Manée Teyssandier, 2010
Since the 1980s, Peuple et Culture Corrèze has been inviting artists into residence in Tulle and the country around Tulle. Between traditional public commission and the so-called autonomous artwork, the association explores a third way: that of an art attached to a public space through procedures of participation and exchange, and at the same time capable of producing exemplary forms. Projects that originate from a specific territory such as Edouard Glissant describes: a land that becomes a world, an 'inescapable' place, but that is only meaningful if it's open. The artistic forms produced lead to recognition and, at the same time, to relations of strangeness, shifts, vanishing lines. An artistic work that, precisely because it starts from the local, the intimate, can reach a broader value, speak of somewhere else and function for and outside the precise place in which it has been conceived.
For those artists' residences, there is no a priori nor special commission: they are invited to look at the town and its residents from their own bearings.
As a Palestinian living since birth (in 1970) under Israeli colonisation and occupation, Ahlam Shibli, whose entire artistic work is traversed by the question of 'home', was deeply touched by the past and present trauma suffered by the population of Tulle in relation to the events of the 9th June, 1944, when more than 2,000 men were rounded up in the early morning by the SS division 'Das Reich'. After an arbitrary selection, 99 were hanged from the town's balconies and 149 were deported, of whom 101 were never to return. 'I immediately felt empathy with the population of Tulle marked by that tragedy, an empathy which came from a feeling of humanity'.
Her observation, both subtle and radical, and her sensitivity to any situation of oppression came to open another angle, a paradoxical dimension: in that same population, often in the same families, people who had suffered from the violence of the Nazi occupation, and who had resisted, were mixed with others who, immediately or a few years after the liberation, took part in the colonial wars against people who were taking action for their own independence, defending their 'home', whether in Indochina or Algeria.
At her request, Ahlam Shibli discovered through Peuple et Culture Corrèze the monuments, places and moments of official commemoration and, thanks to its network, she made contact with some of the families of the men who had been hanged or deported, people from the Résistance, former soldiers of the Indochina War, conscripts from the war in Algeria, Pieds-Noirs, Harkis, opponents to torture in Algeria, Algerian immigrants, and Vietnamese brought to France by the colonial administration as soldiers or forced labourers… She talked with them, photographed them in their environment, asking to be shown objects and documents taken from their personal archives, places… Those men and women constitute a heterogeneous population in which two moments in history are incarnated and crossed. 'It is not a question of establishing similarities, of comparing the two situations', she declared, 'but of considering the complexity of history and the way in which a town and its residents bear its signs, its traces'.
The photographic work of Ahlam Shibli does not judge, does not denounce, does not give lessons, does not lecture. It draws and reveals the portrait of a town whose complexity enriches our relation to history, to the place in which we live, to the world, and gives to art its political function through a true place in the civilian society.
President of Peuple et Culture Corrèze
In the Vercors massif, during the Nazi occupation, 'mobile teams' used to go from Maquis to Maquis to educate the young fighters of the Résistance, most of them workers and peasants. Those men and women believed in the power that thought, philosophy, history, poetry, theatre, songs, and art had to feed resistance to the occupation. They dreamed of giving 'culture back to the people and the people back to culture'. At the liberation, that movement became the association Peuple et Culture. Peuple et Culture Corrèze was created in the spring of 1951. In a deeply rural department devoid of cultural structures, the association undertook a pioneering work of intellectual, civic and artistic formation for 'those whom school had left too early': invitation of the great troupes of the decentralisation of theatre thanks to the building of networks of active spectators; evenings of reading to discover writers and poets; film clubs in villages and factories where the films of Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Joris Ivens, Roberto Rossellini and Georges Rouquier are projected…
It is on that soil that Peuple et Culture Corrèze today develops its activities: artists' residences, the art-lending libraries of the Limousin, a network for the distribution of documentary cinema in the rural territory, art workshops, discussions.
Further information concerning the events of the 9th June, 1944 in Tulle can be obtained from http://pec9juin.free.fr.
This essay was published in:
Shibli, Ahlam. Trauma. Exh. cat. Tulle: Peuple et Culture Corrèze, 2010. (Essays by: Ulrich Loock, Adania Shibli, and Manée Teyssandier.)