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Project Statement

by F. Deschamps

To discuss Sombras Rojas, I will explain a little history concerning the genesis of another book. 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. The initial inspiration came from Che Guevara’s statement: “Violence is the midwife of new societies.” 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 for that book, I created a fictitious memoir which would have been written in 1914 by a South Seas expedition photographer who was a dwarf and produced a journal documenting the evil Doctor Schlotte’s quest for a cannibal feast. Mémoire d’un Voyage en Océanie was presented as a facsimile reproduction along with scholarly research by a Maori professor. However, I kept coming back to the idea of a book about Cuba and my fascination with the idea that violence could be called the midwife of change by Che Guevara who was at once a political thinker, a doctor and a guerrilla leader. I was intrigued by the ironies of his final guerrilla campaign in Bolivia, at once tragic and absurd. 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. In some ways Sombras Rojas and Memoire d’un Voyage en Oceanie 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 a Book. That is the voice with which I keep telling my stories. Since I can remember, I have wanted to tell a story with images and photographs. This goes back to reading the illustrated Tintin books that a French friend of my parents brought me when I was nine years old. These books not only propelled me to an interest in word-image juxtaposition but also inspired me to travel to such places as the Amazon Jungle, Egypt, India, Indonesia, and various remote Pacific islands. From these photographic adventures, I learned an enormous amount about politics and other ways of living. I was raised bilingually and spent years in a French lycée, further studying Latin, Spanish and German. This experience with the fungibility of words to describe an experience has informed my vision for communication in artists’ books. Another important, though more conflicted influence, was my study of mathematics culminating in the pursuit of a doctoral degree. My father was a theoretical scientist and encouraged me in this study which I rather disliked. However, I believe that the delicate balance between the quest for truth and elegance in mathematics is a deep aesthetic concern. I hope in my books to make the same sort of reasoned arguments for new ways of looking at culture and political structures.

Sombras Rojas

Francois Deschamps

title note: "From the Library of Scientific and Fictitious Thought" [T. Shaw]


Francois Deschamps

type: initiating


publication: 1999-00-00

Visual Studies Workshop Press

type: initiating


Aesthetic Profile

surrealist (AAT)
conceptual (AAT)

biography (AAT)
fiction (AAT)
artists' books (LCSH)
history (AAT)
photographs (LCSH)

themes: Political violence, history, historical photographs and documents, and fiction. [T. Shaw]

content form:
visual narrative (local)

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)

related works: Other of the author's works are related such as Life in a Book, Particle Theory, and The Return of the Slapstick Papyrus. [T. Shaw]

community: workshop Visual Studies Workshop [T. Shaw]

Related Documents

manuscript type: other

location: artist's archive