Features

Carolle Bénitah

I started taking photographs in the early 2000s after very strong personal challenges. The fragile dimension of life came upon me and photography worked as an existential crutch.

Text Carolle Bénitah
All images Courtesy by the artist

Faced with a reality that is difficult to grasp – such as illness in the series “Self-Portrait with the Red Curtain” (2002), or in the series “A bed of roses” (2001-2008), photography has acted as a new body of meaning. From the beginning, I placed my practice in the field of intimacy; the family and the passing of time were the objects of my research. Today, my work leads to more open topics such as filial ties, desire, loss, mourning and the confinement of women and touching the universal.

“Photos Souvenirs” is a work that I undertook between 2009 and 2014 on my personal archives. Snapshots are related to memory and loss and often attest to family happiness. I created an imaginary album as a crossing of appearances where I deconstruct the myth of the ideal family to let emerge a more nuanced image. And to do this, I use the deceptively decorative function of embroidery to give these images a different meaning they had in family mythology and to do something liberating. My needle works, which are reminiscent of conflict, drama and pain, summon the dark matter of family history, which is precisely absent from these photographs. This slow and precise work is the metaphor of a meticulous construction of oneself and of passing time.

I cultivate a protean approach to creation by developing installations around the series “Photos souvenirs” and “Fantômes”. I create books in which I embroider memories, paper mats that evoke the obsession, cushions that tell the stories of Tom Little Thumb … and through which I question the identity, the construction of oneself. I use materials that are in the domestic world (placemats, a handkerchief with an embroidered monogram, tea towel, sheet …) and often embroiders on phrases from popular songs, and dreams of young romantic girls to denounce the clichés of sentimentality blue flower. Through the trivial objects that I create and embroider, I overthrow the hierarchy of the arts. In 2013,

“What cannot be said” and “What cannot be seen” are series from my ID photographs. The philosopher Jacques Derrida wrote: “What cannot be said should certainly not remain silent but written”. Here, writing and drawing are a form of resistance to silence. I speak of women’s silence about their desires and the difficulty of accepting their bodies as desiring objects.

“Ideal Standard” (ongoing project) questions the ritual of Marriage in my culture of origin and denounces the desire to submit to the norm and to follow a ready-made model in order to reach socially acceptable happiness or to his social environment.

Art has a cathartic function for me. It is a way of overcoming hardships, going beyond earthquakes, and standing up. The artist Louise Bourgeois says: “Every day, you have to get rid of your past. If we can not, then we become an artist. There are two ways to get rid of one’s past: either one takes all the traces and one throws it in the trash and that does not exist anymore. Either we take these traces and transform them. The very act of transforming these traces modifies my vision of the world.

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