Memorial for a Stranger

Installation view in the FOFA Gallery York Vitrines, Montreal, 2011

Almost all watercolour pencils of a Derwent anniversary box are mined to honour the memory of a stranger deceased before she could use them.

photo credit: Justine Latour

Watercolour pencils, pencil shavings

Text by Anne-Marie Proulx

Letter for a Stranger / Lettre à un inconnu

My wife, my friend, my beloved. She’s gone. This morning, she isn’t here any more. Or has it been three months already, or six. She left so quickly she couldn’t take everything with her. She left me everything: the memory of a smile, the scent of vanilla, the warmth of an awakening, a box of watercolour pencils. I don’t know what to do with them, except make a catastrophe of them. Where have her colourful dreams gone, I wonder, her invented landscapes. Would she want them to remain in a small lacquered box, or would she want somebody to find them in her stead. Nobody I know sees life as she does, understands that things do not keep, that they wear down, take on new faces. This morning I decided to let them go. I had tried once before, but hadn’t found someone to give them to. I gave it all to one who looked deep into my eyes. I saw her from afar: a tall blond, as strong and beautiful as she had been. A tall girl with sad, tired eyes. A tall girl who could understand what I was talking about. I went to her and gave her everything. I didn’t let her ask questions. I forced her to take my words and I turned away and left her there. I could not risk regret.

My father, my friend, my child. He’s gone. This morning, he was no longer there. Since when, I don’t know any more. I couldn’t retrace the steps, or find the dividing line. I don’t want to. A man came up to me to say he understood me. I took in his words. I couldn’t utter a single one myself, tell him he was mistaken. He looked too sure of himself, too sad, too serene. I wondered if he, too, was on the verge of dying, or if he was already dead from having over-possessed his prior life. I just stood there, with the box resting in my open hands. I saw him move away, and I had already forgotten his name, his face. I opened the box for the first time after he left. I knew it wasn’t for me. I thought it should have been given to somebody else. Someone who could imagine beautiful colourful images. I don’t need to see them. I would prefer to capture them on camera. I will photograph them, before they disappear along with him and sink into the moist earth.

I found a box of watercolour pencils on my desk this morning. Or has it already been six months, or five years. There are some presents we don’t know what to do with; they just exist. That’s quite enough as it is, until they make us utter a cry of joy, of sadness, of despair. And then we regret not having done anything. Not having honoured another’s desire. I opened the drawers, once, twice, three and a thousand times. To look at colours that were not my own. I dragged them around, wore them down, scratched them. I need to let them go. They need to live, to exhaust themselves, to be effaced and thus liberated from themselves, to liberate me from the mission given me by a stranger. - Translated by Ron Ross

Galerie Nicolas Robert



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