Didier Morin - Fontevrault 1982

Didier Morin - Fontevrault 1982

Opening: Wednesday, July 6, 19H

Exhibition duration: July 7 - 16, 2011
Thursday – Saturday 14 – 18H

Didier Morin - Fontevrault 1982, film still

Fontevrault 1982, Filmstill

In the course of about ten years, the French artist Didier Morin followed the biographical and geographical trails of among others the writer Jean Genet. During these years Morin, who lives in Marseille, did not only trace the travel routes and the places of Genet, he also sought out the surviving social contacts of the French writer in order to capture their accounts in image and text. The results of these approaches are films, photographs, texts and publications. The regularly published magazine "Mettray" records in a plain black-and-white design Morin's geographical and social experiences on the trail of not only Genet but also Yves Klein. It consists of texts and images by Morin himself, as well as contributions by artists and other persons whom he met during his travels and research. Mettray, the infamous young offender institution, was one of the penal complexes in which Genet – the orphan, the runaway, the vagabond, the deserter, the thief, the hustler – was imprisoned, fled from, was captured and again incarcerated in, in his youth. Genet described his experiences in various institutions of incarceration in the novel Miracle de la rose. The prison sanctioned all kinds of deviant behaviour, especially homosexuality, while at the same time life within these walls was so strongly characterised by a same-gender sexuality, which demanded both subversion and submission.

Mettray is situated in the Tourraine, the province where Morin comes from. He grew up close to the penitentiary. Here originates his connection with Genet's biography.

Didier Morin - Fontevrault 1982, Installation shots

The exhibition

Gitte Bohr presents a solo exhibition with Didier Morin centred on the film Fontevrault 1982. The film manifests Morin's first attempt at approaching Genet and the enclosed social environments, which had been influential on Genet's work and life. It later turned out that this approach lacked in biographical accuracy. Nonetheless this artistic investigation would not lack of substance inherent to Genet's work:

In the early 1980s, the young Morin contacted Jean Genet in order to ask him about his time in the prison Fontevrault. Morin assumed, falsely, that Genet had been incarcerated there, as it had served, together with Mettray, as model for his autobiographical novel Miracle de la rose. Genet denied having ever been imprisoned there and would not comment on the query. Morin's later research would affirm this statement. Anyway, the descriptions of this enclosed social environment, whether biographical or fictional, are impressive descriptions of one of the most repressive institutions of the disciplinary society. Before the experience of the society of control, it stood for an isolated, monolithic power, which succeeded so little in colonising the soul, that the prisoner was conceded freedom of the spirit, in spite of physical imprisonment.

Didier Morin - Fontevrault 1982, Installation shots

The exhibition

After having been brushed off by Genet, the young Morin decided to enter the closed prison in the buildings of the former monastery Fontevrault anyway and in spite of prohibited entry. Only equipped with a camping lamp and a super-8 camera and guided by a former inmate, he here filmed the graffitis the prisoners had made on the cell walls. In their drabness, they are staggeringly simple manifestations of the imprisoned body.

Emerging from the darkness, this ghost film shows spirits from a past that mirrors itself in the present; a present in which we have made flexible the forms of disciplining, which the film refers to. The horror that resides in this ghost film, unfolds itself fully when we realise that exactly these prison cells exist today in our minds.

Didier Morin’s film Fontevrault 1982 premiers on July 3rd 2011 in Haus der Kulturen der Welt, in the framework of the festival Rencontres internationales. Subsequently, the film can be seen in the exhibition at Gitte Bohr from July 6 at 19H.