Nathalie Joffre



He told me that his garden... (2012)
3-channel, projection. 9’30''. Color, sound. 300 cm x 169 cm.

An empirical exploration of a photographic archive from Bethlem Royal Hospital, Europe's oldest institution for mental illnesses.
Archives tend to bring us back to the past through documenting it but they also inhabit our present. What kind of imprint do they leave on the memory, the body and the intimate space of the one who touches, smells, listens to them and studies them?
He told me that his garden… is the result of my own subjective exploration of the archives of Bethlem Royal Hospital and more specifically of a collection of patients’ pictures, taken by portrait photographer Henry Hering between 1857 and 1859. This collection consists of 106 photographs, amongst which, 49 are titled with the initials, diagnosis, and in the case of criminals, the crime of each patient. Whilst studying these archives, I became more and more interested not only in the documents themselves, but also in the relationship I was building with them; with the place where they are located and the people on the pictures. My intention has been to consider the archives not as a fixed accumulation of dead material but as a living and travelling body, that one can access and appropriate physically and mentally.