the fragility of nature
The Deyrolle Room
Musée de la Chasse & de la Nature
Exhibition : November 4 to 13, 2008
On February 1, 2008, a terrible fire destroyed most of the furnishings and zoological collections of Deyrolle. Photographers and artists reacted at once with a desire to produce works to be sold at an auction, whose proceeds would be donated to the restoration of Deyrolle. Christie’s held the auction at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris on November 13, 2008.
When a fire ravaged Deyrolle on February 2008, destroying most of the stuffed animals, insects and shells, the owner, Louis-Albert de Broglie, asked his artist friends to react to the tragedy. Most of them chose to portray the victims. I decided to make a portrait of the culprit, i.e., the fire.
I chose a burned leaf of parquet upon which the progression of the fire could be seen. Then I took a delicate print of the tiny channels, reliefs and veins of its surface as a way of recapturing the brief space of time during which the fire had rapidly licked at the wood.
To accomplish this, I chose a sheet of very thin Japanese paper (“koshi tengujo”) made from very long fibers. Once moistened, it would adhere perfectly to the wood and would not crack as it dried. I applied a sheet of this paper to the burned surface of the wood. When it had dried, I applied layer after additional layer, in the same way, at regular intervals, for several days in a row.
The traces and progressive marks of the fire adhered to the paper and became part of its very matter, turning it into a kind of X-ray. They were a way of recovering the speed of the fire as it carried everything away with it.