Donigan Cumming/ Pretty Ribbons

image by
Donigan Cumming

A DESCENT INTO THE HELL OF DONIGAN CUMMING
by
PATRICK ROEGIERS

[original in French]

Patrick Roegiers was born in Brussels in 1947, and presently lives in Paris. He is the author of essays on Lewis Carroll, Diane Arbus and Bill Brandt and has been photography critic for Le Monde from 1985 to 1992. In addition to his collections of interviews: Ecoutez voir and Facons de voir and collections ofarticles: L’CEil vivant and L’CEil multiple, he is the author of Beau regard and L’Horloge universelle, novels published in 1990 and 1992 by Editions du Seuil. He has directed films on photography and has served as an exhibition curator.


“(…)
The solid outline of the human body is horrible,” said Kafka. Viewed in their disgrace, unconcerned with their appearance, showing off their whims, defects and mutilations, the characters of Donigan Cumming are as alone and unarmed as they are naked. As excruciating evidence of an ethical sensibility for human misery, most of them display deep internal injuries to their identities.

Across the anatomical image of the body, Cumming points out the corporal monstrosity of normal people. A strange body is a strange thing. Undressed, man finds himself in a despoiled state analogous to that of a primitive man, but Donigan Cumming offers no rehabilitation of the flesh. Symptom of social decay and of the decadence of civilization, the bruised, scarred, worn-out body marks the decline of the excluded. From this perspective, even the photographic act is experienced by them as a mutilating operation. Concerned with showing the unshowable, the author bluntly details the progress of decrepitude, the degeneration that hastens the inescapable reversion to scrap.

Echoing Jankelevitch who compares aging to an increasingly threadbare suit of clothes, Cumming understands that old age is the sickness of temporality. His pitiless report is brought to a fever pitch in Pretty Ribbons, produced with Nettie Harris who first appeared in 1982, dressed in a wrapper, standing beside her open fridge.
(…)”