photographer | césar toimil curator | àlex piñeiro design | àlex piñeiro&césar toimil edition | walking_art_paths
THE_LINE is the consequence of a creative process, a recreation of the past from the perspective of its three protagonists. As real as the offcial history or maybe even more for its individuality and humanity
thank you ludovic vetzel Asociación Le Tiburce
(by césar toimil)
Photography has a great power to communicate by means of artifice and to show the harsh reality at the same time. We can also say that in many occasions it doesn’t need that artifice to do it. Perhaps the problem is to know how to identify fiction and reality, what is true and what is not. The truth might be a fantasy or a fiction but there is always something true associated to every creation from a conceptual point of view and we have worked in this project under that premise. Thus the Line is the consequence of a creative process, a recreation of the past from the perspective of its protagonists, as real as the one which offcial stories and speeches tell or maybe more, for its individual, personal and human character.
I don’t know to what extent we knew how to tell what we wanted to tell, but it was clearly concealed the intention to speak about truths, all of which were not evident. What we found -either from a human or a spatial point of view- along the tour of the historical Maginot Line, from the ouvrage of La Ferté to Fort Casso, gave answers to our questions.
César Toimil has made a photographic proposal that has -as a common thread- the intention to be honest, he possesses an intimate language with no adornment. He doesn’t trick people by making them believe something, he wants to be clear and this doesn’t mean either “not working” in different levels of meaning or giving up complexity; but doing it with known structures. The space was treated as a stage where a series of events took place and those ones that were expected didn’t take place. Some actors performed on this stage, a tragedy was played –the tragedy of man’s own existence, a heroic victim of his own mistakes, man as his worst enemy. The tragedy is played by photographs and travels between the line of fiction and reality, the line as a frontier between light and darkness, between power and fragility, between what is alive and what is lifeless, between fantasy and real experience.
LA_LÍNEA that César has designed immerses us in a world where silence, emptiness and absence prevail; loneliness, anxiety and the outrage of some human beings’ behaviour prevail. He has reproduced a disturbing and phantasmagorical atmosphere which brings us closer to an abyss made by ourselves due to our fears, our complexes and our own incapacity to understand what we are. It is no poetry, it is sheer prose. One day someone turns on a switch physical or symbolically triggering some actions which have terrible consequences for the anonymous human being. Frances Torres says that “knowing history doesn’t prevent its repetition, infinite combinations for the same results. War is fascinating as a subject of study because despite its terrifying results, there is never a shortage of human material to do it. It’s a mystery”. For me it is the constant and eternal immolation of the human race. This is as discouraging as real.
A line is the easiest and purest way of expression. It works out shapes and profiles and can be an element of union and exchange with a great deal of dynamism. In the same way, the Line also draws the horizon line, the past, the present and the future line, the memory line, the hope line, the line which connects us to life. It is the same line we have found there, the one which represents the Maginot’s spirit for us. The personalities that suffer can become the most beautiful personalities; we could state that this is a veracious truth.
Alex Piñeiro, curator LA_LINEA
THE MAGINOT LINE. A REASONABLE STRATEGY
The Maginot Line has got bad press, but the fact that the Germans didn’t attack it shows that it exerted a determining deterrent power, forcing them to modify their plans. It was a triple defensive line with a hundred fortresses (ouvrages) camouflaged in the countryside and which defended one another, surrounded by casemates, mine fields, flood zones, etc. When the war broke out, the construction at Germany and Luxembourg frontiers had been finished. France and the United Kingdom had thought that a war of attrition would defeat Germany due to the naval blockage effciency. It didn’t go through their minds that neither the Maginot Line nor the Ardennes area could be attacked, and they were simply waiting for Belgium to be invaded. They would repel the attack and would gather the necessary mechanic and armoured resources to attack only when Germany was properly weakened by the blockage. There would be deaths, of course, but nothing to do with the massacres of the First World War. But Germany opted for a really daring plan which consisted of making them believe that they would repeat the 1914’s attack so that the best allied troops entered Belgium. The main attack would go through the Ardennes and move forward fast to occupy the French ports at the English Channel, splitting several enemy armies. Against all odds this plan succeeded.
During the first step of the German attack 4500 vehicles formed a large column detected by the allied air force, but they were taken as a decoy. The French forces did not move their troops towards the Meuse left bank to block the German crossing. They still had a third opportunity because the German forefront had opened a huge gap with the second echelon’s horse-drawn divisions. The allied forces tried to isolate them by attacking at Arras but it was a shameful failure. Instead of repeating the attack, the United Kingdom repatriated its expeditionary corps leaving a great amount of spoils behind.
After Dunkirk’s evacuation, the Wehrmacht started the second phase to occupy France definitely. It was necessary to get most of the Maginot Line’s garrisons out to defend the front between Sedan and the coast, but almost all the heavy equipment had been lost and there wasn’t any reserve letf in order to block any fracture.
France surrendered on the 22nd of June although some fortresses went on fighting until the 10th of July. The Germans could only capture five small fortresses, even with no garrisons, the Maginot Line resisted.
THE SPANIARDS IN THE BATTLE OF FRANCE Around 55000 Spanish republicans enlisted in the 226 Foreign Workers Companies, building roads and fortifications, digging trenches and so on. They wore uniforms and were militarized but they were not soldiers. Other 6000 Spaniards enlisted in the French infantry, winning their offcer’s respect when they were in combat. This is the case of the 21st Marching Regiment of Foreign Volunteers –with 900 Spaniards- who stopped the German advance at Le Chesne against all odds. When the front yielded at approximately 35 kilometres westbound, the Regiment kept a bridgehead at Vancouteurs so that the rest of the division could cross the Meuse river. Very harmed they defended Combay-des-Belles at about 20 kilometres southeast from Nancy until the armistice on the 22nd of June. Another remarkable case is the 11th Foreign Infantry Regiment –with 664 Spaniards- which resisted the attacks of the German regiments at Inor forest from the 27th of May to the 18th of June. After that it covered the retreat to Toul, 15 kilometres away from Nancy. When France surrendered, there were only 800 combatants left and 600 of them avoided being captured.
FINAL CONSIDERATIONIt should be dismissed the widespread story about the low morale of the French Army, since many units faced the consequences. French people feel a genuine pride about their Resistance and General De Gaulle’s Free French Movement that went on fighting; but they should not look down on those who took part and lost the Battle of France. About 10000 Spaniards were imprisoned and sent to Mauthausen and 35000 of them died in the battle of France, in the concentration camps and as members of the Resistance. What else could they be asked for?
Enrique Barrera Beitia, Historian.
My story with the Maginot line started five years ago when my partner and I moved to the small town of Hettange- Grande at the Moselle department. The frontiers with Germany and Luxembourg are only 10 kilometres away. Although I have been fond of history since I was a little boy, I had no knowledge about the story of this fortification, so I started to show a more serious interest about it. The route of the Maginot Line extends from the northeast to the southeast of France. This line of ouvrages (fortresses) is less than one kilometre far from my home and thank to some geolocation maps, I didn’t have any dificulty to locate and visit the nearest ouvrages. I found out six combat ouvrages -in less than a twenty-kilometre perimeter around my home- which were among the biggest ones in the Line. The landscape hides a lot of remains of that time and little by little I went on discovering that the hills which surround Hettange-Grande were offensively-armed defensive positions. The town has a combat ouvrage to secure the protection of the railway and the road to Luxembourg (A 10 Immerhof). On my first visit to this ouvrage five years ago, I couldn’t even think that I would be part of the association that keeps this construction in a good state of preservation, but I started to have a great interest in it. It is, indeed, a war building. When we get there, the impressive concrete facades welcome us with a cannon and a machine gun aiming at us and here is the most surprising fact, behind the magnificent entrance and the back wall, there are more than 300 metres of galleries. At the upper part, there is a vast flowery field circled by trees which were born above the old barbed-wire fence, and the difterent seasons show a changing-colour harmony similar to a painting where the steel of a turret emerges in the middle of a flowery field or the grey concrete hides behind a greenish hill. On sunny days like today, when I am leaning on the GFM cloche at Block 3 writing these lines, we can admire the beauty of the place. I can only hear the birds singing and the wind among the trees. It is difficult to imagine that nearly 80 years ago, there was a very different atmosphere in the area, as in that night in 1940 where in this same field, Corporal Rabú lost his life under the bombing of the enemy artillery. Violence and fear have given way to peace and serenity. Now the ouvrage seems a concrete submarine eternally anchored to its vegetation dock.
On 14th July 2017, Bastille Day in France, I decided to join the association which keeps and gives life to the Memory of the Ouvrage Immerhof. I was 30 years old and I had spent a decade in the racing car world, fist as a hobby and then as a professional. For this reason, this commitment was very important for me. I was looking for other goals in my life, leaving my comfort zone and heading for other purposes. Having at first very little knowledge about the story of the Maginot Line, I joined the Immerhof “modern” crew with the need for learning. It was probably the education given by my mother what motivated me to look for the dark side of things, the other version of History, the real version; all these people´s version, people who were building these ouvrages for their country during five years and whose story was gradually forgotten, these displaced civilians who lost everything and rebuilt their lives and families after such a hard test, as it was, for example, my great grandfather´s story. I was discovering stories inside History talking to other Maginot Line´s enthusiasts and visitors about many anecdotes, childhood accounts and other fascinating and moving stories. Nowadays, a year after my admission in the association, I am working as a visitor’s guide and as a worker. This guiding activity has led me to interact with many different people from different countries who have made me learn a lot about myself and eventually I have managed to develop very important aspects of my life. Passing my hobby and knowledge on other people has given more importance to somebody who has had a great influence on me: my father. Looking back, what I have kept from this experience is that the story of the Maginot Line is a human adventure above all. I’m not trying to make an apology for war but to keep the memory of the story commitment and the courage that all those people showed. These people, our families who lived close up or from afar this war all over the world.
In the end it is not my story, it is our story.
Ludovic Vetzel, Asociación Le Tiburce, Ouvrage Immerhoff
thanks richard tucker manuel tejedo cruz ludovic vetzel marguerite cendron enrique barrera
ouvrage la ferté > 49°35’0.92’’N - 5°13’59.8’’E ouvrage fermont > 49°26’56.3’’N - 5°40’4.70’’E ouvrage hackenberg > 49°20’30.3’’N - 6°21’55.9’’E ouvrage immerhof > 49°25’30.7’’N - 6°08’9.64’’E ouvrage fort casso > 49°03’31.8’’N - 7°16’0.91’’E