DAVID BROGNON AND STÉPHANIE ROLLIN

COSMOGRAPHIA (GORÉE ISLAND), 2015

VIDEO COLOR, SOUND

7 MIN 31, IN LOOP

Film directed by STEPHEN KORYTKO

 

A barely sketched outline or a contrario carefully mapped in the true, concrete and frightening sense of the term with Cosmographia (Gorée Island), 2015. A mad and monumental piece that physically archives the contradictory reality of the island to better organize its kidnapping. Synonymous with tourist escape in the 20th century, the island is primarily a desolate, deserted and cut-off place: a small prison territory, used as such to exclude undesirables and store them like more or less dangerous or perishable merchandise according to the times. Alcatraz, St Hélène, Makronissos, and Gorée comprise a geographical and symbolic corpus with a double meaning, between evasion and confinement, that Brognon & Rollin decided to go and literally trace out full-scale in situ, starting with Gorée Island (Senegal). An island that is a symbol of the trafficking and imprisonment of men by mankind, Gorée is home to the House of Slaves. Centimeter by centimeter, spanning more than 6 days, the 2.3km outline of the island was reproduced on paper, put in envelopes, and sent to Brussels to be stored and classified using an archive system chosen by the artists: a total of more than 3,066 geographical fragments and prison escapees before being reincarcerated are sealed in a merciless stainless steel shelving unit.

 


DIARY FROM JANUARY 15-22, 2015 

 

 

DAY 1: STARTING "COSMOGRAPHIA (GORÉE ISLAND)"

 

Arrival in Gorée. On the first day we do a recce of the island and territory.

We start drawing late. The sun sets and the wind rises.

 

North of the island:

50 meters traced in 30 minutes on rough terrain, an almost straight line with a little wind. The wind makes changing the paper on the frame very difficult.

 

We work out that we need to do a minimum of 300 meters per day.

We estimate 4 hours drawing on rough terrain, but we know that the slippery volcanic rocks will slow our progression.

 

We fold the traced lines to put in envelopes.

The lines overlap with the transparent paper and reform islands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 2: THE IMPOSSIBLE LINE

 

The outline of an island is always moving. The waterline on the sand comes and goes and changes all the time. The water emerges then withdraws between the rocks. Our question is; ‘Where is this line that we came to find?’

 

Olivier, our host on Gorée, a retired former cartographer, (we are so lucky every time, what was the probability of this happening during our Cosmographia project?), explains to us the scientific difficulties in estimating an outline because of the tides. Once in the field full-scale, the line gets away. Our mission is pure madness. Where is this line? Which one should we take?

 

Today we had help, 10-year old Lamine. He is incredibly dextrous between the rocks. Much more skilful than us, he helped us to stabilise the sheets in the wind and to draw several lines himself without really understanding what he was doing.

 

Our table with a transparent top received a big blow. We had to repair it in the middle. We likened it to being on a long boat voyage when sailors repair their sails in order to continue.

 

Stephen Korytko, who is accompanying us and producing a film about the project, had to ask for (and pay 100,000 francs: photo in appendix for the shot) authorization to film on Gorée Island. The inhabitants are all warned when a camera disembarks. This sort of information spreads around the island in the space of a few hours, much quicker than us.

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 3: THE TIP OF THE ISLAND HAS DISAPPEARED

 

It was terrible. We had the smell in our nostrils for hours after leaving the shore. We crossed a part of the island hidden below high walls, where inhabitants throw buckets of non-identified liquids and where rubbish and dead animals are strewn over the rocks. You can only see this rubbish tip from below; it is protected from the eyes of passing tourists.

 

It’s going well. The technique becomes clearer and we lose less time changing the sheets of paper on the table.

 

We mark in red the area that corresponds with what we have just traced on the envelopes to be sent to Brussels. We didn’t want to number the sheets or rank them. There is no beginning or end. This island territory is one loop. The markers must remain lines. An obsession with lines…

 

Our progress is also indicated in red on old maps, a way of reassuring ourselves about our crazy mission. We’re making progress.

 

Preparing for the cliff on day 4. We also know that the rocks south west of the island have subsided in relation to the photo. This peak still exists but it is now under water. We will not be able to trace it. These rocks placed by man to protect the banks are slowly crumbling. This small piece of land is no longer within our reach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 4: WE’RE EXHAUSTED

 

The midway point of the adventure is tricky. We realise what still remains to be done. Walking on the rocks in the full sun, balancing the table for hours, tracing, tracing and more tracing... Ours backs take the strain.

 

On our return we have to fold hundreds and hundreds of sheets and put them into envelopes. It’s quite a marathon. We don’t give up but it’s hard work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 7: REPORT

 

The last days are complicated both in terms of the organization of our time and in our mental and physical fatigue. The days are very long and it’s a shame that we didn’t succeed in compiling anything then.

Important information:

- The final number is 3,066 fragments of island outlines. They are all in envelopes, some of which have been sent by post directly to Albert Baronian in Brussels from Gorée, others from Dakar.

- Unfortunately very little on-site help. David and I had to practically do everything (+ the director Stephen Korytko + a guide on site + several young volunteers)

- The line was difficult, sometimes even impossible to note down. The border and outlines are therefore truly non-existent. Our archaic tracing system, facing a constantly moving line, encountered certain limits but nonetheless enabled "instant" fragments of the island to be noted.

- Folding the tracing paper was endless. But seeing some of the lines reminded us of the exact place it came from. We now know every rock on the outline.

The amount of graffiti grew on the island every day: "Je ne suis pas Charlie"...

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES:

 

To trace. Definition:  To reproduce a drawing by following outlines through transparent paper. A childish and improbable gesture that turned into a monumental gesture.

Stay innocent and keep thinking that it is possible.

 

To capture a line. To capture an island, kidnap it and send it by post.

The territory becomes a message and the island sends its history creating a graphic correspondence.

To highlight; to communicate with the exterior when we are confined creates a feeling of escape.

 

The table. The monumental scale requires specific materials. We used an old Plexiglas frame and attached 4 wooden legs to it, secured by 2 metal rods forming an “x” in its center to join the opposing feet. We needed 2 key features: good stability and some flexibility nevertheless to be able to wedge it between the rocks.

Taking the relief and tricky access into account, the table also had to be light.

3 clips hold the tracing paper on the table, as the coastal wind attempts to prise the sheets away.

 

Deployment strategy. We determine the day’s route: about 300 meters  David has a marker. Stéphanie marks her starting point and they walk towards each other.

 

The benchmark. We have printed the recipient’s address, as well as the outline of the island on the envelopes. Each day, when we have traced the line, and after we have folded and sealed the envelopes, we note in red the part of the island that we have captured.

 

 

 

Punch line. The population asks us:

‘What are you doing? Are you drawing the waves?’

Yes, in a sense.

 

 

CREDITS

DAVID BROGNON AND STÉPHANIE ROLLIN
COSMOGRAPHIA (GORÉE ISLAND), 2015
STAINLESS STEEL SHELVING UNIT CONTAINING 3.066 TRACING PAPER FORMING THE WHOLE CIRCUMFERENCE OF GOREE ISLAND AT SCALE 1 : 1
120 x 120 16 cm

DAVID BROGNON AND STÉPHANIE ROLLIN
COSMOGRAPHIA (GORÉE ISLAND), 2015
VIDEO COLOR, SOUND
7 MIN 31, IN LOOP
FILM DIRECTED BY STEPHEN KORYTKO

TEXT BY ANTHONY VAN DEN BOSSHE

COURTESY OF GALERIE ALBERT BARONIAN

 

 

DOWNLOAD SUPPLEMENTS

ENGLISH / FRENCH

 


ABOUT THE ARTISTS

 

“Explorers of the abyss,”  David Brognon and Stéphanie Rollin have, since 2006, been probing the existential fault lines, observing the fallen and the alienated. Permanently rubbing shoulders with the fringes of society, they create modest monuments to people who have fallen by the wayside. No indulgence or temptation in their fascination for the marginal, which is initially driven by the search for a spark in the darkness. Addiction and melancholy exist side by side, but without chatter or literalness. For their work does not shout, it whispers. Its point of entry is the shared secret, trust.

 

The artists, winners of the Pirelli Art Prize at Art Brussels in 2013 and the subject of a monograph last summer at Frac Poitou-Charentes, are just as attentive to “life’s small epiphanies,” as the artist Ian Breakwell called them, the minutiae of everyday life, those moments of grace in the darkness or the commonplace. They heighten with infinite delicacy the brilliance of the inconsequential and the habitually neglected by recording the nobility of trivia.


Biography by Hélène Guenin, Chief Curator, Centre Pompidou-Metz, France

 

 

Upcoming Exhibitions 

 

"THESSALONIKI BIENNALE: 5" (Curator: Katerina Gregos) | Thessaloniki GR (June - September 2015)

"LES MONDES INVERSES", re opening of the B.P.S.22 | Charleroi B (September 2015 - February 2016)


Special thank you to David Brognon and Stéphanie Rollin for making this presentation possible.

MAI Presents is a series of live and virtual exhibitions curated by the Institute to exploring the duration, performance and multidisciplinary collaboration.