been shown in solo exhibitions such as Ceci
est ma maison / This is my place (Le magasin, Grenoble,
2012), Some Objects Blackened And A Body, Too, Galerie
Mary Mary, Glasgow (2011), Cleda’s Chairs (Bielefeld
Kunstverein, Bielefeld, 2011), Antiteater (Frac Champagne
Ardennes, Reims, 2010) and Interprétation (Kunsthalle
Basel, 2010). She has also contributed to numerous international group exhibitions, such as The Morality Series (Witte
de With, Rotterdam, 2010), [email protected] (Centre
Pompidou, Paris, 2009), Kehraus- Abschied von stabilen
Wänden (Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, 2009), or
When Things Cast No Shadow (5th Berlin Biennale, Berlin,
2008). As a writer, she has contributed to several art magazines and catalogues, she is also a co-editor of magazine
Pétunia. For Intense Proximity, Lili Reynaud -Dewar presents
Some objects blackened and a body too, 2011.
literature series “Fiction & Cie” and “Les Contemporains”.
He co-founded Les Cahiers de la Photographie with Gilles
Mora, Bernard Plossu, and Claude Nori in 1980. He is a
member of the jury of the Prix Médicis. Denis Roche has
published some twenty books since Récits complets in 1963.
Le boîtier de mélancolie (Paris, Hazan, 1999) won the André
Malraux award. He began to exhibit and publish his photographs in 1978, with Notre antéfixe – a reference in terms
of what came to be known as “photo-autobiography”. But
his anthology of texts on the photographic act, entitled La
Disparition des lucioles (1982), attracted particular attention
from the critics from which many exhibitions followed.
Ewa Małgorzata Tatar
Ewa Małgorzata Tatar (b. 1981, Poland) art historian, critic,
editor and curator. Since 2004, she collaborates with
Korporacja Ha!art as the editor of the Visual Line book
series. Since 2005, she collaborates with National Museum
in Krakow where she realized together with Dominik Kuryłek
critical institutional cycles of artists projects The Guide
(2005-2007) and Paulina’s Olowska’s Cafe Bar (2011). She
also worked as an editor of anthologies, monographies, and
Polish journals on art and visual culture. Published around
100 articles in Polish and international magazines on art,
anthologies, and exhibitions catalogues, co-author of book
on Polish art phenomena from 1990s Krótka historia Grupy
Ładnie. She is currently she finishing her dissertation on
Polish feminist art in 1970s and working on the exhibition on
Polish Land Art in Gdańsk, Poland.
Elvan Zabunyan
An art critic, historian of Contemporary Art and lecturer at
the University of Rennes 2, Elvan Zabunyan specializes in
North American art since the 1960s and notably the racial
and feminist turn of 1970. Since the early 1990s, she has
been working on cultural studies issues, postcolonial theory,
and genres, using their critical input to construct a historical
methodology of Contemporary Art centering on its cultural,
social, and political background. Black is a Color, her history of African-American art, was published in French and
English in 2004 and 2005 respectively. She is also the author
of numerous essays in collective critical works, exhibition
catalogues, and scholarly reviews.
Denis Roche
Denis Roche was born in Paris in 1937. From 1964 to 1970, he
was literary director at Editions Tchou. From 1962 to 1972, he
was a member of the management committee of the magazine Tel Quel. In 1971, he joined the editorial committee of
Editions du Seuil, where he was director of the contemporary
p. 71
William Klein
4 heads, New York 1955 / Courtesy Galerie Le Réverbère, Lyon / p. 3
Collection Centre national des arts plastiques
Edward S. Curtis
Before the Storm. Apache, 1907 / Portfolio 1, board 9 of The North American
Indians, 1907 / The New York Public Library / p. 48
Romualdo Garcia
Joaquim Mora, musician and dancer for traditional religious celebrations,
c. 1910 / Museo regional de Guanajuato / p. 8
Miki Kratsman
Mrs. Abu-Zohir, 1988 / p. 53
Archives Nationales, Paris
On File? Photography and Identification from the second Empire to the 1960s
(excerpts) / (excerpts) / French edition: Fichés ? Photographie et identification du
second Empire aux années soixante, exh. cat., Archives Nationales, Paris, 2011/
translation from French: John Tittensor / The register of “courtesans”, drawn up
at the prefecture – police headquarters – in Paris, in 1872-73 / p. 10 // Register
of obscene images seized in Paris for the vice squad, 1862-65 / p. 11,12 //Album
of photographs of criminals, March 1864 / p. 13 // Léon Cahun in Asian Turkey:
images of subjects taken frontally and in profile, 1879 / p. 15
Pierre Louÿs
Photograph from the album Louise Coletta et Amélie Palombo, 1897 / p. 17
Emmanuelle Lainé
Sans titre, série Effet Cocktail, 2011 / dimensions variables
photo : André Morin/ Courtesy Triple V, Paris / pp. 55 –61
Thomas Hirschhorn
Touching Reality, 2012 / Video still / Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal
Crousel, Paris / p. 63, 65, 67 // The “Situation-Room” in Washington during the
killing of Bin Laden by the “Navy Seals” in 2011. / p. 66
Alexander Gardner
A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 6 July 1863 / Ottawa, musée
des Beaux-Arts du Canada / p. 69
Constantin Brancusi
Princesse X, vers 1916 / épreuve aux sels d’argent 39,8 x 29,8 cm
Collection Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris / p. 19
Jean-Luc Moulène
La mer (pourLL) / Le Conquet, 08 décembre 2004 / 120 x 120 cm / p. 21
Les Filles d’Amsterdam / Laura, Amsterdam, 02 avril 2004 / 105 x 84 cm / p. 23
Les Filles d’Amsterdam / Ramona, Amsterdam, 04 avril 2004 / 140 x 110 cm / p. 25
Les Filles d’Amsterdam / Sorana, Amsterdam, 18 mars 2004 / 107 x 86 cm / p. 27
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris
Ernest James Bellocq
Sans titre, 1912 / Collection Lee Friedlander / Courtesy Freankel Gallery,
San Francisco / p. 29
The modes of surfaces: Ewa Partum’s and Teresa Tyszkiewicz’s feminist projects,
2012 / p. 33 // “Women’s Art”, 1980, ON Gallery, Poznań / courtesy de la ON
Gallery / p. 34 // Ewa Partum, Self-Identification (1980), collages, 40x50 cm /
Collection of the artist / p. 36 // Ewa Partum, Hommage à Solidarnosc,
performance, 1982, Lodz / Collection of the artist / p. 38 // Teresa Tyszkiewicz,
Day by Day, 1980, 16 mm, 15 min / Collection of the artist / p. 40 // Teresa
Tyszkiewicz, The Grain, 1980, 16 mm, 11 min / Collection of the artist / p. 42
Ewa Partum
Hommage à Solidarnosc, performance, 1982, Lodz / Courtesy of the artist / p. 35
David Hammons
Pissed Off, 1981 / © photo Dawoud Bey / p. 41
Latifa Laâbissi
Loredreamsong, 2010 / © photo Nadia Lauro / Courtesy of the artist / p. 43
Self Portrait Camouflage, 2006 / © photo Nadia Lauro / Courtesy of the artist / p. 45
p. 72
Le Journal de la Triennale #2
February 2012
Centre national des arts plastiques (CNAP)
Artistic Production Director of la Triennale
Marc Sanchez
Chief editor of the Journal #2
Émilie Renard
As part of La Triennale, Intense Proximité, 2012
Artistic director Okwui Enwezor
Associate curators
Mélanie Bouteloup, Abdellah Karroum, Émilie Renard,
Claire Staebler
Contributed to this issue
Ariella Azoulay, Jean-Marc Berlière and Pierre Fournié, Anna Colin,
Thomas Hirschhorn, Nathalie Delbard, Latifa Laâbissi, Emmanuelle Lainé,
Elisabeth Lebovici, Ewa Małgorzata Tatar, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Denis Roche,
Elvan Zabunyan.
Translations from French
Alan Eglinton: Anna Colin & Latifa Laâbissi
James Gussen: Nathalie Delbard
Christopher Silva: Elisabeth Lebovici, Elvan Zabunyan John Tittensor: Jean-Marc Berlière et Pierre Fournié, Denis Roche, Émilie Renard
Proof readings
Caryl Swift: Ewa Małgorzata Tatar
Uta Hoffman: Journal #2
Graphic design g.u.i
La Triennale, 2012
Intense Proximité
Palais de Tokyo
Musée Galliera
Instants Chavirés
Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers
Musée du Louvre
From April 20th through August 26, 2012
La Triennale is organized at the initiative of the ministère de la Culture
et de la Communication / Direction générale de la création artistique,
commissioned, by the Centre national des arts plastiques (CNAP),
associate commissioner, and the Palais de Tokyo, producer.
p. 73