PRINT December 1989

Braco Dimitrijevic

By Xavier de Maistre, 1795, republished Seyssel, France: Editions Georges Peltier (Comp’act), 1988, 96 pp., FF75 paper. Also republished this year in Dubrovnik.

When I add up all the distances I have traveled, I have gone twice to the moon. But one of the voyages I have been the most impressed with is Xavier de Maistre’s Voyage autour de ma chambre (Journey around my room), written in 1795 and recently republished. This Savoyard aristocrat, leaving France after the events of 1789, accrued a considerable mileage himself in order to reach Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Yet his book is a description of the patterns of his voyages through his room—around the periphery, diagonally, even in zigzags, and including discussions of such local scenery as his armchair, his bed, and the color of his mattress. The author was fully aware of the revolutionary nature of his work: “There is no single person, not even one (I refer to those who inhabit rooms), who would be able, after reading this book, to resist the temptation of this new way of traveling that I have introduced to the world.”

As an artist, with my ancestry in Lascaux, I tend to see this work in the domain of visual art: it anticipates, in a visionary way, the vast field of activity running from Marcel Duchamp’s introduction of the readymade through all the subsequent artistic involvements with the everyday object. Duchamp often remarked how he had been influenced by Raymond Roussel’s writing, with its play of polysemantic language. However, Voyage autour de ma chambre leads us to suspect that the Marchand du Sel perhaps kept secret another text, which spoke not of impressions d’Afrique but of impressions of an ordinary room. And as I traveled to Paris for an exhibition celebrating the bicentennial of the French Revolution—moving from east to west, the opposite direction to the journey made by de Maistre almost exactly two centuries ago—I asked myself whether collective revolutions have anything to do with individual ones.

—Braco Dimitrijevic