Ghost Stories
Exhibition 20 January - 14 March 2021

Fr | Nl

Durer Rhino

© Federico Clavarino, série Ghost Stories, résidence d’artiste à Bruxelles-Contretype, 2018, 24 x 30 cm

The Frioul archipelago is located in front of the gulf of Marseille, and it comprises four islands: Ratonneau, Pomègues, If and Tiboulen. Frioul is an archipelago in space and in time: these islands have been the scenario of apparently unrelated events that make up a mysterious constellation. In 1516 king Francois I ordered a fortress to be built on the island of If, which was then used as a prison in the XVII century.

Its most famous inmate was Edmond Dantès, the protagonist of Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. Inside one of its cells, it is still possible to see a hole Dantès made in a wall in an attempt to escape. On the 24th of January, 1516, the first rhinoceros to be ever seen in Europe was unloaded on Ratonneau. The animal was being shipped to Pope Leon X, and Francois I, king of France, hurried there to admire the beast. On its way to Rome the ship ran into a violent storm and sank. Albrecht Dürer later made a woodcut of it from a sketch that was sent to him.

On the 31st of July, 1944, Luftwaffe pilot Horst Rippert shot down a P-38 Lightning, which fell into the waters of the archipelago together with its unfortunate pilot, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. A bracelet bearing his name was found by a fisherman in his net while fishing near Pomegues decades later.
Ghost Stories is a series of photographs which is meant to weave together all of these events, occurred in the same space but at different times. All of these stories tell about people, animals or objects that resurfaced from water: Edmond Dantès himself, the rhinoceros, and Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s bracelet.

Each one of these threads has led me to other places: Paris, where the Count of Monte Cristo’s story of revenge took place, a series of museums around Europe, where copies of Dürer’s rhinoceros are kept, and some of the locations of Saint-Exupéry’s multiple plane crashes.

I made the city of Brussels my base for a significant part of the duration of the project, as it is central position in Europe allowed me to quickly reach most of the places the stories branch out to, such as Paris and most European museums and libraries. Its tradition of flea markets and antiquary bookshops also meant I could work with old copies of Dumas and Saint-Exupéry books, and the Royal Library of Belgium was an ideal place to carry out research (it also contained a couple of Rhinoceroses). Moreover, to be able to immerse myself in the local photography and art scene ended up being an endless source of inspiration.

Federico Clavarino


The exhibition is part of the Artists in Residence in Brussels programme, wich Contretype started in 1997, and wich continues in partnership with the Wallonie-Brussels Federation and the Francophone Community Commission (COCOF).

Website: www.federicoclavarino.com


© Federico Clavarino, série Ghost Stories, 2018, 40 x 30 cm