The idea of working with marabout papers was born when, living in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, I started collecting them. Many people have mocked these small, cheap prints, whose grammar is sometimes questionable and which praise the qualities of sorcerers coming from Africa. Just as many are the persons who are stunned to discover, as I did, the massive number of flyers distributed every day and the persistence of their mysterious clientele. There are indeed hundreds of marabouts who offer their advice in Paris, in the suburbs, but also in the regional cities: Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier to name only a few.
Often associated with fraud or light superstition, marabouts’ activities and communication tools are nevertheless meaningful. They provide information on the dominant social models, power and domination relationships, as well as on individual aspirations woven into the depths of reality and of which consumer society is a breeding ground. Social life imposes specific behavioral patterns that must be adopted and whose norms are accepted as “self-evident”. The order of this social life places the individual in a system of structures which he must submit to and conform to. From this set of rules, marabouts do not criticize, but intend to help you conform to them.
For this project, I am interested in the flyer itself, in its structure (which inevitably uses the same elements), in its stereotypical content valorizing vitality and sexual performances, in its syntax and symbols. For the two months during which the project was running, I invited each participant to compose his own flyer and to invent a cure to heal the modern man. “If you could have the power of a marabout, what specific problem within the group of men would you decide to fix?” With the help of a computer generator and using real excerpts from Dennis’s flyer collection, the participant invents his own formula and writes it at the end of the central text.
I produced thirteen hanging sculptures using marabout flyers collected in Seine Saint-Denis and coming from Denis’ collection. The enlarged flyers are inserted between two engraved and inked Plexiglas plates. These sculptures highlight the graphic work of marabouts papers and take up the codes of advertisement invoking the injunctions of visibility of a world saturated with images. The installation is full of esoteric references: from the engraved frames to the number of pieces supposed to bring good fortune).