La Ligne, 2016
The Maginot Line was built between 1930 and 1939. A network of around 7,000 bunkers ran from Lille to Corsica. Tonnes of concrete gave material shape to France’s eastern limits. From September 1939 to May 1940, a million French soldiers were stationed in its depths, entering through heavy armoured doors. Once inside, they no longer saw daylight and their exploits remained in darkness. They became cogs in a motionless machine that stirred to life only when the enemy attacked.
For eight years, I travelled most of the border’s length in search of the Maginot Line’s relics, looking for the modernist portals of these strange temples. I did not go inside them, preferring to focus on the surface, the visible traces. Burrows are fascinating because usually only the outline or threshold is known; the rest is left to the imagination. On a symbolic level, the same is true for the Maginot Line: everybody has heard of it but few can describe it. Its name resonates like a receptacle for fantasies. Whether we peer at the concrete bunkers through the vegetation they are covered with or look at them from above, as in these aerial photographs, their shapes have a symbolic dimension.
Through my images, I wanted to share my fascination with this extraordinary relic of an already old modernity. The shape, location or outline of the bunkers I chose to photograph lead the image to become something more than the material record of a border: a kind of science fiction movie set, a trace of land art, modernist architecture, a contemporary geoglyph or something else that captures the imagination. The gap between the abundance of the line’s relics and the lack of contemporary representations offers an exciting playground to question our relationship to the landscape, borders and limits.
La Ligne has been exhibited at Les Rencontres photographiques Arles 2016.
I invited Tristan Garcia to write a fictional short story with the Ligne Maginot history as general frame. This collaboration work is published by RVB Books.
La Ligne as published in M Le magazine du Monde in july 2016