Madame Zo: Bientôt je vous tisse tous (Soon I’ll weave you all)

Fondation H, Antananarivo , Madagascar
28 Apr 2023 - 29 Feb 2024

Work by Madame Zo. Installation view at Fondation H, Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Work by Madame Zo. Installation view at Fondation H, Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Fondation H is dedicating its inaugural exhibition to Zoarinivo Razakaratrimo, known as Madame Zo (1956 – 2020), an icon of the Malagasy art scene. Madame Zo dedicated her life to the art of weaving, an ancestral tradition still alive in Madagascar, where lamba, a wild silk or cotton fabric, accompanies every moment of life, from birth to death.

The artist drew the essence of her work, first through design and fashion objects and then transcended the rules of this strongly codified art. By making her technique extremely complex and freeing herself from the limitations of material or format, she developed her own artistic language.

Madame Zo’s weavings have unusual shapes and sizes thanks to the looms she made herself. They integrate several hundred materials such as newsprint, magnetic tapes, electronic components, copper, bones, medicinal plants, industrial foam, rubber, wood chips or perishable foods… They form an important corpus of abstract works whose meshes enclose significant details and language games that seem like an enigma to be deciphered, revealing a vision of Malagasy society and a poetic and engaging reading of the world.

Against a backdrop of forest, mountain, karst and linear landscapes,visitors are immersed into a composition that plays with superimpositions and formal, colorful associations, placing human beings at the beginning of allthings, in both their exterior manifestations and their inner, spiritual reflections. In the case of Madame Zo, they can be guessed from her autobiographical works which are evocative of personal and family moments, ofher status as an artist and of her personal health.

Her works provide passageways and transitory spaces between here and elsewhere, between one state and another. They nurture relationships but also set boundaries. They are at once the point of departure and of arrival. They convey a metamorphosis and the aina: the breath of life that is present in the silkworm in the Malagasy tradition. It is therefore a question of accepting what exceeds our comprehension, i.e. the black hole, as an area of narrative possibilities. Thus, the monochromatic lights projected by magnetic tapes from hundreds of unwound audio cassettes expel words, songs, sounds and music that are suspended in a parallel space-time. They are also found in the series of works known as Cinétiss. Made from cut-up film, these weavings evoke the material and immaterial dimensions of the image, which can be glimpsed through transparency. The plot unfolding in new ways as a succession of small vignettes are replayed in a final editing gesture.

Falling midway between literality and orality, Madame Zo’s works are rooted in oraliture. The fundamental relationship with language is reflected in the use of printed newspaper, an everyday material that conveys information, here wrung out and encased in armor, from which escape a few snatches of rearranged sentences, carefully selected and subtly eye-opening. Is it critique? Perhaps. Silence emanates from a long, dense, compact curtain of magnetic tape. Tais-toi et dors (Shut up and goto sleep) shouts a small work that contains radio and computer components.

The exhibition Bientôt je vous tisse tous (SoonI’ll weave you all) brings Madame Zo’s spirit to life. It makes her quest foremancipation palpable and holds the promise of infinite experimentation.