Les Témoins de Cahors
The Witnesses of Cahors
Cahors, France 1998
During the week that preceded the verdict of the trial of Maurice Papon, Jochen Gerz interviewed 48 women from the city of Cahors, in the area of Bordeaux. Maurice Papon, a high-ranking official in the Vichy government and a post-war minister, was accused of the deportation of many Jews from the Bordeaux area. The 48 female residents chosen were all over 70 years old and thus belonged to the same generation as Papon.

During these conversations, Gerz asked them What is the truth? Parts of the answers were mounted with the portrait photograph of each participant. The portraits were shown on public billboards in the city of Cahors and ten of the portraits were reproduced in a special edition of the daily newspaper La Dépêche du Midi and in the German edition of Le Monde Diplomatique.

The truth lies also in what you are not able to do any more, what you would like to be able to do, the knowledge of things. This is memory. The elders have to pass on what they know.

… The truth, what is this abstraction? Everyone has his/her own truth. To live depends on the conditions.

Object: Billboard posters, 119 x 174 cm each, large transparencies, publications in newspapers. Published edition of 48 photo portraits with mounted text (Domberger Edition).
In cooperation with students from the Ecole des Beaux Arts of Toulouse.

Gerz, from his earliest works, has sought to link recollected experience to our present-day realities, through notions of historical reconstructions of memory modulated by the continual flux of doubt. He consistently avoided reconciliation of different histories, constructed from distinctly different vantage points, that form singular, unifying conclusions. Each work was seemingly irreducible to the categories, types, or genres familiar within contemporary art practice. Gerz’s work and that of his contemporaries crossed over into the realm of events, processes, and experiences in a desire to transform the viewer into an “author". Gerz reverses a classical aesthetic by pushing fiction back with real time events and everyday politics.
Gary Dufour in: Jochen Gerz, People Speak,
Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada, 1994, p.11

- Les Témoins de Cahors, Actes Sud, Arles 1998 (French)

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Additional article - see link below:
Témoigner pour faire mémoire du réel, Réflexions sur l’oeuvre de Jochen Gerz
by Gilles Guigues, 2015
© Pierre Lasvenes