Bled blême et murs inachevés

Michel Henry | 2010

Michel Henry, « Pallid homeland and unfinished walls », Libération, September 16, 2010
We can walk beside the Buy-Sellf Art Club without seeing it. Pity. We can see it without noticing that there is an exhibition inside. More’s the pity again. Anyway, we come in, just in case... There are block walls. Not very attractive. Like a building stopped in progressive construction.

Perrine Lacroix loves these not finished houses, « contemporary vestiges ». She takes photographs of them, wherever she goes, and calls them her « Castles in Spain ». She also builds those. As this ephemeral castle in Marseille that she wanted summary. Not more than three walls, unrefined. We move indoors to find the only piece of furniture on the ground: two TVs.

On the left one, a lady relates her life. This is Razika. The video, recorded in June 2009, lasts for 9min 23s. Not a long, but scrolling without being stopped. That rather documentary than art, even if the life of Razika, 58 years old, constitutes a kind of work in progress. Razika was orphaned when she was 8, in 1959, during what she calls -« The French war ». It was called the Algerian war in France. Then, her uncle raised her up, therefore she always obeyed him and did the cleaning. Then when she was 17 he’s got her married. An arranged marriage. « I didn’t know the gentleman ». He is 20 years older. She would not have chosen him. But it’s the uncle who makes a decision. Origin from Algiers, Razika finds herself in a tiny hamlet of Small Kabylia, « sent as a package, he found me inside ».

After a month, her husband leaves her to her fate and goes. Razika feels herself been an outcast. He has lived in France for thirty years, near Albertville (Savoy). « I hoped that he’ll take me away with him ».
He returns once a year for a month, in December. « He said vaguely that he was a mason ».

Exhibition three walls have the character of the not nished house that he would have built around her. Razika calls him « Sir ». She is not familiar with him; she is afraid with the idea of shaking his hand.
The man has fourteen children with her. He is in France, Razika is in her hamlet, under the orders of her mother-in-law, that she calls « the sultan ». They are 43 in the house together. The man sends money
to his mother, not to his wife. She obeyed for her whole life, but now, she talks.The years of terrorism, from 1996, when the village gets empty, when Islamists are coming down from the mountain to demand cars, semolina, oil...

On the right TV, images of the mountain forest burning: th army destroys the terrorist’s caches in 2009. At the present time, her husband returned home. « There is a considerable mutual respect between them » says Perrine Lacroix. This 43 years old Lyon-based artist has lived in France close to a home for immigrants. She wanted to know how women in the country go through their isolation. During the artist-in- residence program in Algeria, she met Razika. We can say she has done the right thing.