La Journée Sera Rude

Caran d’ache, steel, plastic (2017)

The title is a reference to Robert-François Damiens, a man who attempted to assassinate Louis XV in 1757. He was the last person to be drawn and quartered in France. The execution caused a major uproar among the French population for its extreme brutality. Foucault writes about it in ‘Discipline and Punish’. Damiens is supposed to have said “La journée sera rude.” (“Today will be tough.”) as he was led out of his jail cell to be executed.


From Discipline & Punish by Michel Foucault:

“On 2 March 1757 Damiens the regicide was condemned ‘to make the amende honorable before the main door of the Church of Paris’, where he was to be ‘taken and conveyed in a cart, wearing nothing but a shirt, holding a torch of burning wax weighing two pounds’; then, ‘in the said cart, to the Place de Grève, where, on a scaffold that will be erected there, the flesh will be torn from his breasts, arms, thighs and calves with red-hot pincers, his right hand, holding the knife with which he committed the said parricide, burnt with sulphur, and, on those places where the flesh will be torn away, poured molten lead, boiling oil, burning resin, wax and sulphur melted together and then his body drawn and quartered by four horses and his limbs and body consumed by fire, reduced to ashes and his ashes thrown to the winds’ (Pièces originales …, 1;72-4). ‘Finally he was quarteredr’ rlecounts the Gazette d’Amsterdam of 1 April 1757. ‘This last operation was very long, because the horses used were not accustomed to drawing; consequently, instead of four, six were needed; and when that did not suffice, they were forced, in order to cut off the wretch’s thighs, to sever the sinews and hack at the ioints. .. ‘It is said that, though he was always a great swearer, no blasphemy escaped his lips; but the excessive pain made him utter horrible cries, and he often repeated: “My God, have pity on me! Jesus, help me!” The spectators were all edified by the solicitude of the parish priest of St Paul’s who despite his great age did not spare himself in offering consolation to the patient.’ Bouton, an officer of the watch, left us his account: ‘The sulphur was lit, but the flame was so poor that only the top skin of the hand was burnt, and that only slightly. Then the executioner, his sleeves rolled up, took the steel pincers, which had been especially made Torture for the occasion, and which were about a foot and a half long, and pulled first at the calf of the right leg, then at the thigh, and from there at the two fleshy parts of the right arm; then at the breasts. Though a strong, sturdy fellow, this executioner found it so difficult to tear away the pieces of flesh that he set about the same spot two or three times, twisting the pincers as he did so, and what he took away formed at each part a wound about the size of a six-pound crown piece. ‘After these tearings with the pincers, Damiens, who cried out profusely, though without swearing, raised his head and looked at himself; the same executioner dipped an iron spoon in the pot containing the boiling potion, which he poured liberally over each wound. Then the ropes that were to be harnessed to the horses were attached with cords to the patient’s body; the horses were then harnessed and placed alongside the arms and legs, one at each limb. ‘Monsieur Le Breton, the clerk of the court, went up to the patient several times and asked him if he had anything to say. He said he had not; at each torrnent, he cried out, as the damned in hell are supposed to cry out, “Pardon, my God! Pardon, Lord.” Despite all this pain, he raised his head from time to time and looked at himself boldly. The cords had been tied so tightly by the men who pulled the ends that they caused him indescribable pain. Monsieur le Breton went up to him again and asked him if he had anything to say; he said no. Several confessors went up to him and spoke to him at length; he willingly kissed the crucifix that was held out to him; he opened his lips and repeated: “Pardon, Lord.” ‘The horses tugged hard, each pulling straight on a limb, each horse held by an executioner. After a quarter of an hour, the same ceremony was repeated and finally, after several attempts, the direction of the horses had to be changed, thus: those at the arms were made to pull towards the head, those at the thighs towards the arms, which broke the arms at the ioints. This was repeated several times without success. He raised his head and looked at himself. Two more horses had to be added to those harnessed to the thighs, which made six horses in all. Without success. ‘Finally, the executioner, Samson, said to Monsieur Le Breton that there was no way or hope of succeeding, and told him to ask 4 The body of the condemned their Lordships if they wished him to have the prisoner cut into pieces. Monsieur Le Breton, who had come down from the town, ordered that renewed efforts be made, and this was done; but the horses gave up and one of those harnessed to the thighs fell to the ground. The confessors returned and spoke to him again. He said to them (I heard him): “Kiss me, gentlemen.” The parish priest of St Paul’s did not dare to, so Monsieur de Marsilly slipped under the rope holding the left arm and kissed him on the forehead. The executioners gathered round and Damiens told them not to swear, to carry out their task and that he did not think ill of them; he begged them to pray to God for him, and asked the parish priest of St Paul’s to pray for him at the first mass. ‘After two or three attempts, the executioner Samson and he who had used the pincers each drew out a knife from his pocket and cut the body at the thighs instead of severing the legs at the joints; the four horses gave a tug and carried off the two thighs after them, namely, that of the right side firs to the other following; then the same was done to the arms, the shoulders, the arm-pits and the four limbs; the flesh had to be cut almost to the bone, the horses pulling hard carried off the right arm first and the other afterwards. ‘When the four limbs had been pulled away, the confessors came to speak to him; but his executioner told them that he was dead, though the truth was that I saw the man move, his lower jaw moving from side to side as if he were talking. One of the executioners even said shortly afterwards that when they had lifted the trunk to throw it on the stake, he was still alive. The four limbs were untied from the ropes and thrown on the stake set up in the enclosure in line with the scaffold, then the trunk and the rest were covered with logs and faggots, and fire was put to the straw mixed with this wood. ‘. .. In accordance with the decree, the whole was reduced to ashes. The last piece to be found in the embers was still burning at half-past ten in the evening. The pieces of flesh and the trunk had taken about four hours to burn. The officers of whom I was one, as also was my son, and a detachment of archers remained in the square until nearly eleven o’clock.”

Day Dream Machine

Wood, aluminium, leather,3D animation, steel, smoke (2018)

This works consists of a installation that produces smoke clouds with various apparitions. Unpleasant imagery mix with sequences of cakes and flowers. The spectator sits on chained wall beds that emulate 17th century prison dungeons.

Glow-in-the-dark Rousseau

Polyurethane & glow-in-the-dark-pigment, 55 cm x 15 cm x 14 cm (2017)

“From the time on I recovered my peace of mind and something akin to happiness. Whatever our situation, it is only self-love that can make us constantly unhappy. When it is silent and we listen to the voice of reason, this can console us in the end for all the misfortunes which it was not in our power to avoid. Indeed it makes them disappear, in so far as they have no immediate effect on us, for one can be sure of avoiding their worst buffets by ceasing to take any notice of them. They are as nothing to the person who ignores them. Insults, reprisals, offences, injuries, injustices are all nothing to the man who sees in the hardships he suffers nothing but the hardships themselves and not the intention behind them, and whose place in his own self-esteem does not depend on the good-will of others. However men choose to regard me, they cannot change my essential being, and for all their power and all their secret plots I shall continue, whatever they do, to be what I am in spite of them. It is true that their attitude towards me has an influence on my material situation. The wall they have set up between us robs me of every source of subsistence or assistance in my old age, and my time of need. It makes even money useless t0 me, since money cannot buy the help I need, and there is no intercourse, no mutual aid, no communication between us. Alone in their midst, I have only myself to fall back on, and this is a feeble support at my age and in my situation. These are great misfortunes, but they are no longer so painful to me now that I have learned to endure them patiently. There are not many things that we really need. Forethought and imagination multiply their number, and it is these unceasing cares which make us anxious and unhappy, But I, even if I know that I shall suffer tomorrow, can be content as long as I am not suffering today. I am not affected by the ills I foresee, but only by those I feel, and this reduces them to very little. Solitary, sick, and left aloen in my bed, I could die there of poverty, cold and hunger without anyone caring. But what does it matter if I myself do not care and am no more affected than the rest of them by my fate, whatever it may be? Is it such a small achievement, particularly at my age, to have learned to regard life and death, sickness and health, riches and poverty, fame and slander with equal indifference? All other old men worry about everything, nothing worries me. Whatever may happen, I do not care, and this indifference is not the work of my own wisdom, it is that of my enemies and compensates me for the evils they inflict upon me. In making me insensible to adversity they have done me more good than if they had spared me its blows. If I did not experience it I might still fear it, but now that I have subdued it I have no more cause to fear. In the midst of my afflictions this disposition gives free rein to my natural nonchalance almost as completely as if I were living in the most totalt prosperity. Apart from the brief moments when the objects around me recall my most painful anxieties, all the rest of the time, following the promptings of my natural affections, my heart continues to feed on the emotions for which it was created, and I enjoy them and share them with me, just as if those beings really existed. They exist for me, their creator, and I have no fear that they will betray or abandon me; they will last as long as my misfortunes and will suffice to make me forget them. Everything brings me back to the sweet and happy life for which I was born; I spend three-quarters of my life either busy with instructive and even pleasant objects, to which it is a joy to devote my mind and my senses, or with the children of my imagination, the creatures if my heart’s desire, whose presence satisfies its yearnings, or else alone with myself, contented with myself and already enjoying the happiness which I feel I have deserved.” 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Reveries of the Solitary Walker
Eighth Walk
Pp. 130-131