Philippe Artières, Le dossier sauvage, Verticales, Octobre 2019
« Enquêter sur des archives qui auraient été rassemblées par Michel Foucault. Déplier chacune de ses pièces pour suivre la trace d’individus qui se sont retirés du monde au XIXe et au XXe siècle. Redécouvrir, en marge du dossier, que dans une forêt des Vosges, il est un autre ermite qui a marqué mon enfance.
Lors du dépouillement de cette généalogie sauvage, il arrivera que je me perde, mais n’est-ce pas le propre du chercheur que de s’aventurer en un territoire où plus il avance plus ce qu’il croyait savoir se dérobe sous ses pas. » [Ph.A.]
From the outset Philippe Artières stages himself receiving a file entitled «Wild Lives» which seems to have been gathered by Michel Foucault. This unpublished collection contains bundles of documents on individuals who withdrew from the world in the 19th and 20th centuries. Among the photocopies and handwritten-notes by the philosopher, three folders contain more abundant material: press clips and a report from the Royal Academy of Medicine of 1865 regarding Laurent, aka the «Var Savage» who at the time was the subject of a media and scientific frenzy; also notes, manifestos and testimonies (partially translated from English) on an American mathematician, aka TJK, who fled to the Montana forests in the early 1970s; and finally, the portrait of a hermit dressed in a cassock at the end of the 19th century who, isolated in the Forez mountains, was murdered there by Ravachol.
What was Foucault looking for by bringing together these three figures from different eras and with different aspirations? For those who have been exploring Foucauldian sources for a long time, these case-studies are both familiar and surprising. They remind the author of Jean, a man who lived in the woods and had an important impact on his young years. While in college, Philippe Artières devoted a short text to this marginal man from the Vosges; and although not part of the original corpus of the file, it naturally finds its place. As the story unfolds, one begins to wonder how real this posthumous file is.
A documentary investigation, an introspective narrative and a fictional maze, one reads The Wild File as if an adventure novel in a country of archives.