Donigan Cumming/ Pretty Ribbons

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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.

“Driven by disobedience, built on a radical challenge to the truthfulness of documentary reporting, the strong and disturbing work of Donigan Cumming is intrinsically realist. Haunted by the pointed description of the vulnerability of the human body and by the destructive forces of time, this plunge into the heart of familiar abnormality takes on metaphysical and anthropological dimensions that say a great deal about the state of society. Adopting the experience of his models — their joys, their suffering — and in the case of Nettie Harris, living her life, Donigan Cumming shows the tragic agitation of a world reduced to a state of chaos.
A sharing of unhappiness, weakness and solitude, a struggle against the annihilation of memory and individuals’ stories, this implacable study of the human condition follows in the footsteps of Diane Arbus along the borders of the imaginable, to forge a link between the social document as defined in the sixties and its critique in the eighties by artists for whom documentary had become fiction. Aware that the notion of obscenity is a last bastion of morality, Donigan Cumming exceeds the limits of what appears horrifying. The dread aroused by the extravagant normality of the
terrible is nothing compared to the horrors played out daily in the world.
Mirroring society with staggering theatricality, reflecting the repugnance and abjection that society rejects, the admirable and raw images of Donigan Cumming remind us quite simply that pain is a means of communication, just like human warmth, indifference, hate or love.”