TITLE WITHHELD (FOR LEGAL AND ETHICAL REASONS)
It is below the stage of the Cour d’honneur du Palais des papes that Steven Cohen invites us. A secret place, usually hidden from the spectators’ view, steeped in memory and fiction. A space, at the threshold of the theatre and of the traditional setting for performance. Because what is played through Steven Cohen’s installation- performance is at the crossroads of testimony, investigation and poetic rambling. Costumes, videos, phosphorescent lights and rats are the beacons of a place intentionally not situated in terms of periods and continents, on the edge of history and imagination.
A major theme however: the discovery by the artist of a diary, made up of writings and sketched, kept between 1939 and 1942 by a young French Jew. How did this personal narrative become historical material, likely to be appropriated and transmitted? How does a document that dates back 70 years circulate until the 21th century, crystallizing our questions on the failures of humanity? How, as well, can these notebooks be made into subject matter for an artistic work?
The story of this young man, whose traces were suddenly lost in 1942, resonate with Steven Cohen‘s own experience, that of a South African, Jew, white and homosexual, “oppressor and oppressed”, as he himself says. By multiplying the comings and goings between found objects and his own subjectivity, between the Shoah and apartheid, the artist contrasts facts and concepts: inside/outside, intimacy/history, public/private, trust/betrayal. Connected to major documentary work, Title Withheld (For Legal and Ethical Reasons) goes however largely beyond a work of memory. The diary, whose discovery was at the genesis of the project, cannot be reduced to the status of an archive: it transpires and crosses the century down to us, moving all those who become aware of it today, through the intervention and delicacy of Steven Cohen’s work.