"Gendered allocation of space, however, has a sweeping relevance and the desire to limit women's space is not peculiar to one culture or another. Sanctified by notions of beauty, desirability, safety, morality, or religion, many cultures have restricted women's mobility." (Farzaneh MILANI, about Shirin NESHAT).

Dear person,

                  I would like to tell you some things about this work. Femmes-Lazare is, in fact, a series of works that addresses women's issues in different times through the experience, research, and narrative of urban spaces with a history of confinement and oppression - in contrast with the free walks and dérives that allow to find these same places. The starting point of this work is the place which once was the Prison de Saint-Lazare, nowadays the Square Alban Satragne, in Paris, near Gare du Nord.

                  The known history of the place begins in the Middle Age, in the 12th century, as a leprosarium. After the leprosy was eliminated from the place, it was abandoned and remained a wasteland for decades, until it was ceded to Saint Vincent de Paul in the 17th Century, to be the Congregation of the Mission - being also an enclosure for “black sheeps” of all kinds. In the “Reign of Terror”, in 1793, it became a political prison: Marquis de Sade was one of its prisoners. After the Revolution it became a women's prison, a reformatory for young girls, and a hospital for women with venereal diseases.

                  Some famous rebellious women were sent to Saint-Lazare: the anarchist and feminist Louise Michel, a great figure in the Commune of Paris; Mata Hari, the libertine dancer falsely accused as being a spy during the First World War; Hélène Brion, feminist and pacifist, author of La Voie féministe; and Germaine Berton, anarquist who killed a right-wing politician and became an icon to the French surrealists. Most of the prisoners were anonymous women of all ages and, among their “crimes”, the most common ones were prostitution and shoplifting. Mature women were confined together with young girls who, usually, had only committed the crime of displeasing their legal guardians.

                  The prison conditions were degrading in all aspects. According to Madame Avril de Sainte-Croix, in 1897: "De par son aménagement et sa situation, Saint Lazare est, tant du point de vue du bien être moral que matériel, la plus défectueuse de toutes les prisons de France [...] En haut, sous les toits, se trouvent les cabanons. Ce sont d’étroites cellules, mansardées, mal éclairées, absolument nues, n’ayant pour tout meuble qu’une petite sellette de bois fixée à la muraille. La nuit, on y jette une simple paillasse, sans couverture. Véritables glacières en hiver, elles sont, en été, suffocantes de chaleur. Partout les besoins les plus élémentaires de propreté et d’hygiène manquent. Les prisonnières n’ont pour se laver qu’une petite écuelle de terre brune et un pot contenant environ un litre d’eau. Depuis quelques années, elles ont droit réglementairement à un bain par mois."

                  The part of the building that was a prison was finally demolished between 1935 and 1941. The infirmary and the chapel constructed in 1834 and restored in 1931 are still there and were used as a hospital until the end of the 20th century. In the decade of 2010 it was reformed again and now is part of the brand new media library Françoise Sagan, inaugurated in May, 2015. The Square now has a beautiful garden and there is also a playground for children, a day care center, a school, and a post office. Remnants of the walls of the old enclosure and some ancient trees are still there too.

                  This series of works is made of constructed narratives and memorabilia, using modified archival material, some painting and actual photographs, in compounds of memory and fiction. Another time layer is added: recent field recordings and the reading of contemporary documents and testimonies of women in confinement and risk situations.*

                  This work is dedicated to all this almost invisible sisterhood of Femmes-Lazare from all periods. Women who, after their dark times of unfair confinement, violence, and inflicted diseases, are reborn.



 Leandra Lambert.


* This work is part of an artistic and academic research. The textual and the audio part of it will be available for free: it will not be commercialized. Some of the works and extracts used to compose this history-based fiction have authorship and all the author rights remains with them.

- Audio readings in French by Marine L EVESQUE.

- À Vrai Dire, Compagnie Théatrale de Vincent ECREPONT, 2000 - Extraits de paroles confiées lors d’un atelier d’écriture mené à la Maison d’Arrêt de Beauvais. Mis en place par la compagnie a À vrai dire, ce travail fut conduit par Vincent Ecrepont, lors de deux sessions de cinq jours successifs en Décembre 2000. Cet atelier a accueilli Amandine, Elizabeth, Galina, Isabelle, Lucile, Mélanie, Virginie. Ecrite à sept mains, cette lettre est un montage de certains de leurs écrits. Avec leur accord, elle vous est transmise.

"...the artist's working process is more archaeological than documentary in its approach. The emphasis is not so much on what is said or on who says it, but on allowing the public to use this space to construct their own narratives." (Bartomeu MARÍ, about MUNTADAS) 

Some references:

- Bogelot, I., 1888. L’Œuvre des libérées de Saint-Lazare, extrait de la Revue de morale progressive, Genève : Imprimerie Rivera & Dubois.

- Bogelot, I., 1888. Mémoire sur l’Œuvre des libérées de Saint-Lazare à Paris », Congrès de Washington (1888), Paris : Imprimerie Ch. Noblet.

- Carco, F., 1931. Prisons de Femmes.

- Chauvin, A., La chapelle de l’ancien hôpital Saint-Lazare (Paris) - Le quadrilatère Saint-Lazare au fil du temps.

- Foucault, M., 2012. A vida dos homens infames. In: Estratégia, Poder-Saber - Ditos e Escritos IV. Rio de Janeiro: Forense.

- Muntadas, A.; Bénichou, A.; Bartomeu, M., 2011. Between the Frames: The Forum. Barcelona: MACBA.

- Neshat, S.; Milani, F., 2001. Shirin Neshat. Milano: Charta.

- Saint-Croix, A., 1897 (publicación), 2006 (mise en ligne). Les femmes à Saint Lazare. Paris, La Fronde.




http://memoiresduncarre.blogspot.fr/ (Blog du centre social et culturel le Pari’s des faubourgs sur l’exposition mémoires d’un carré)

http://hv10.org/ (histoire & vie du Xème arrondissement)