In the end it is a question of memory. Crystallizations, shards, enigmas, effects of absence. Presented here are objects whose arrangement is testimony to an intention: we can see them, decipher them, even touch them. Confronting them, we are alive. They are gathered up due to the contingency of their unforeseen durability, survivors of attics, discount stores, odds and ends – alluvium of the past suddenly given another look. They had a use, a destination. But time has transformed them into relics; into questions. See “Memory Box”. Cameras from the 1930s-1945s are assembled as if on an anatomical chart. Lens, chromed boxes, focusing wheels that will never activate another roll of film again. In the past, a finger pressed the shutter release, the silver salts of the film captured a mote of light. Bodies were imprinted onto a surface. At the time of developing, familiar faces were fixed on paper. Nobody can say where these pictures have gone. But the destiny of such vestiges is to survive men: lost images, intact focal points. Was it in Paris, Berlin, or Rimini? What luminance existed there? secrets? love stories? We will never know. From these boxes emanates the double certainty of existence – beings passed by – and of disappearance – they have since been lost in the labyrinth of time.

When the photographer was well-known, his name was Robert Capa, Gerda Taro or Gisèle Freund. There have been funds, collections, albums. But here, no museum will gather the snapshots of these forgotten anonymous people. We muse suddenly about this:  the democratisation of photography coincided with mass disappearance. To the stock of intimate images, constituted like an herbarium of itself, an industrial destruction of bodies was going to reply. The era of technique authorized the making of a mimetic imprint, of a narcissistic archive; at the same time, it organized a mass annihilation of the individuals captured in these snapshots. Doors were locked on imageless infernos. Those once seen became invisible. Géraldine Cario works to the point where we can imagine summoning beauties long since vanished up from Hades or Acheron. She is an orphic artist. She convokes engulfment and exhumation, damnation and grace. Sometimes, she fixes the body of an Agfa camera in stratified matter, almost cervical: she has put thought into dressing these widowed mechanisms. We look at her works as much as they look at us. With pupils, apertures, irises, and glass, nature and culture conspire and present a story of the eye according to optic laws.

Hence the series “Angle mort” with its pairs of eyeglasses deprived of faces. These translucent prostheses, these pocket magnifiers have nevertheless been used, in the past or not long ago, to decipher characters, to read through the scented pages of hardback volumes. A pair of glasses is an adjuvant of civilization: the older we become, the more we are bound to these helpful specs without which, figuratively, we would lose meaning. But some women and men were stripped of these media, forced to enter naked into the maze of death; they would never again see this world where the vestiges of life were piled up in sinister stocks. Traces of absent looks, rims of glasses piled up beyond all salvation – hoping without hope for the future tenderness of a memory.

Because these works are acts of restitution, headstones of pain formed by absence and gratitude. Hence “Gustie in Berlin.” Enigmatic title? Perhaps, but also a literal, immaculate re-creation of a fragment of barbarianism errupting in a moment of forgotten intimacy. During Crystal Night,  Géraldine Cario’s great-aunt was able to flee her Berlin apartment in time. But Hitlerian bullies destroyed the rooms, breaking the crockery that had been hidden in false ceilings. The floor was covered with shards. The narrative of Gustie, the survivor, is crystallized into pieces of fractured dishes, in an imprint that resounds with the artist’s precocious feeling of the impermanence of things. During a move when she was ten, Géraldine Cario thus gathered a shard of golden wood loosened from a tall mirror and put it preciously in a box lined with night-blue velvet. She did it with an acute feeling that life is an incessant separation, in reminiscent sympathy with what the young girl guessed of her family history, and which has become incumbent upon her to transmit. No naïve optimism, because there has been a before. What chance created, and what it banished. This before takes the form of an engulfed universe. For as far as words could capture the lives that objects blur or clarify, we would find there Hungarian or Polish grandparents, a lost Mitteleuropa, borders crossed in haste, hidden children, a preserved talmudic library, trains leaving for those confines where, as Aragon wrote, “our century bleeds.”

This memory is singular. It is also universal, since it is the common condition of the living to be linked to the destiny of what dies. You think you are entering an exhibition; in reality, you are invited to go through the annals of a peopled solitude that each generation, in consideration of others, moulds and inhabits according to its own dramas and hopes. It is given to us to live. Art is there to let us glimpse that the sky will always be larger than we are.

Marc Lambron.