While working as a reporter photographer in the mid-1980s, Marion
Scemama was sent to New York. There she met David Wojnarowicz at the
Christopher Street Pier, where he was painting his first frescoes. He
introduced her to his friends, gave her access to the New York underground
scene she wanted to document. From that moment on, until David's death in
1992, they maintained a passionate friendship that took the form of artistic
collaborations on several occasions, with Marion taking pictures or making
films that David Wojnarowicz used in his work.
In 1991, David was invited to San Francisco for the launch of his book, Close
to the Knives
. He wanted to get there by land, traveling through the
desert, which he had already done alone several times. He loved those
landscapes, the extreme loneliness they made him feel, the physical
enjoyment and excitement he felt on the road, feeling weighed down by the
When David wrote his long-time friend and asked her to join him that trip,
he had known for several years that he was HIV-positive and sensed that this
trip may very well be the last one he would ever have the strength to take.
The photographs show what this trip meant to the two friends. Like a silent
farewell, but in a moment when the knowledge of his impending death, no
matter how clear and profound, never suppressed the heightened life force
that grew within David in the midst of these desert landscapes.
During this weeks-long journey, Marion took about one hundred photographs
that have been kept hidden until now. The book follows the two friends on
the roads, from shabby motels to deserted villages, against the backdrop of
the Death Valley's shadowless landscapes, amidst the white rocks of
Zabriskie Point, where the old emblems of American mythology live on.
To accompany the account of this journey and tie it to David Wojnarowicz's
life and oeuvre, two texts, one written by Thibault Boulvain and Elisabeth
, will close the collection. The contribution of these
researchers, who are in France two important figures in the current research
in queer studies
, will make
it possible to introduce David Wojnarowicz's work in France, where there has
only been a translation of Close to the Knives
of print now—and where no major exhibition of his work is yet to be
Published on the occasion of David Wojnarowicz's
retrospective, “History Keeps me Awake at Night”, Mudam, Luxembourg, from
October 26, 2019, to February 2d, 2020, and Peter Hujar
“Speed for Life”, Musée du Jeu de Paume
, Paris, from October
15, 2019, to January 19, 2020.
David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) was a multi-disciplinary artist, writer,
and AIDS activist. He was a prominent figure in New York
's Lower East Side
art movement during the 1980s, and his art still proves to be influential
nowadays. HIV positive, Wojnarowicz often used photography, painting,
collage, sculpture, and film to tackle the political issues
related to the AIDS epidemic.