Raymonde Carasco (1933-2009)

Gradiva Sketch 1 (1978)

Raymonde Carasco, Master of the Ethnographic Poem
Nicole Brenez

On discovering the work of Raymonde Carasco -- an exemplary poetic enterprise in contemporary cinema -- suddenly it seems that film is at last accomplishing the ideals of German Romanticism. 'If you wish to enter into the depths of the physical', wrote Schlegel, 'you must first be initiated into the mysteries of poetry'. How can cinema reach the poetic truth of phenomena, how should the sensual description of appearances and particularities be converted into such a 'magnetic song'?

We must thus go back to the very origin of Carasco's quest. She did not set out for Mexico in the late 1970s in order to rape and pillage the imaginary of the Tarahumaras, but rather to follow the traces of Antonin Artaud, to empirically verify the encounter between a sacred text of modernity and its reality. With the result that her research does not comprise a classical type of investigation (to hide, discover, expose), but an alliance of the senses: to enjoy the privilege of being there, to accept that that she will never see everything, to acquiesce in the gradual revelation of only a few traces, to grasp some movements, some signs that testify to the beauty of friendship, before pretending to understand anything -- to share not the secret but the cult of the secret, the cult of mystery and trance.

Even before finding her place on those Mexican plains (in film and video works dating from 1978 to 2003), the formal elegance that structures Carasco's style in Gradiva -- esquisse I (1978) exhibited the plastic structures associated with ritual: fragmentation, monumentality, fetishisation, seriality. But here, cinema monumentalises nothing other than the real itself -- at the heart of which Carasco isolated a privileged motif: gesture.

Carasco shows us that every human gesture -- beginning (as in Muybridge and Marey) with walking and running -- results less from the singular characteristics of an individual, concrete body than from the total relationship of man to his world. Every gesture is a mythography; and what Raymonde Carasco captured of the Tarahumaras (like Jean Rouch with the Dogons) shows us how we, too, are turbulent marionettes ... albeit pulled by less magical strings.