En Partant, Il Revient
Curated by Ekaterina Scherbakova
Parc Saint Léger - Centre d’art Contemporain
Pougues-les-Eaux, France
September 26th 2020 to February 14th 2021

“Four. It is the number of points on a compass, seasons, and limbs of the human body. Place yourself in a seed of the world’s most common plant, listen to Donna Haraway and Aristotle having a casual conversation about time, find an all-purpose electric tree, and receive a puzzling message from a stranger about the metaphysical properties of breathing...

For Bifo [1], poetry is only perceptible through breath, because it is its projection. Together, these two phenomena provide an ontological rhythm, a tempo that exists beyond established conventions. The duo’s super inclusive nature, which stimulates the sociopolitical imagination, is based on the principle of poiesis. Excessive activity results from abundance, not scarcity. The activity of something that didn’t exist before is generated. Ubiquitous poetic expression. The exhilarating moment of creating something that doesn’t exist, the kairos as Donna Haraway [2] calls it, the time of joy and pain. The time of trouble. The time of becoming.

According to Luce Irigaray

This exhibition, which started with four semi-theoretical and semi-fictional dreams by the curator celebrating the notion of becoming, features five site-specific atmospheres, a video program, and a sound installation. The latter is a dream reading given by Simon.e Thiébaut.

A dream’s message can seem clear to us when we’re asleep. But when we awaken, we can only search among many possible interpretations. Were we to summarize the essence of this exhibition in a single sentence, it could be the search for our place in the world in relation to other forms of life. Or a study of our inner worlds and our personal relationships to ourselves. And the acceptance of its sometimes painful diversity as being a part of our own individual space. Accepting non-Cartesian principles as a response to power linked to capitalist and patriarchal networks. The history of introspections about places and people is illustrated through biographical myths and self-fiction.”

-Ekaterina Shcherbakova

Franco "Bifo" Berardi, Breathing: Chaos and Poetry, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 2019
[2] Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble, Duke University Press, Durham, 2016
[3] Luce Irigaray, In the Beginning, She Was, Bloomsbury, London, 2012

En partant, il revient is an abstracted study of the aesculus hippocastanum, the horse chestnut tree, adorning the window of the large mezzanine exhibition space of Centre d’art Contemporain de Parc Saint Léger. Aesculus hippocastanum, a revered homeopathic elixir, is often implemented as an antidote for melancholia, apathy, and lack of concentration. A tincture fabricated from the seed’s extract, containing the saponins escin and prosapogenin, is employed in the treatment of venous congestion and stagnant circulation, promoting movement and fluidity.

Throughout the six-month period of the piece’s conception, the tree served as a barometer for the measuring of time, the witnessing of its waxing and waning between June and February as a way to (re)grasp notions of time following an elasticization induced by pandemic temporality. In the reflection of a lost spring, or perhaps, rather, a spring that elongated the hibernations characterized by winter, one gazes outwards yet simultaneously inwards.

A photograph taken at the zenith of the tree’s verdancy, with its pyramidal florescences aptly titled candles, is superimposed upon the window of the exhibition space, painting the room in a soft green light that trickles in and out throughout the stretch of day. The portrait of the hale tree hovers over the view of its material counterpart, as the tree recoils into its hivernal armature, the robust and almost imposing memory of summer remains amidst its dormancy. The green room, saturated with a summer light, dwells in homage to inherent ephemerality and layered temporalities.

A scrolling poem unfurls across the span of the room, inducing the viewer into a meandering relationship with the text, words that move through the space with the subtlety of a breeze rustling through autumnal branches. The text commences at the beginning of September, embedded with traces of aesculus hippocastanum’s lineage in France, subsequently traversing towards a speculative winter, in which musings upon departures and arrivals pose a parabolic reflection. An ambient sound installation, generated with the photograph of the aesculus hippocastanum in summer, bathes the space with an immersive hymn, composing a multisensorial portrait of the centennial tree.

Special thanks to Grainger Gustafson.


En transition, éphémère Aesculus hippocastanum ne cesse d’arriver. Le doux gardien n'attend rien, et pourtant il s'attarde dans l'attente. Linnaeus lui a donné le nom d'Aesculus, l'arbre sacré de Jupiter. Migrant des jardins de Constantinople, par la main du botaniste Bachelier, il arrive en France en 1615. De forme pyramidale, ses fleurs hermaphrodites sont les premières à entrer dans la tendresse du printemps et dès la pollinisation par les premières abeilles, débute la croissance de sa petite enveloppe verte. Ses feuilles palmées sont robustes en été, car la maturation progressive de ses cocons protège une essence précieuse, censée améliorer la circulation sanguine, tandis que d'autres considèrent ses bourgeons comme un antidote à la mélancolie.  La graine protégée par son armure, entame sa lente descente vers l'automne, libérant ses fruits gonflés avant d'entrer dans son sommeil hivernal. Il ne se lamente pas sur le passé, il n'aspire pas à ce qui est à venir. Exposé à des vents tricentenaires, le teint serein de l'Aesculus hippocastanum reste stoïque en toutes saisons. Dans sa fugacité omniprésente, l'entrée est parallèle au départ. La nostalgie est-elle l'oubli de ce qui nous attend ? Peut-on vivre dans la verdure perpétuelle malgré des branches dénudées ? Car, assurément la verdure n'est pas seulement encapsulée dans un défilé de pétales, l'esprit robuste de l'hiver allume aussi la graine. La graine qui pousse sans cesse, en dormance, palpite encore dans les nuits silencieuses et lumineuses. Est-ce que quelque chose part vraiment, ou plutôt reste en perpétuel retour?


Aesculus hippocastanum is always arriving, arriving into transition, arriving into ephemerality. The gentle guardian awaits nothing, yet lingers in expectancy. Linnaeus gave the name aesculus, the sacred tree of Jupiter. Migrating from the gardens of Constantinople, by the hand of botanist Bachelier, it arrived in France in 1615, nesting into the gardens of the Hotel de Soubise. Its pyramidal, hermaphrodite flowers are the first to enter into the tenderness of spring and upon pollination by the first bees, the growth of its small green envelope commences. Its palmate leaves stand robust in summer’s expanse as the gradual ripening of its cocoons protects a precious essence, said to improve blood circulation, whil others deem its buds to be an antidote to melancholia.  The armored seed embarks upon its slow descent into autumn, releasing its swollen fruits before entering its winter sleep. It does not lament over the past, it does not yearn for what is to come. Aesculus hippocastanum’s serene complexion remains stoic amidst all seasons, and through the winds of three hundred years. In its omnipresent transience, the entrance parallels the departure. Is nostalgia the forgetting of what awaits? Can one live in perpetual verdancy despite bare branches? For surely verdancy is not solely encapsulated by a parade of petals, the robust spirit of winter also kindles the seed. The ever-growing seed, dormant, still pulsates in the silenced and bright nights. Is anything ever truly departing, or rather does it remain in perpetual return?

Photo © Diane Arques / ADAGP, Paris, 2020