Moon Folds

It’s called a fortune teller, I think, a paper fortune teller, or a cootie catcher, and it’s made from a sheet of paper folded to create four compartments into which you place your fingers to open and close them, two by two, whilst adding or deducting, and, when the movement stops, various facets appear, each with a drawing or letter, and beneath the inner flap of the compartment there’s a message. Who is the person being questioned here? What destiny, chance or declaration of love, what good fortune or bad luck? I can’t remember. All that remains is the vision of quick, almost elusive movements, and the sudden stop. Like a modest roulette wheel with only four facets. We made these fortune tellers with great care – you had to know how to fold them, and draw the correct thing on both the visible and invisible facets – a childhood skill which, I seem to remember, girls were better at than boys. An entire life within folds.

“Cela ne fait pas un pli” (“there’s no doubt about it” – an expression that plays on the word “pli”, ‘fold’, in French) – illustrates the force of the obvious, of that obviousness of which I have always been wary, so often finding it arrogant and stupid.

A fold is the beginning of meaning, its debut or initial state. Take a large, flat, plain expanse: nothing happens there except for the doing away with of any previous meaning. Make a fold and you immediately create meaning, with left and right sides, or top and bottom, or major and minor facets, etc.

The folds of a face, its wrinkles, are like traces of time: as a child, my father taught me how to tell the age of a tree by counting the rings on the cross section of its trunk.

People who laugh have more wrinkles, especially around the eyes.

I’m not sure what soothing effect of time has decreed that, on the whole, neither masks nor moulds have wrinkles, but it’s as if the magic of being a duplicate, or copy, has cast them back to some virgin state. The same goes for death masks, where faces hark back to the look of infants, of sleeping infants. But if you add two holes in place of eyes, the sleeping being is instantly transformed into an ecstatic phantom with that disturbing here but not here aura that masks give off.

Olga Luna: the moon, its rhythms, appearances and disappearances, and transformations.

In a mass of coffers forming six rows of seventeen made by Olga Luna at La Seyne-sur-Mer (as well as elsewhere, perhaps), there are five empty spaces: two at the top on the left and three at the top on the right. Strangely asymmetrical. What do these voids refer to? In a number, always look for absence, the void, the hole.

A series of lunar masks, in their respective coffers, like that crowd that so intrigued Edgar Allan Poe, where each face seemed to relate to a familiar type, in a world where classification defines and reassures – a seemingly efficient system of identification until a face appears (a mask ?) that is unlike any other, one that has no reference. Poe’s narrator, in The Man of the Crowd, pursues him across London all night long, in vain: he is incapable of discovering his secret.

A face’s mystery can be expressed or addressed through multiplicity, a series based on variety (where no two faces are similar) and repetition (they are all still faces, human faces). It can also be expressed through obsessive repetition of the same thing, of something that is the same yet never quite so, not exactly.

As children, in addition to paper fortune tellers, and later as we grow older I think, with kaleidoscopes, sometimes made by us at school, we seek the same effect of movement, with the need to discover something (a message, a pattern) when it stops. Later, when reading Proust, I came across both the word and the object kaleidoscope again, as a driving force and principle for looking at the world truthfully: in movement, constantly taking apart and rebuilding the different realities which lose their magic when they become fixed.

Olga Luna uses a process of folds in pieces of carefully selected, very thin linen, a meticulous process requiring great delicacy and precision, which leaves faint streaks on the cloth which are impossible to remove (have you ever tried to get rid of the hemline on a pair of trousers that have become too short as a result of being washed many times? It’s a lost cause).

The folds catch the light and refract it differently, depending on where one stands in relation to them.

The folds give Olga Luna’s tableau a sculptural quality also found in masks. What lies behind folds, and inside them? This vast question has long preoccupied philosophers.

The word ‘folds’ makes me think of Michaux, naturally, as well as Gilles Deleuze. As chance would have it, the day before writing this text, I came across a book of photographs dedicated to Gilles Deleuze, in a bookshop in Bordeaux. His life is full of folds. There’s that intelligence, which is visible, almost palpable in the grain of the photograph. Then there’s also that gentleness, very noticeable with his children. He appears to question what having children is all about. What occurs and recurs within the folds.

Olga Luna’s folds are made with great precision and care; they don’t just run from one side of the cloth to the other, but create their own territory, a discreet, delicate space which is barely perceptible, like hatching that differentiates without breaking away from the virgin (in reserve) or painted surface that surrounds it.

Here, therefore, the fold stops. It has a very precise end, to the nearest millimetre. I’ve always enjoyed the artisanal aspect of art, the making and love thereof.

The fold can be simple, parallel lines in a single direction, or more complex, making a sort of star shape where the axes of the four folds overlap. That creates sort of over-folds that jut out and are more noticeable.

They are normally geometric in shape: rectangular, square, triangular or circular (even more complicated and difficult to make than the others, I imagine). Every now and then there’s one that’s a more irregular shape, like a rocky clump or a cloud. And then suddenly there’s a face. A face in the folds, or on the folds; a face drawn on the territory of the folds.

Elsewhere, the drawing becomes a photograph. Is it the same face, the same model? Perhaps. Undoubtedly.

There is, therefore, a photograph. Just one. More or less magnified, but always the same. It’s of her son, Olivier, aged twenty (a small anecdote). Always the same, yet never identical as it emerges from the fold-test, for this face is folded every which way, exploring all the folds in every direction. It’s barely recognisable from one pigeonhole to another, thanks to the effect of anamorphosis, reminiscent, of course, of the kaleidoscope, and the paper fortune teller, but also of Cubism with its surface distortion that gives the impression of several viewpoints having been synchronised simultaneously. Hence, this anamorphosic puzzle becomes as enigmatic as the face-masks, with all these persona emerging from everywhere and nowhere, and the resulting multiple portraits of her son can perhaps be seen as a rather disturbing description of a missing person. What is a son? What is a child?

Bernard Comment

June 2006