Performative Exploration, Documentation, Sketch
In September 2021 I had been invited to a 3-week residency near Die, a small village in Southern France. After over a year of pandemic measures, limited travel and social life this was my first journey to a foreign country and the set-up promised a change of scenery and swapping my city habits for those of a more rural setting. We had agreed on a small presentation right at the end of my time there.
Still under the impression of the forced „pause“ or immobilisation that the pandemic of 2020/2021 has meant for many people (in the industrial nations) for this episode I used the three weeks of my presence there as a framing device for an open-ended pursuit, marking it as both temporary and transitory, bracketing a break. Using movement and photography as my primary investigative methods I explored an unknown territory of another kind – a rural setting in Southern France where the rest of the world seemed far away. At a later stage text and texture were added.
Departing from a collection of local anecdotes which feature several solitary women the resulting array oscillates between a story about Die and not about Die at all and invites the viewer to contemplate the relation of subject and world, individual and society, agency, dislocation, ignorance, pain, the shadow of death and the continuous flowing of the water in a river. Last but not least it ponders about autonomy, solitude, loneliness and alterity. The project will be re-staged in an evolved state at a later point of time (Winter/Spring 2022) together with a short artist publication.
Postcard View of Die taken from Croix de Justin
with Bibendum (The Michelin Man),
Die is a village with a population of around 5000 people located in the Diois area of the department Auvergne Rhone Alpes at the northern part of the Provence and South of the Vercors plateau. In roman times it was populated by the celtic tribes of the Vocontii. The name Die may derive from the gallic-roman Goddess of victory and battle Andarta (Dea Augusta Vocontiorium). Relics from roman times are still rather present. Later Die became a episcopal city with a cathedral. Under the influence of Swiss traders the city became influenced by protestantism which during the religious wars, resulted in the displacement of a notable number of people to Switzerland and Germany.
Nowadays the region presents itself as a nature and sports tourism destination and agricultural centre with an emphasis on sustainable farming.
The Echo and the Shadow
My main line of activity was to imagine how – under these somewhat controlled conditions – one would approach, discover, appropriate that what is unknown. Alas, as an explorer and in the attempt to (re)learn the French language I ventured to find what was out there, neatly along mundane, everyday common-sense categories:
The river, the mountain, the village, the house, the street ..
The Donkey and the Shadow
Practising empathy // It is by far too hot today // Not moving an inch // How could you possibly fall in love with your mirror-image? // He is not called Balthazar.
Whilst walking and cycling through these surroundings one gathers impressions, not all as blinding as one of these late summer days – and whilst stumbling and poking for hints, a story forms, darkness lurks, ambivalence gathers and amongst fairy tales, memories of some of the lonely women of the area emerge and are submerged again.
What goes up, must come down (Down at the River)
Strangely, after a while, I noticed a book that was sitting on the table of the open air studio. Noone knows how it came to be there. Its cover decorated with a bouquet of flowers and a snail’s shell, it bore the title „Loin de vous ce printemps“ and even a beginner of the French language would guess the longing it entails. As it turns out it was a book by the British author Mary Westmacott, better known as Agatha Christie and the title a quote of a sonnet by William Shakespeare. The book unsparingly, one might even say, cruelly, tells the story of a middle-aged, rather self-content woman, who is forced to face herself for the first time in her life when she is unexpectedly held-up at a guest house in a foreign country. The truth is not easy to bear. A constellation that may not seem unfamiliar after all. The title for this project also derives from this book that alludes to so many missed opportunities and conversations:
It were poems, walks and a chance conversation that have set off many of the protagonist’s unusual train of thought. In one especially poignant scene of a non-conversation the protagonist’s husband notes:
„“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May … but it’s October now, isn’t it?“
It was such an extraordingary thing to say that she had stared at him. Then he said: „Do you know the other one? The one about the marriage of true minds?““
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98: From you have I been absent in the spring
From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight
Drawn after you, – you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.