Audio work Zypresse
Zypresse // Cypress (2016)
Audio work, Time 14' 40'', spoken by Esther Becker, Soundcomposition Simon Grab
Françoise Caraco and Simon Grab have staged a text collage as an audio piece about the cypress tree, acoustically and visually performed by them in the Botanic Garden.
The cypress has become the subject of myths and classification systems; here it appears in the present scene as a ‘concrete plant’. Set against the backdrop of the Botanic Gardens the audio track invites the listeners to take an imaginary journey in time spans[i1] around the Mediterranean.
Forgotten in Remembering
Vergessen im Erinnern // Forgotten in Remembering (2016)
Photo projection, HD 16:9, time 15' 25", colour, sound
When Françoise Caraco reminisces about her year in Paris, she says: ‘I’m homesick for the city in which I spent a year feeling like a stranger.’ A series of 80 shots are projected and commented with an offstage voice. In the first person Caraco talks about Paris, which for her remains a place she stayed in temporarily, comments on spontaneous impressions and juxtaposes singular moments with general situations: ‘My studio in the sunshine; actually in rained all summer long’, or adds tersely, ‘Some photos I quite simply like.’
Altogether there are 1900 photos, taken ‘lightly and quickly’ with a Smartphone. The resulting effect is that not each and every shot is a remembrance – not the place, not the mood, not one’s own presence there. It is equally a well-known effect that sifting through photos evokes other emotions than those felt when and where they were taken. Photographing appropriates the exotic, supplemented with one’s own memories becomes transiently part of oneself, and is ultimately mirrored in the work realised by Françoise Caraco under the title Vergessen im Erinnern.
Text: Ruth Horak
About a Duck Pond and the Rappenloch Gorge
Von Ententeich und Rappenloch // About a Duck Pond and the Rappenloch Gorge (2016)
45 A5 index cards
Map printout 95cm x 45cm, corresponding localized markings
A number of laser-print copies in various sizes
Audio track, time 2' 20"
As an outside artist I visit Glarus in a search for places of memory that no longer exist as spatial phenomena. The crucial thing to me when I ask the people of Glarus about the places they associate with their own memories is the relationship of the space to remembered reality.
My work in the Gepäckausgabe in Glarus documents less the scenes of a ‘bigger’ history of Glarus, and instead the search for the spaces that emerge from the subjective accounts of individual inhabitants – mostly only for a fleeting moment – as they leaf through the stories collected by me on A5 index cards.
The stories recounted are linked to the respective corresponding locations in Glarus on a map with green markers so that, as far as possible, each of these places is additionally indicated as ‘an existing site’. Further ‘exhibited enactments of reminiscences’ are a collection of photos on a green wall, drawings and an audio track with guitar riffs kindly provided to me by those who recounted the stories.
Audio work, Bildersturm
Bildersturm // Iconoclasm (2015)
Four iPod shuffles, four sets of headphones
Audio installation, 14'40'', loop
In Bildersturm, Françoise Caraco invites the visitor to experience for him or herself a theatre piece set in the space of a church with various protagonists through their own mind’s eye. Caraco defines the stage as the nave, the pulpit, the rood-screen and the mighty cathedral organ that rests upon it. The speakers are the culture enthusiasts Astrid and Max along with Mark, a guest from abroad, as well as Esther the enquirer and the voices from the gallery. The text that can be heard via the headphones is a series of online readers’ comments collected by the artist from articles dealing with the current critical problem of the destruction of artworks in battle-torn regions. In so doing she allows opinions, statements and questions highlighted within them to emerge. Additionally she includes details of the events of the iconoclastic fervour in Basel as documented from the turmoil of the Protestant Reformation around 1529.
With her work Françoise Caraco draws attention to the fact that the eradication of images and the destruction of cultural objects is a continuous leitmotif in human history. Such an obliteration of artefacts that serve as vehicles for identity is a highly symbolic act, aimed at wounding the self-worth of a people or a religious group.
The text, spoken by Esther Becker, is accompanied with subtle organ tones and sounds from sound artist Simon Grab.
Françoise Caraco (b. 1972) comes from Basel and lives in Zurich. The basis of her artistic work is research into family histories, historical events and places steeped in history. In her texts, audio works, video works and installations she interweaves fact and fiction so as to forge a connection to the pressing topics of today.
Drancy, Memories of Lives
Ausschnitt Video, Drancy, mémoires, à vif
Drancy, mémoires à vif // Drancy, Memories of Lives (2015)
Video, HD 16:9, time 13' 44'', colour, audio
For a number of years Françoise Caraco has occupied herself with her family history in her work. As a descendant of an immigrant Jewish family to Basel at the beginning of the nineteen-hundreds, like many others her history has been marked by the Holocaust that cost a number of her relatives their lives. As an artist, Françoise is interested in the entanglement of personal stories, imaginary tales and collective historical awareness. In her current work, like many other descendents of Jewish families, she traces the imprints of her origins. Letters, photographs, stories and documents lead her to the Drancy internment camp outside Paris, which nearly all French Jews passed through prior to their deportation.
The unique systematization of the genocide – the inescapable net of the bureaucratic rationale of the persecution of the Jews – is crudely mirrored in the rational modernism of the housing project (Cité de la Muette), which even prior to the defeat of France had been converted into a prison. Used as an internment campy by the Vichy government, the complex not only has an architecture-historical importance but houses residents again and is presently undergoing rebuilding to return it to its original function as social housing. Over the course of decades various memorials have been installed in front of the courtyard of the U-shaped building complex, the last being a deportation railway freight carriage donated by the French railway company. As recently as 2012 François Hollande officiated at the inauguration of a lavishly laid-out Shoah Memorial Centre opposite the site. The new building for the project was financed with monies from the unclaimed assets of Holocaust victims.
Walking around the courtyard behind the deportation carriage, now echoing with everyday life, it requires a considerable leap of imagination to be able to picture the scenes that once took place here. Realities, times clash. The residential building complex is not accessible. In Françoise Caraco’s eyes it is the run-down park at the end of the courtyard where the mood of the place is best captured. The stretch of green is barely used, looks untended, as if pervaded by a strange sense of bodily trepidation, shame. Even in the moment of one’s own physical presence there, the experience is dominated by the templates of received narratives, or equally the pre-configured perceptions formed by historical photos that permanently transmit themselves, filtered through vague insights into the history of one’s own predecessors and the notions derived from them. As the video work shows, this mediation results in still and personal reflection coupled with a gazing around the scene. An ‘active commemoration’ that distils one of the effects of the Holocaust for the descendents: a paranoid whispering – an everywhere out there whispering – soliloquy; a glance answered by the world with forbidding; a cultural unease. With her work Françoise the artist finds a stable form for this snare-like shadow on reality. She spent a year, together with her family, researching the project in Paris, where under the Nuremberg Laws she would likewise have been persecuted and deported.
Text: Oliver Caraco
Audio work: Grossvaters Dokumente, 2015
Grossvaters Dokumente // Grandfathers Documents (2015)
Space installation, 2 Videoprojektionen, audiowork and transcript
Video, HD 16:9, 16'29''/ 20'23'', Audio work, 9'54'' spoken by Esther Becker
The ‘I’ in History.
The image would be the same. Were a historian to be filmed at work from behind it would probably look similar to the dual-channel video installation by Françoise Caraco: researching in front of the computer for sources, information, references that are then assembled to form a historical narrative. What, therefore, distinguishes an artist like Françoise Caraco from a historian? Precisely the fact that she films herself working, while a historian leaves the story he or she tells to speak for itself, or perhaps even allows themselves to become invisible behind it. Perhaps nowadays it is obvious that not only stories get authored, but that history itself does too – by ostensibly all-knowing narrators, from a specific perspective, with very definite interests. It comes as no surprise that history as a discipline is sometimes still taught as if its texts were engraved in stone, prescribed from a higher authority.
Françoise Caraco is on a par, if not better than a historian. A transcript of her encounter with a member of staff from a Paris archive dedicated to collecting source material on missing Jewish persons makes it apparent just how scrupulously Caraco undertook her search for her grandfather’s French relatives during her stay in France. The photographs and documents left by her grandfather have now become a part of the archive. Nevertheless, Caraco is not a historian. She recounts stories in the first person – in a text transmitted via headphones. In this narrative she herself passes the ‘mur des noms’ of the Mémorial de la Shoah – located directly opposite her temporary Paris studio, and which she likewise shows in her film footage – and reads the engraved names of the disappeared. And, importantly, she shows herself at work. The ‘I’ in Caraco’s form of history is written large.
Artists have learnt a lot from historians. But what can historians learn from artists? One example is that video – a predominant medium in this exhibition – can also serve to recount history. And that one can hide oneself behind a camera as easily as one can hide oneself behind an authoritarian authorship that excludes the first person. But there is nothing inevitable about this, as Françoise Caraco demonstrates in text and film.
Text: Daniel Morgenthaler for the exhibition Geschichten in Geschichte (Histories in History), curated by Daniel Morgenthaler, Helmhaus Zurich, 2015
Der Schrei // The Scream
Audio work, Der Schrei, Shilquai 55, Zürich
Der Schrei // The Scream (2015)
Audio work: time 3' 12", in loop, spoken by Esther Becker
Francoise Caraco’s (b.1972) audio work Der Schrei refers to the eponymous painting by Edvard Munch, described in the audio work as ‘an allegory of the modern’ and ‘one of the most expensive paintings of all time’. The masterpiece is quoted at other more subtle levels through the oval shape of the loudspeakers and through the intrinsic act of speaking and listening. The audio recording includes a discussion of the commercialization of the scream icon, which reached a climax with the horror film Scream and the subsequent spread of the film’s hallmark mask. By including the history of the reception of the famous painting, Caraco’s new work reflects on the subject of the scream as well as fundamental ideas such as originality and copy; private ownership and public use; and cultural heritage, commercialism, the art market and record prices.
Text: Alessandra da Ruggieri, Daniela Mineboo