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Autumn, Autonomy, Crazy Chestnuts, Dead Leaves

by Lætitia Paviani

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Ethan Assouline’s exhibition “La médiathèque autonome” at La Tôlerie took place in the autumn of 2022.  

One could believe that seasons have existed since forever, as they say. However, the word autumn first appeared relatively late (12th, 13th century). Before then, we had another word to speak of this time of harvest when leaves and fruits are piled up and gathered: we spoke of a "gain", because of the Latin “augere” which means "to increase" and which is part of the same group of words as "augmentation" and "author". But in the last few centuries, the idea of harvest has been replaced by that of decline. The benefit of gain has been replaced by the figurative meaning of something that falls, that finishes, by a certain idea of decrease, of the end. The time of rewards and of the plump usufruct that has become too heavy, of the golden wheat grains harvested for the winter, has changed into sad rows of bare trees, into vast carpets of thin dead leaves crushed to the ground, swept away by the wind.

Ah! This great wind, can’t you hear it?1

Can’t you hear it knocking on the door? 

In its full basket it brings us

The crazy chestnuts, the dead leaves

Throughout the summer, Ethan Assouline cultivated the desire to send him texts at amongst his friends and acquaintances. He collected an entire field of words and documentation, of soft and radical poems, of political texts, of feminist DIY manuals. When autumn came, he printed it all out, often on ordinary, sometimes coloured, A4 paper. He gathered, created, and around these new acquaintances, constructed something to sit on, to taste them on the spot. One could also leave with them depending on the hostile mood of two photocopiers. Impossible to detect the original format. Replace the original correctly or set up the cartridge correctly. While reading, a heart murmur stops us amongst the mismatched seats of obsolete administration. One lifts the tired corners of informational brochures, grabs a poem and a zephyr of anger rushes between the scantily stapled loose sheets, whilst the scramble of glasses on some grayish plywood appendages and in the center of the tables is like an air of promise. 

Ah! this great wind, can't you hear it?

Ah! this great wind, can't you hear it?

Can't you hear it at the window?

Through the smallest crack it penetrates

“Take an institution, turn it upside down, shake things up,” wrote Carole Gasnier, director of the Châteauroux library network and author of the dissertation Penser le mobilier en bibliothèque [Thinking about furniture in libraries], "everything that falls down fits into the definition of the word furniture.”2 Carole puts everything on the floor: books, pencil boxes, mice, flat screens, audiobook readers. So what? So can we conclude that books, reading tools for the visually impaired, and Ethan's PDFs are furniture? Yes, all of this is mobile, the librarian hurricane would answer us, all of this can move, change, evolve. Oh yes? In France, articles 527 to 536 of the Civil Code state that all property must be considered as movable OR immovable. There is NO third possibility, no undecided or mixed property, no non-binary property. Pity.

Through the smallest crack it penetrates

And swells and spits like a cat

Ah! this great wind, can't you hear it? 

I hear the cries of the workers

Yes, here we play with words on the ground. Like a martian who has been given furniture in an empty room and is asked to compose with it. Your furniture, their grammar. This is Jack Spicer's singular conception of poetry3. KNOWLEDGE, POWER, DECLINE, FALL, AUTONOMY, HARVEST, REVOLT. Make words allies, Ethan told me, especially when they are scary. He then draws them by hand, in a pretty and exaggerated, calligraphic style, “so these words can be closer to me in day to day life, with real meaning” he explained to Dodie Bellamy4 in conversation with her, to which she responded, “I love how you’re taking big scary concepts and reinscribing them as decorative. Kind of sissifying5 them. The drawing becomes a fetish or ritual object. I love how some artists can so boldly literalize their internal struggles and obsessions.”6 

The earth cracks, rises.

I already see the grain dying,

I already see the wheat that rises.

This is the time of the workers.

“I attempted to imagine a space to welcome and unite ideas, desires and words that inspire to continue in a different way, to circulate stories at the edge of the exhausted hole of today's world into which we try not to fall.”7 Can the decline be regained? A furniture of poetry? A different kind of good? Let us hope so. It is time. 


  1. « Le vent d’automne » by Pierre Menanteau (1895-1992). https://apprendrelespoesiestoutseul.blogspot.com/2017/10/poesie-le-vent-dautomne-de-pierre.html.
  2. "Thinking about furniture in libraries", Penser le mobilier en bibliothèque. Gasnier, Carole. Dissertation for the diploma of curator of libraries, Enssib, 2014. I had consulted for the drafting of this article this brilliant and free service of the public libraries which is called EUREKOI accomplice of your curiosity : https://www.eurekoi.org. "We would particularly like to draw your attention to the point "1.3 The evolution of furniture in libraries: collections supplanted by uses?", pages 23 to 27" had underlined the librarian who had answered me.
  3. Jack Spicer was an American poet and linguist, a central figure of the San Francisco Renaissance. In the edition produced by Peter Gizzi after his death in 1965, Three Lessons in Poetics given in Vancouver on June 13, 15 and 17, 1965, edited in French by TH. TY. Théâtre Typographique, he explains to an audience of young poets, professors and artists what he means by "serial poem" and by "dictation" of poems, dictation that he attributes to "Martians"... among others. The recordings of these conferences are available online https://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Spicer.php
  4. Dodie Bellamy is an author of the San Francisco literary avant-garde and one of the founders of the literary movement New Narrative. Wikipedia even says, "known as a figure in queer culture, feminism, and the excluded in general on the American scene."
  5. The term sissify has several definitions but can be read here as the forced feminization of something seen by habit as masculine to humiliate it. NDLR MÉDIATHÈQUE - les cahiers de de la Médiathèque Autonome n°1.
  6. This conversation is to be found in the first issue of MÉDIATHÈQUE - les cahiers de la Médiathèque Autonome, published on the occasion of the installation of the media library at La Tôlerie, Clermont-Ferrand, from September 24th to November 26th 2022. With Dodie Bellamy, Grichka Commaret, Fanny Lallart, Rafael Moreno, Gaia Vincensini. 
  7. Introduction to the first issue of MÉDIATHÈQUE - les cahiers de de la Médiathèque Autonome, 2022.

« La Médiathèque Autonome », Ethan Assouline

La Tôlerie, Clermont-Ferrand

24.09.2022 - 26.11.2022

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