Grébert (Marion) : Traverser l’invisible

This book, which covers a long history of female figurations, is organized around an unprecedented event, when the birth of photography allowed a number of women to seize a medium through which they could finally represent themselves and each other from the second half of the nineteenth century. The acquired power of self-figuration for these women contrasts in an extraordinary way with their position as models prevailing for millennia. Invoking little girls, mothers, night-lights, lovers, brides, enigmatic strangers, and revenants, the book writes a critical account of this major event that is both historical and personal. It explores how these photographic self-portraits, foremost among them those of American artists Francesca Woodman and Vivian Maier, help us through the trials of separation, death, and time, in a spirit of immortal creative joy.

2022 / 16x20cm / 256 p. / ISBN : 978-2-85035-084-9

Date de publication : 5 juillet 2022

Francesca Woodman and Vivian Maier are now the proper names for two photographic works of self-portraiture that have generated a mythology of their conditions of creation and posthumous becoming - the first because of her suicide at the age of twenty-two and the second because of the abundance of film left behind, most of it undeveloped. These two personal destinies are brought together and compared here for the first time, with the intention of showing that they are in fact part of a destiny of female figures that goes beyond them and that they reveal at the same time.
This destiny, according to the historian Michelle Perrot, can be defined as follows : while women are represented by the thousands in the images since we make them, the knowledge that we can have of their lives throughout history remains extremely limited. They are absent from the majority of written sources because of their exclusion from the spheres of power, and therefore from the spaces where we keep track of events. This work exposes the hypothesis that this tug-of-war between a very great figurative visibility and a very great historical invisibility would contain the formula of a feminine being-in-the-world that women becoming authors of a personal work from the end of the 18th century would recover and reinvent in the form of an art de disparaître. This would be particularly manifest with the advent of photography and the self-portrait. In our context of ecological upheaval and the conceivable end of our species, this art would constitute a powerful cultural remedy allowing us to understand how to continue to work while finding positions of withdrawal and of lesser affectation of our environments. In other words, the photographic works of self-portraiture by Francesca Woodman and Vivian Maier would be a way of learning to live with the anxiety of our possible collective disappearance. The book invokes other figures around them to help us do so, such as the American poet Emily Dickinson.
A certain current in art history and museum institutions has tended since the 2000s to gather works according to the criterion that they are made by women. This book offers an original approach to the deep iconographic and historical reasons that have never been invoked and that can indeed justify a gendered understanding, not so much of women’s works as of female figurations in our very long culture of images since the drawings and statuettes of the Upper Paleolithic - because they confront us with the two mysteries of our birth (which women give) and of our death (which they guard).

Marion Grébert is an alumnus of the École normale supérieure de Lyon, from both the arts department (film studies and theater studies) and the comparative literature section. She holds a doctorate in art history from the Sorbonne and is a graduate of the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. She is currently conducting post-doctoral research in aesthetics. Although she was trained to work on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, she reflects on modernity taken in a long time of images, by crossing various approaches (iconology, cultural history, anthropology, epistemology). She is particularly interested in the way in which our will to make images (from paleolithic parietal drawings to the conceptual avant-garde works of the second half of the 20th century) corresponds to a desire to experience disappearance. This interest has now been extended to contemporary ecological issues.
Her career is characterized by the importance of literature and especially poetry in his historical approach to the arts as well as in his own artistic practices, notably photography for over fifteen years. The quest for the invention of a personal writing is what gathers his different activities and his varied positions between university, art fields and crafts, where a certain academic discipline tries to combine with sensitive intuition.

Foreign Rights

L’Atelier contemporain attempts to publish books of art and literature and books which associate artists and writers, with the concern to revive a dialogue between the literary and plastic arts.
The ambition is to explore the « paths of the création » through five collections gathered within the company : essays on art, written by artists, conversations and correspondences, monographs, and literature.

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