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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.


“(…) With disconcerting freshness and absolute availability, Nettie plays out her decomposition and immeasurable decline. Increasingly emaciated, her skeleton now protrudes through her skin. As La Rochefoucauld said, “Old age is women’s hell.” Without trying to escape the image of her own physical collapse, Nettie Harris exhibits her body without shame, as it is. The relentless accentuation of her withering flesh obscures the fact that these terrifying moments are first of all freely accepted walk-ons, the cruelty of a report adapted to fiction. All is reinvented, nothing is really natural in these plots in which Cumming adopts the viewpoint of an imaginary witness. Nettie Harris is a magnificent character who serves as her own model: it’s the staging of her real life that she recounts. Truth lies in openness and Cumming is not pretending when he shows Nettie taking out her dentures (an internal prosthesis like an IUD). The final view of a disintegrating figure, in the fetal position of suffering and sacrifice, evokesthe nightmare of remembering, the obligation to memory that her Jewish identity brings closer — unbearable visions of death camps, the Holocaust, the crematoria and the gas chambers — endowing this seemingly private epic with undeniable historical dimension.
(…)”

I am not reminded of the Holocaust….for me it´s simply about old age.

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August 5