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Megillah ben Adam

Carole Benzaken (born 1964, Grenoble)

Paris, 2011

Ink, graphite and lithographic crayon on various materials, digitised and printed on canvas,

0.26 x 31m

mahJ, gift of the artist


Carole Benzaken (née en 1964, Grenoble), Megillah ben Adam, Paris, 2011, don de l’artiste

Carole Benzaken trained at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris and began her career painting flowers, series of tulips aligned frontally. In these codified images she was questioning what would become the main subject of her protean practice: painting’s relationship to the image.

Megillah ben Adam, literally “The Scroll of the Son of Man”, is a singular work based on Carole Benzaken’s study of ancient Hebrew and readings of the biblical texts. Profoundly affected by her visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, she embarked on the creation of a long drawing inspired by Ezekiel’s prophecy describing a valley filled with dry bones and the resurrection of the dead.

Although the scroll, evoking the uncoiling of time, is a form of which the artist is particularly fond, here it also recalls the scrolls of Jewish liturgy: the sefer Torah (Pentateuch) and the Hamesh Megillot or “Five scrolls”, the five books of the Bible read in the synagogue during the main festivals, of which only the Book of Esther still has the appearance of an ancient volumen. The scroll form and the framing effects and zooms on details are also reminiscent of cinema and film and the succession of images that feeds our imagination and constructs our memory. This effect is accentuated by the text, which acts like a cinematic voice-over.

Following the biblical text (Ezekiel 37, 1-14), Carole Benzaken drew black and white images in ink or crayon, inspired by the text but never merely illustrative. Abstract sequences are followed by images of trees, a forest of birches (Birkenau means “small birch wood”), bones, and living legs. To emphasise the anteriority and immutable nature of the biblical text, the Hebrew characters appear in white in the middle of the roll of canvas 31 metres long on which the digitized drawings were reproduced. Text and drawings are read in no hierarchical order, in the same breath.

In a film made in 2015 by Isabelle Filleul de Brohy and produced by the Fondation Pro mahJ, Carole Benzaken presents her work and her intentions in her studio.

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