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Costumes and Collages.

These collages are part of the costume designs made for a production of Les Pecheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) by Georges Bizet, staged by Vincent Boussard at the Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg. The opera chorus was dressed in the first act as austere 19th-century Daumier-like characters. To this constricted-looking fashion of the Second Empire, in the last act, were added bejewelled turbans, precious saris and shawls, jewels, pearls and plumes in shades of ink and silver that enlivened the dullness of the dreary European clothes. Thus the caricature of a French petit bourgeois audience (the set represented a theatre with boxes surrounding the stage) turned into a glittering nocturnal gathering, a maharaja's retinue, a paradoxically colourless East. I had spent much time looking at the fascinating daguerreotypes taken in those days both in the East and the West; the images met and collided in my mind, and led to these collages from which we designed the costumes of this classical repertoire opera with its air de bravoure (bravura) so dear to the French.

The 18th and 19th centuries (and up to our days might we say) were inebriated on exoticism, the nostalgia for an imaginary elsewhere. People had waking dreams taken out of One Thousand and One Nights, carrying to the other side of the world all its impossible fantasies. I myself was fascinated with an edition I had been given as a child on a day of illness. It was richly illustrated with lithesome, delicate and charming characters I was in love with, or awful, dreadful and magnificent ones, forever terrifying. Illustrations looking almost like illuminations, the spell of which has never left me, and that doubtless haunted the costumes of this opera. For a long time, Europe has only retained of the East the form, the foam, the surface of things, and even then in a very fanciful way. Imbibing in the end very little of the depth, the philosophy and the spirituality lacking so direly in our world.

This doublespread is from one of the scrapbooks I used to compile in the early 2000s, meticulously and with relish every Sunday after clipping images out of the weekly magazines. I do not believe in coincidence, but rather in synchronicity, in everyday signs that show the way, for us, for everything, towards images encountered seemingly by chance, but that tell us a story in the making. I thought to myself that each page could be the beginning of a novel, of a short story, the embryo of a film script that I did not take the time to develop and write. But what story would this Indian character tell, observing with a side glance this absent-minded little dancer, the role of which could have been played by Danielle Darrieux in the 1930s. "East meets West" is also one of the richest creativity troves at least from the direction of East to West, the latter craving for colour, form and Eastern ornaments. For this does not work much, in fact one may say not at all, the other way round. The East has nothing much but banalities to borrow from the levelling West. These scrapbooks were therefore spark-boxes firing the unexpected light, necessary for the design of a collection, or of a show, as when you rub two stones together to light a fire, as if from the paradoxical shock, apparently incoherent, of these photographs could emerge an Ariadne's thread leading from the ordinary to the extra-ordinary, in order for poetry to exude from it, a touch of the universe, a slight ascension.

I spent a year and a half in my studio to construct l'eden, which i believe is my most synthetically Indian work. It forms a city in which, as in India, a multiplicity of thoughts coexists and overlaps. The photographic sources are multiple: Calcutta, Chittagong, Ellora, Ajanta, Bombay, Kanyakumari, Isfahan, Tabriz, Kyoto.... To construct L'Eden, I drew a map of the village in the south of France where I was born, and Indianized, Persianized and orientalized it. My aim is to upset my genealogy--if not my cultural, then at least my artistic genealogy.

L'Eden (see details on pages 10-11 and 82) was displayed in the exhibition Lumieres: carte blanche a Christian Lacroix (2015) at the Musee Cognacq Jay in Paris and in the exhibition Je ne reconnais plus le soleil, again on the invitation of Lacroix, at the Chateau de Tarascon (2017). It has also been exhibited at Delhi's Jor Bagh metro station (Habitat Photosphere, 2015-16).

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Author:Lacroix, Christian; Monteil, Pascal
Publication:Marg, A Magazine of the Arts
Date:Sep 1, 2017
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