“A Klee painting named 'Angelus Novus' shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.”
(Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History")
Zoé Rumeau's porcelain wings are those of a bird that, like Icarus, flew too close to the sun and was burned by it - its feathers blackened by the fire, which attracts, blinds and then rejects, pitiless, all-powerful.
But these wings are also those of an angel, an ambivalent and torn angel, dark and luminous - alternating dark and immaculate feathers -, perhaps the new angel painted by Paul Klee, torn between the past and the future, an earthly angel as much as an aerial one, torn between the earth and the sky, sucked upwards and projected downwards, victim of the magnetic attraction and aspiring to ascend, a dialectic angel, unfinished and precarious - a human angel.
This is why his wings are made of porcelain and not of feathers, heavy, similar to horn or bone, dense, thick materials, a way of telling us that any flight is threatened by hindrance. Where one would expect élan and lightness, Zoé Rumeau introduces constraint, because grace is never acquired, even for birds, even for angels, it is conquered, snatched away, won at the price of battles against the weight of history and destiny.
But this bird, this angel will fly, they will succeed, hovering low to the ground, as if not to lose sight of the earth, its irresistible materiality, they will take off with their heavy wings, because it is always a question of extracting oneself, of pulling oneself up, of fighting against the fall, the assignment, in a difficult and furious movement, in the grip of adversity, with the energy of despair, the fatigue of time.
The fatigue is also that embodied by these bronze hands clinging to a makeshift ladder stuck in the ground, or perhaps planted in the sea. These hands of castaways, vagabonds, desperate people still full of hope, seek to rise in their turn, to know the same elevation as the angel, to escape from it, to escape the gravity, physical as well as political.
These hands spring from an invisible and hostile sea, and then the wings are like waves, these immense and chaotic waves that form the storm, and then the ocean, the earth and the sky merge in the same movement, the angel detaches itself, is uprooted, one hears the rattling of the feathers in the wind, the wings and the hands are finally joined, the world is momentarily saved.
Text by Joy Sorman.