Madeleine’s I/We

It started just like that. I have nothing to say about it, nor can I explain the appearance of the wounds. On two or three occasions, tiny holes formed on the upper parts of my feet and the palms of my hands. On my left side I had a three-centimetre wound that oozed blood and serum. It always happened on Good Friday. It's impossible to explain, I just have no words to describe it. Each time it happens the doctor gets all worked up. He drags out his whole kit to check whether I'm the one making the marks. He's even invented an observation device, a metal plate he attaches to my instep. Set into the middle of this is a watch glass, held in place by string. The whole thing is closed with wax seals. The tiny blister appears just the same. The doctors have come to the conclusion that I am the one who caused it, consciously-or even sometimes unconsciously, they say. They're not at all pleased with having me show them where their science leaves off. They keep looking, listing symptoms, but I keep telling them: no, it's not that.

At the slightest outward sign of what's going on in me, the doctor calls in the photographer, as if he could see it better with his apparatus. […] I have to spend long boring hours posing for them. They've shot hundreds of negatives, all the while classifying them, day after day. They've pinned them up side by side to make a big observation table, which they keep in a place well within sight, so that anyone who wants to consult it can do so. They say that, this way, they've preserved long segments of life. But what do these photographs have to say about me? Sometimes you'd think it was a man [in them], and sometimes a woman. Deep down I couldn't care less, but it's extremely important for them to know who I am. Ma-de-lei-ne: a woman. […]
Nicole Jolicœur
Excerpt from Nicole Jolicœur's “Le je/nous de Madeleine,” published in Louise Déry et al., L’art inquiet: Motifs d’engagement.- Montréal: Galerie de l’UQAM, 1998.- pp. 130-145.

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