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Project Statement

by F. Deschamps

In 1994, I was invited to produce a book at the Elam School of Fine Arts at Auckland University in New Zealand. At the time, I had been working on a book about the idea of change through revolution and violence, based on a 1991 trip to Cuba. I was developing a narrative through multiple voices (a psychiatrist, a professor, and a revolutionary): the idea was intriguing to me, but the subject seemed inappropriate to a South Pacific publication. So I began creating a fictitious memoir which would have been written in 1914 by a South Seas expedition photographer on the yacht Curioddity. This expedition was led by an evil German sausage maker, Ernst Schlotte, who represents all that is vicious in Western civilization. His prurient interest in cannibalism culminates in himself partaking of this taboo activity. This narrator/photographer, who by a strange coincidence bears my name, is marooned by Schlotte on one of the remote Kermadec Islands only to be eventually found by a World War II military convoy and brought to Auckland. This explains why the book is produced in New Zealand from the (fictitious) Auckland Institute archive. The story is presented as a facsimile reproduction of the journal along with scholarly research by a Maori professor. An epilogue by the nurse who took care of Mr.. Deschamps completes the narrative. Statement originally published in JAB 12, p.13

Mémoire D'un Voyage En Océanie

Franc¸ois Deschamps

title note: translation from French: Memoir of a Voyage In Oceania [S. Strang]


Franc¸ois Deschamps

type: initiating


birth: 1946-00-00

note: []

Publication Information

publisher: PhotoForum

publication: 1995-00-00

publication history: []

Aesthetic Profile

postmodern (AAT)

artists' books (LCSH)

themes: []

content form:
narrative (local)

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)

inspiration: Gaugin's Noa Noa Pacific travel accounts from earliest to the present day, personal experiences living in the Pacific region and in New Zealand. [F. Deschamps]

related works: The idea of a book about Cuba persisted, so from 1996 to 1998 I continued to develop the narrative that I had started in 1994. As I was learning digital imaging and page construction, it became clear that this would be a good project to test my developing computer skills. The book, Sombras Rojas, is an exploration of a fictitious archive concerning a schizophrenic political science professor, Mr. 0, who imagines that he was with Che Guevara in the Bolivian campaign and that he also has ties with the CIA. The narrative is constructed by the interplay of an omniscient narrator's voice, the documentary writings of the psychiatrist Dr. Gwen Ryberg of the Institute for Personality Study, and the insightful writings of the deranged professor. The book examines issues of political violence and its validation by history. I did all the writing, illustrations, design, and electronic prepress. Sombras Rojas was produced by Joan Lyons at the Visual Studies Workshop and printed at Thompson-Shore of Dexter, Michigan in May of 1999. Statement originally published in JAB 12, p.13 In some ways Sombras Rojas and Mémoire D'un Voyage En Océanie are almost the same book. Both using a lonely, misunderstood, and disabled narrator to tell a story about political ideas using the device of a book within a book, much like the earlier Life in Book. That is the voice with which I keep telling my stories. [F. Deschamps]

other influences: []

community: school Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, New Zealand [S. Strang]

note: []

Exhibition Information

exhibition history:

reception history: Francois Deschamps explores every possible trope of fiction and storytelling in his enthusiasm for artifice. Deschamps's narratives are mercurial, polymorphous, and diverse. Mémoire d'un Voyage en Océanie (1995) is typical of his work in this regard, for Deschamps creates his fictional account of an early 20th-century ocean voyage by using the multiple voices and documents of a pantheon of characters, personac, and texts. Deschamps interweaves actual historical themes and records into a maze of stories told in and around each other, until they are interwoven, layered, nested and embedded in a tangle of actual and fictional texts. Deschamps has a love for the artifact, for the bit of found material redolent with age and wear, displaying its characteristic features of form, design, and vocabulary as part of its role in the narrative whole. And Mémoire is largely told through the device of a facsimile journal account of a journey into the South Seas. Deschamps' work has a fanciful quality, but there is a darker undertone in it as well, grappling with the realities of history and violence, colonial power and revolutionary response. Sombras Rojas (1999) is comprised of documents from a fictitious archive, but the nature of the fiction forces the question of the real as its missing term. If we accept this story as untrue, then is it because Deschamps work posits the existence of a real history (in this case, part of the history of revolution in Cuba and South America) that is always outside of any text or account? Or does the fiction suppose the opposite, the impossibility of any narrative except that which we piece together from these fragments, struggling to find some version of history that can be reconciled with narrative coherence. Johanna Drucker in JAB 12, p.12-13

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