“Despite more than enough evidence, I have no recollection of those times. I wonder if I was really there.” These are the words of Seiichi Furuya who opens his book First trip to Bologna 1978 / Last trip to Venice 1985, published by Chose Commune and excavated by our colleague Sabyl Ghoussoub. The fear of time and oblivion is what inhabits each of Furuya’s projects, and the memory of his wife is at the heart of his work: the five volumes of his project entitled Memories, which pays tribute to Christine Gössler and their seven-year relationship.
IN First trip to Bologna 1978 / Last trip to Venice 1985, the Japanese photographer compares his first and last trip to his wife before committing suicide, by defending himself in 1985, in Berlin. For their first and last moment, the couple decided to go to Italy; the first trip to Bologna in 1978 marked the first month of their relationship, while the last to Venice in 1985 marked a few months ahead of a tragic end.
It is urgent to seize
As soon as he met Christine, the artist began photographing her on a daily basis, as an urgent need to seize her, to freeze her. At that time, her good friend was studying art history and started making radio documentaries. Both have traveled extensively in Europe and Bologna was their first time abroad.
There, Furuya films his girlfriend on a Super 8 camera in their hotel room, in their car, on the street, in the crowd. The planes are tight, the colors cold and the grain strong. Other snapshots characterize this documentation; advertising posters, a fish in the water, ruins, mountains, passers-by and finally a bird flying over a church as a sign of the grief Furuya will undergo.
It was a few years after the birth of their son when Christine began acting education that her mental health deteriorated. She suffers from the first signs of schizophrenia and psychotic conditions and is confined to a psychiatric hospital. The day after the release, their last trip to Venice is improvised; the lovers travel to the city of love without warning.
“The destination was not important. ‘Somewhere far away’, ‘just the two of us’, she said suddenly one evening, two days after returning home. She had been hospitalized for almost a week. I also wanted to leave the house, which seemed permeated by the oppressive smell of disease […]. When we saw that there was a night train to Venice, we ran to the station with only the clothes we had on that day.“says the photographer.
In Venice, the last journey, everything seems a little more sad: the colors and the smiles. Christine’s gaze widens, the melancholy is felt, the grain is missing. The photographs are more touristy, less experimental than Bologna’s. The location and the full-length portraits play a big role in this, as if they lacked inspiration. The loneliness that invaded the city at the end of the carnival mingled with my own state of mind and the mood was heavy. […] We went unplanned. “
Two days later, the lovers leave Venice “under the rain” : “For a moment I felt a certain calm, but deep inside me remained the same anxiety and dismay. In the autumn of the same year, she ended her life in East Berlin.”
A special edition
It was not until 2018 that Seiichi Furuya found the wheels of his Super 8 camera on his ceiling, which contained the negatives from the first trip to Bologna as well as sound recordings of Christine. There, the photographer decides to extract images from the film and realizes that his memory had completely blurred this moment in their relationship. The freezing frame allows him to relive it, to see Christine’s face again, to hear her voice again at the beginning of their love, 33 years after her death.
“Every time I sat down to watch them, I felt an irresistible urge to cry. […] When I followed the picture of this person on the screen, which at one point, […] lived and breathed in this world, I was overwhelmed by a sense of longing and love while desperately aware of the tragic end I already knew. […] I sometimes had the strange feeling of watching the scenes in a famous movie “, writes Furuya in his book.
This is how the series was born First trip to Bologna 1978, decides to merge with Last trip to Venice 1985, has already been the subject of a self-published work in 2002. In the new edition of Chose Commune, the two journeys occupy each half of the book, one upright, the other upside down, so that their story can be read in the sense that we will give it .
the work First trip to Bologna 1978 / Last trip to Venice 1985 by Seiichi Furuya is published by Chose Commune.