She is the one who crosses the shadows. It has become his life, his art, his genius, his whisper, his fury for life. She became the one who tirelessly writes about those who have died. She does so with the gentleness of those who believe that the shadows of the deceased continue to evolve and watch. And it makes us believe that we can believe it. But she is also, in her black boots and her dark coats, the one who buries our future. She writes about the dead who believed in a better future, who built it, who dreamed of it. It buries our possible illusions, our awakened dreams, our stuffed chimeras, now that the time is much less for recklessness than for the claim or the weighing of rights. The rockers, the artists, the drags, the writers, the playwrights, the poets and all the magnificent people who were her contemporaries and of whom she speaks, they did not care at all, them, except their beautiful star and the sky which was their forehead.
Patti Smith has just released a book – or rather, its translation has just appeared in French. His title: Year of the monkey. This book is significantly worse than it was Just kids appeared in 2010. But to the impossible, no one is held so Just kids is one of the most beautiful books ever written on art, the love of art, the life of art, the love that revolves around art, the art of adorning oneself in order to love the ‘art. Patti Smith tells about her dreamy childhood in a proletarian environment, her starving escape to New York, her meeting with the one who would become one of the most famous photographers of the end of the 20th century, Robert Mapplethorpe. Patti and Robert love each other, they love art, they also love the tinsel of an artist’s life (dressing up like Jean Genet, dressing like Rimbaud, dressing up to feel like an artist, no, it’s not not ridiculous, it’s spiritual). They cross paths with Bob Dylan, Sam Shepard, Andy Warhol’s gang, the celestial and sinister world of the Chelsea Hotel. Just kids and what he tells that is so obstinately voluntary and free is of an incandescent purity. Then Patti meets success. A somewhat wandering designer, she becomes a furious poet, a harsh rocker without diamonds. Mapplethorpe dies. She remains, without regrets or bitterness. And she decides to write the memory of an age that did not know it was so golden.
Year of the monkey start like Just kids: by the loss of a friend. Then wandering, memory, the universe which sends signs, a neon which, because it reminds you of something, seems like a mouth speaking from beyond. The energy of erasures. Patti Smith has become our prayer teller. She picks up pebbles as white as bones, she places them on real graves, she stretches ropes from steeple to steeple, and her mo (r) ts dance.
Patti Smith is our Charon. Charon, it was, in ancient Greece, the type who made cross the river of the Underworld to those whom death had driven from our world evolving under the moon. Charon was clawed, he stank of death, he was ugly and intractable. He was the only one able to tread both banks of the river, that of the living and that of the dead, the only one to frequent the inhabitants of these two parallel worlds. Sometimes he would educate about each other. In our time when art has become a profession, a business or a foil, Patti Smith is, let’s not be afraid of the ridiculous word, a form of shaman. We look at his sachem face, his borrowed smile, his sharp bird profile. She’s Charon, only better. She saw what we won’t see anymore. She always sees the ones we haven’t had the chance to see.