La Cailloise

Vincent Meessen

Dear Caillois, it will still happen to me that, thinking of you, I try to listen to the stones.”

(Marguerite Yourcenar)

This work meets the wish expressed by Marguerite Yourcenar (Brussels, 1903 - Bar Harbor, USA 1987) in her beautiful elegy to the late Roger Caillois, of whom she took over the seat in the French Academy - thus becoming the first woman to enter this distinguished institution. She hoped that one day, a stone would be named after the one who knew how to ‘listen to the great voice of things’. Caillois, a sociologist and writer, was certainly a great mystic of modernity.

Hence, the ‘Cailloise’ refers to a stone. But contrary to the scientific logic, this name does not designate a certain category, but a mineral and formal singularity : a unique and ancient fossil of a flower with an anthropomorphic look. Indeed, this small fossil of velvet-like grey looks like a grotesque mask, thereby containing an intriguing chain of transformations: a plant becoming a mineral mimicking a human face.

Deposited on a photographic portrait of Roger Caillois posing in front of his scientific collection of stones (reproduced in Oeuvres, Gallimard), the “Cailloise”, covering his face, operates ‘diagonally’ by offering a series of oblique perspectives on various subjects that were dear to Roger Caillois: myth, mask, mimicry, and minerals.