Galerie Perrotin, 76 rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris, Tel. +33 142167979
March 16 - May 13, 2017

WRINKLES of The CITY Istanbul

A project by JR, a Guillaume Cagniard movie
Screening from March 16 to May 13, 2017
Perrotin gallery, Paris, is happy to present from March 16
to May 13, 2017 the screening of “WRINKLES of The CITY
Istanbul”, a movie by Guillaume Cagniard on JR’s project. The
artworks made within the project will be exhibited beside the
In 2000, I was seventeen years old. The television, the telephone,
internet and low-cost travel would open new horizons.
By my side, I had my two grandmothers, born in 1915 and 1923. They
were telling me about their childhood spent on two different continents,
their husband who had been chosen for them by their parents. One
spoke to me of decolonization which had transformed her country, the
other of the war which had obliged her to run away, alone with her son.
One mentioned her choice to work when women were supposed to
stay at home, the other of her difficulty to learn French. They told me
about 100 mile journeys prepared over several weeks, about their world
where roles were defined at birth, and where religion took the role of
morality. They baked me cakes with dates, flour and oil, or small and
very simple biscuits.
The women who looked after me were seventy years older than me. In
the end, I think that it was rather me who took care of them
Obviously, one does not carry out a project, one does not travel the
world and one does not write a book simply to be able to inscribe: “To
my grandmothers with whom I grew up”, however at the time when I
added these words, this idea came to my mind.
With them, I crossed the twentieth century, I shared their secrets, I was
in touch with sexism, racism, fear, stupidity, war, difference, submission,
revolt, success, exile, failure, sadness and joy and I wanted to continue
travelling in the past.
The project Wrinkles of the City / Des rides et des villes started in
2008 in Cartagena in Spain and then moved to Shanghai, Havana,
Los Angeles, Berlin and Istanbul. Each of these cities has experienced
metamorphosis during the last decades, leaving only walls and old
people to tell their stories. I wanted to confront the facades with the
people, the collective history with the individual’s narratives.
The women and men whom I met are thus the last witnesses of the
attack of Cartagena by Franco in 1939, of the rise to power of Fidel
Castro in Cuba in 1959, of the Chinese cultural revolution from 1966
to 1976, of the end of racial segregation in the Unites States in the
1960’s, of the fall of Hitler in 1945 and the separation of Germany
until 1989, of the secularization of Turkey (the rise to power of the
Islamists in 1994 will put an end to it). When they are gone, there will
only be written or filmed versions of their stories. Via them, one sees
the passing of the major movements which structured the twentieth
century: fascism; communism; Nazism; the fight for civil rights;
decolonization; the Cold War and capitalism. One senses the events
which start to shake the twenty-first century.
Of course, they themselves have an altered vision of their journey.
Amongst the people who we interviewed few were on the wrong side
of History. At a certain age, you rewrite your own past. No one admitted
to being fascist under Franco in Spain or segregationist in the United
States. Those who were often in the majority in those days are perhaps
more reticent towards being in front of a camera to tell their life story
compared to those who were victims or heroes.
In a few minutes, they tell us who they are, what they have done and
what seems interesting to them. The interviews are always too short.
How can one summarize an entire life in a few sentences? What are
the joys and the sorrows for which time can not erase its trace?
Ultimately, what really matters?
To record their memory, which coincides with that of their city, I took
the wrinkles of those who have seen their world undergo metamorphosis.
In photographing them, I listened to their life. Those who spent time
with my team and me responded to questions, sometimes vocal,
sometimes embarrassed or reserved. However wrinkles never lie. Like
lines written by hand, some radiate from the eyes like stars, others
cross the forehead harmoniously, like waves. Each chapter is a moment
of their life, an echo of all that these characters had endured during
their lives. When I had finished turning over the pages of their book, I
pasted them on walls with paper and glue.
In each city, the stories had local flavor and some stay with me.
In Istanbul, I want the diversity of the city to be represented in my
photos. We look for a Kurd and a Jew. It is exactly one hundred years
since the Armenian genocide and I want to find an Armenian from
Istanbul. In the Grand Bazar, we met some delightful people however
they are not comfortable to share their life story or to be glued in large
format on the walls. One century after the events of 1915, fear is still
I never tire of the walls which ask the passersby questions. What does
this man think of when he closes his eyes? What are the first images
which come to mind amongst the millions which have marked his life?
Why does this woman have a sad gaze and yet the faint beginning of
a smile?
My own wrinkles, those which are in the process of forming, what will
they say about my life?
Extract of “Wrinkles of the City”, JR, Publisher Alternatives, 2015, 276 pages

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