Edition au Figuré and FRAC Haute-Normandie, 2005, with support of the Centre Culturel Français Jakarta, the Goethe-Institut Jakarta and the banque Neuflize.
256 pages, 121 photos, texts,
graphic design Johannes Bergerhausen, Cologne,
indonesian translation Florent Stoffer, Paris,
editorial monitoring Elisabeth Milon,
print Heinz W. Holler, Karlsruhe.
This books retraces the life of Maria Theodora, the great-great-grandmother of the artist, half german, half indonesian, who was born in 1845 in Palembang in Sumatra, and died in 1913 in Weimar, Germany. This book is the result of several journeys to Indonesia between 1995 and 1997, within the programme "Villa Médicis hors-les-murs", AFAA (Institut Français) - Ministère des Affaires Etrangères.
Maria Theodora is an artist’s book, the central part of a manifold work developed around the figure of Maria Theodora.
This book is a collection of one hundred and twenty photographs, one hundred and twenty portraits of women attempting to embody the figure of Maria Theodora as shown on a photograph that the artist had found in the family archives. This sepia photograph, dated from the 1860s, shows a young woman of sixteen or seventeen : the artist’s great-great-grandmother. Other objects and documents which belonged to her have survived until today. But of her Indonesian mother Djinio, nothing is left, except the resemblance and thus remembrance on the face of her daughter. The story of these women is as tragic as it is mysterious.
Within the artists residency programme "Villa Médicis hors les murs" of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Jakob Gautel went to Indonesia to find traces of these faraway and fantastical existences. He came back with a diary, which is, at times, a violent document about the difficult situation of a country, retracing the general state of agitation animating his research. It was the research itself that brought Djinio to life again, as she had vanished from all archives. Djinio can only exist through his words, those of her daughter’s diary relating the moments of separation with her mother, and through these one hundred and twenty other women, Indonesian and European, photographed by Jakob Gautel in the same pose, the same dress, the same setting as Maria Theodora. Everything in this book, text and images, calls for Djinio, and yet it is her hollow absence that pervades.
Elisabeth Milon 2005