When I thought about what might be a trace and how to treat it in printmaking, the infinity of the subject matter gradually dawned on me. Traces can be inorganic or organic, permanent or ephemeral, and everything in between. They may take forms perceptible with one of our 5 traditional senses, or several at a time. Or they may be imperceptible to humans, unless they use tools to detect or measure them, devise models to describe them, or yet they will become known only when one opens up to one's intuition, to energy.
Traces Intro 2
Organic traces are of plant, animal or human origin. If they are of human origin, they may be voluntary or involuntary, made consciously or not, take concrete forms or exist only in the form of ideas, including thoughts about oneself, as on one's thinking. Of all these examples I tried to express its diversity in the choice of these five etchings.
The back and forth in my bathroom
During a live drawing session in the studio, the model lacked movement. However I had a nice view of his feet and made the sketch that formed the origin of this engraving. Our wet bare feet leave multiple and temporary marks. These that are visible, are quick to disappear.
In 2013-2014 I made 6 lino-cuts of resistance fighters who fought in the Haute Savoie (France) during WW II. This included one of Paul Lespine. Paul was seriously injured during his first fight, captured, tortured and murdered by a gun shot in the back. This is a copper engraving of Paul linked to the notion of time, the effect of wind on the water that is always similar yet different: Let's forever remember Paul, who died in defense of France at just 18 years old.
While walking in the woods on the mountainside behind my house, a "cluster" of mushrooms illuminated by the setting sun caught my attention. These fungi released their fertile spores in a cloud where they mingled with the vapours escaping from the wet ground; fleeting traces of the periodic renewal of life.
The writing of Anne Frank emerges from the shadows
When Anne Frank began her diary, her first paragraph written on June 12th, 1942 began as follows: "I hope I can confide to you everything, as I haven't been able to do to anyone, and I hope you will be a great support to me."
Later, when Anne learned through radio London that after the war the government would publish a selection of diaries written by compatriots on their experiences in the occupied country, she wanted her diary to be part of this selection. What she had started as a secret diary turned into a most deliberate example of human traces; that is, a handwritten record for posterity.
The old rafter structure was essentially the only part of the building of interest to the architect of the Monuments of France. For him it represented a priority trace of the past, made with the knowledge and tools of yesteryear. A work, irregular, without a drawn and described plan, but the lasting fruit of experience.
A friend told me that she saw it as a metaphor for the construction of our understanding of complex things, the sequence of our successive thoughts - traces of a mental construction.
Back in 1998, in the UNHCR office in Hargeisa, Somaliland, met with Evelin Lindner. She did her research on the dynamics of humiliation as a factor at both personal and societal levels of promoting (further) violence and war. Obviously Somalia, Somaliland and Rwanda were the main focus of our discussions at the time. We stayed in touch. Evelin and her friends meanwhile founded “Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies” - http://www.humiliationstudies.org - a global trans-disciplinary network and fellowship of concerned academics, practitioners, activists, artists, and many others. The network aims to stimulate systemic change, globally and locally, to open space for dignity, for mutual respect and esteem to take root and grow. Its goal is ending humiliating practices, preventing new ones from arising, and fostering healing from humiliation cycles throughout the world.
Humiliation - Human Dignity Introduction (2)
When Evelin saw some of my work in 2014 she asked me whether I could do something on the theme “humiliation - human dignity”. Once I focussed on the subject I noticed humiliation much more often than before, in the behavior of individuals of all stripes, in misinformed collective behavior as well. This realization contributed to the making of this series of engravings. I could have made very many different choices and chose what resonated with me most. There are many more engravings burgeoning in my head, but - may be - it is time to move on, while for always, committed to the subject and likely to take it up in some form again.
Coup d’Etat 1973 in Chile (1) - The military
This engraving is to be seen in conjunction with Coup d’Etat 1973 in Chile (2) - Victor Jara
Together they depict the opposition between the brutal action of the Chilean army, soldiers masked by the anonymity and power that wearing their uniforms and carrying their weapons affords them, face to face with the single singer whose only weapons are his guitar, his voice and words.
Victor Jara (1932-1973) was a singer-song writer. He was arrested at the Tecnica during the coup of September 11, 1973, imprisoned and tortured, initially at the Estadio Chile and thereafter at the Estadio Nacional, along with many thousands of others. Jara wrote the poem "Estadio Chile" (also known as Canto qué mal me sabes) denouncing the coup. This poem remained unfinished because Víctor Jara was recognized by the military and quickly separated from other prisoners. He was assassinated on September 15th, after having had his fingers cut off with an ax.
The desperate act of self-immolation by Mohamed Bouazizi brought back memories of others who did so before him. As well as the long painful evolution that leads someone to choose to commit suicide in the most atrocious manner imaginable. Is it a last gesture to transform the humiliation suffered into a change of the world for the better for them who stay behind ? Attempts to capture this in a suitable manner escaped me. Therefore, less dramatic images have inspired me to make “Arab Spring”. Moments of hope, of doubts, fear and anger, moments, full of confusion and difficult to transform into progress intermingle. Hands are raised, yet open before they transform themselves into fists in the absence of a new and more equitable balance.
I am those who are free and never fear, I am the secrets that will never die, I am the voice of those who would not give in, I am the meaning amid the chaos, I am the right of the oppressed, That is sold by these dogs, Who rob the people of their daily bread, And slam the door in the face of ideas ........
The innumerable deaths, victims of chemical weapons, of ferocious indiscriminate combat along multiple lines, aerial bombings. The miraculous survivor, apparently unhurt but marked forever, who emerges from the ruins, the father who repeats an act, countless times performed in so many conflicts, attempting to save his daughter, without having anywhere to go with her.
The right to seek asylum - part of a millennia old and universal tradition and the duty to protect are in question, as is our humanity, when labelling them as “migrants”, closing borders, refouling them towards the very dangers to their survival that they’ve escaped from. Why ? Why now ?
Who are they ? What are they thinking ? A number of bankers and politicians and their acolytes, behind the impeccable facades of stainless steel and reinforced glass, beyond security desks and armed personnel. Too big to fail, they wear equally impeccable suits, demanding respect. Too frequently they make up their own rules, gaming the playing field through complexity and deceit.
And who are they ? And what are they thinking ? The majority, who are by and large law-abiding and mostly powerless. They were and often still are unaware of the parallel realities that engulf them, which make a mockery of our democracies, of the very foundations of justice for all, including the notion that we are all created equal, with inalienable rights …….
P.S.: I did not intend picturing a burning US flag. The forms represent several Greek flags agitated - as a reference to the Greek national identity being crushed - by the demonstrating pensioners etc, whose livelihoods have been lowered to below existence levels, .......