Euville, Pierre et poussière, Les Cavaliers
The exploitation of the two large limestone sills at Euville dates back to the 16th century. It peaked during the latter half of the 19th century. New modes of transport served to export Euville limestone throughout Europe and to America. It was used in most of the large buildings in Paris, from the days of Napoleon III, and for the construction of large infrastructure. Yet in the early 20th century, growing competition from concrete triggered a decline in production and today only one quarry is still exploited. The Euville quarries offer a wide variety of landscapes. This same site contentrates the vestiges of industrial exploitation, the buildings and tools of different periods, the remains of the quarriers' village built at the end of the 19th century, and a rich and abundant fauna and flora that have developed since the gradual cessation of human activity. The forest, present throughout the period of extraction, has become an essential part of the site. Owned by the community of communes of the Pays de Commercy, the Grande Carrière d'Euville site is starting to undergo major development for tourism. A vast architectural programme consisting of workshops, museographic areas, exhibition rooms and theatres is under way. The patrons wanted a lasting work that would stimulate the reflection that they had undertaken on the transformations of quarry landscapes. What do these changes mean today? What is highlighted and what is concealed? What is their impact on a broader territorial level?
The remains of the exploitation of the Euville site bear witness not only to industrial activity and to its evolution; overgrown with vegetation, they have become sources of imaginary stories. This is particularly the case of the impressive landscape constituted by a row of galleries dug out of the rock. These vestiges are also evidence of their belonging to lives and to a collective history that transcends the limits of the territory. What ties and what narratives can be built with the surrounding villages and their inhabitants? During the periods that Susanne Bürner spent at and around Euville she met many people and had some rather surprising encounters. She was thus able to collect the memoirs of former quarriers and individuals who had family members linked to the quarries' history. She also explored and photographed galleries dug in the rock between 1920 and 1960, and the quarriers' graffiti on the walls. This graffiti vividly reveal new aspects of the workers' lives, through their working conditions, their daily lives, and the events that took place around them. Some of them were found by the artist. This corpus of photographs will preserve the memory of these traces of lives, bound to disappear due to the humidity and the presence of backfill from other quarries. In the end, Susanne Bürner's proposal took the form of a book and a film. Their presentation was accompanied by an exhibition on the site of the Grande Carrière d'Euville, of a selection of the artist's photos. The book is about the history of the Euville quarries and its workers, based on traces, both visible (the graffiti) and invisible (the narratives). It contains photographs that Susanne Bürner selected from her corpus. The first section has some photos of galleries. The second one presents a set of spreads with a picture of graffiti on the right page and the transcription of a short account of ordinary life in the quarries on the left page. The graphics are inspired by art history books published from the 1950s and '60s. This book thus constitutes an archive of traces belonging to a culture that is already past because soon no one will be able to explain the stories that they relate. It is therefore up to the reader to contemplate their mystery, as with the constant wish to probe the secrets of the Lascaux cave paintings. Shot in the galleries, the film shows subtle plays of shadows, like ghosts, for strange fictive histories. The soundtrack is based on the recording of sounds heard today in the quarries – drops of water in the galleries, the sound of coal cutters in quarries that are still open – without their exact sources being clearly identifiable.
Susanne Bürner was born in Germany in 1970. She studied at the Karlsruhe Academy of Fine Arts and at the University of California in Los Angeles. She currently lives and works in Berlin. Her work is represented in various public collections in Europe. "Drawing mainly on photography and video, Susanne Bürner composes strange scenarios, within which reality and fiction are constantly intertwined. Through a skilful play of light and shadows, and sophisticated mises en scène or invisible manipulations, she recreates enigmatic fictions that run through the collective memory and enable subconscious reminiscences to resurface." (Pierre-Olivier Rollin, Selest'Art 2011, 19th biennale of contemporary art, Sélestat).