Les conjugueuls

Cycle of exhibitions and residencies

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Cycle of exhibitions and residencies
Curator: Valentina Ulisse

Rose-Mahé Cabel
Héloïse Farago
Giorgia Garzilli
Jérôme Girard
Hanna Kokolo
Clara Pacotte 
Margot Pietri
Aliha Thalien
Joséphine Topolanski
Pierre-Alexandre Savriacouty

In the 1990s American-British romantic comedy Sliding Doors[1], a young woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) finds her life turned upside down after missing the morning tube. The story forks off into two possible scenarios: events that come as a consequence of this delay and what would have happened if she had squeezed through the train's closing doors. It’s the “Sliding Doors” moment. How many times have we asked ourselves: “What would have happened if…?” In English, “the unreal past” refers to sentences that start with “what if”. “What if novels” use uchronia, a subgenre of science fiction, based on a rewriting of history and the imagining of alternative contemporary and future worlds. Some works of fiction push this phenomenon of “diverging realities” to the extreme by exploring “multiverses”, planets that look like ours but that have different futures. Uchronia stories could help us learn how to reject a linear vision of time and question official narratives.

This temporal cyclicity, made up of survival, resurgences and new beginnings, can also be found in the “ambiguous” utopias of the science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin. Le Guin prefers the Andean Quechua peoples’ approach to time to the Western perspective of "moving forward", of a tomorrow of continuous progress. For the Quechua, the future—unknown—is behind us, over our shoulders, and the past—already written—is in front of us, right under our noses.[2] The present offers us the opportunity to stir up the past and dress (imagine and heal) the future. In her essay The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, Le Guin urges us to explore other narrative perspectives by depicting characters and stories that do not aspire to dominance. The hunter with his spear is replaced by the oat-gatherer with her basket.[3]

Science fiction, fables or myths can generate “restorative fiction”.[4] They recompose new narratives from the traumas of history and the faultlines in our society, giving voice to voiceless realities. In The Deep[5], author Rivers Solomon imagines a parallel underwater universe, inhabited by non-binary aquatic creatures, descended from pregnant slaves thrown into the sea at the time of the triangular trade. As these merfolk have no memory of their traumatic beginnings, the character of the historian is the sole keeper of this difficult past. This figure embodies the political role of the storyteller: passing down a collective memory is a tool for emancipation. It allows for the creation of new imaginations, past, present and future.

This cycle of exhibitions and residencies is a “ballad of renewal”, where the boundaries between what was, what might have been and what never happened, are blurred. This counter-narrative in several chapters is written collectively by the “conjugueuls artists. This term is an adelphage (a gender-neutral alternative to the term “homage” or “femage”) to Helena de Laurens, Clara Pacotte and Esmé Planchon’s figure of the “conjugueuses”. In their book Le Jukebox des Trobairitz[6], they draw inspiration from Monique Wittig & Sande Zeig’s Brouillon pour un dictionnaire des amantes[7] and invent new poetic definitions. Under the letter C for Conjugaison (conjugation) appears the “conjugueuses”: figures of love caught up in a dance celebrating “the agreement of tenses”. The use of the gender-neutral ending “-euls”, a nod to the Old French, honours the linguistic inventiveness of these dictionaries and comes as part of contemporary reflections around inclusive writing.[8]

Some “conjugueuls” artists superpose real and fictitious facts and imagine other possible futures by revisiting history in the present. We might call it parafiction. This is the case for Hanna Kokolo and her autofictions: without changing the course of events, she brings in the imagination where reality is found lacking. Similarly, by drawing inspiration from female characters who existed in the past, Héloïse Farago plays on the potential for fantasy hidden in all these forgotten narratives. Joséphine Topolanski and Jérôme Girard, meanwhile, dream up new anachronisms: futuristic sequels to an artisanal past or a modernity that has arrived before its time. One brings her followers together around new cosmic beliefs, blurring the lines between what is true and what is false; the other captures unheard sound waves, by composing with both folklore and makeshift technology.

Today is no less rich in possibilities. Infinite dimensions exist beyond observable reality, like gaps in our everyday space. Somewhere between magic realism and urban fiction, the artists offer us access to parallel worlds. In this way, Aliha Thalien’s docufictions and the testimonies she relays could be dreams. Giorgia Garzilli’s imaginary world is also a dreamlike collage: a labyrinth without beginning or end, where time and space are burst open. Meanwhile, it’s contemporary earthly society, its norms, categories and binarisms, that Clara Pacotte challenges in the journals of her exploration of other worlds.

For some, the future is written in a continuum outside of time. Advocating a return to our origins, Rose-Mahé Cabel positions themself within an “archaic future” at the end of time or the beginning of a new ancestral world. Here, marginal figures are bearers of liberating mythologies. Archaeologist of a near future, Margot Pietri tells of a present that is already posterity, where a loss of reference points and a disorientation of time leave us bewildered. The depths of the abyss, for which Pierre-Alexandre Savriacouty retraces an intimate and collective historiography, have stratified time. The water—which either engulfs or brings to the surface—is a portal between times and between hidden and revealed realities.

Just as they did with fictional stories, the artists also appropriate archives—both real and imaginary—as a tool. They use them to transgress a form of hegemonic knowledge that prevents both the recollection of past histories and the construction of future ones. Anthologies of emotions, oral chronicles, traditional knowledge and new grammars are all part of the repertoire of forms reactivated here: they contain within them latent struggles for change. The Essonne area, with its local folklore, also provides an archive to explore. Marked by the coexistence of historical and industrial heritage, popular legends and avant-garde inventions, the area contributes to the formation of this imaginary world of disjointed chronologies.

From this land that takes its name from the Gallo-Roman water goddess Acionna (Exona in medieval texts), rises dolmens and menhirs, keeps and modernist water towers. It is said that Gargantua dropped a mysterious piece of gravel from his shoe (the Beaumirault stone, between Bruyères-le-Châtel and Breuillet). Not far away, in 1772, the intrepid aviator Abbé Desforges attempted to fly to Italy by throwing himself off the Tower of Guinette, at the Château d'Étampes, in a feather-covered cart. Later, in 1969, on a section of the Paris-Orléans test track, an aérotrain shoots past at full speed. Here, the “conjugueuls” set off on a journey through time. Mystic-astronauts, minstrel-rappers, scientist-fortune tellers, they are heralds of a fable of the future.


[1] Sliding Doors [1998], directed by Peter Howitt.

[2] Ursula K. Le Guin, “Science Fiction and the Future” [1985], in Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places, Grove Press, 1989.

[3] Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” [1986], in Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places, Grove Press, 1989.

[4] Émilie Notéris, La Fiction réparatrice, Éditions Supernova, 2017.

[5] Rivers Solomon, The Deep, Sagapress, 2019.

[6] Helena de Laurens, Clara Pacotte, Esmé Planchon, Le Jukebox des Trobairitz, RAG Éditions, 2023.

[7] Monique Wittig, Sande Zeig, Lesbian peoples : material for a dictionary [1979].

[8] ACADAM, nonbinary grammar developed by Bye Bye Binary [November 2018]


After studying art history at the university La Sapienza in Rome and Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Valentina Ulisse completed a professional Master’s 2 degree in “Contemporary art and its exhibition” at Sorbonne Université and co-founded the curatorial collective espace projectif. Alongside her studies, she trained in the exhibition profession through internships at the Centre Pompidou, CAC Brétigny and Council, among others. Today, Valentina Ulisse continues her work through her various activities within the organisation of art projects, writing and cultural mediation. She assists gallery owner Aline Vidal with whom she organises “De(s)rives”, a curatorial project that experiments with exhibition formats outside of traditional artistic contexts. Valentina Ulisse is interested in art economies, in alternative systems of production and dissemination and in co-creative artistic practices related to pedagogy and popular knowledge. 

Rose-Mahé Cabel (born 1995) lives and works in Alsace, in the Vosges region, and in Paris. A 2020 graduate from the Haute École des arts du Rhin de Strasbourg, they use many different mediums, including glass, wax, make-up and costume, to produce works that are activated during performances. Through their drag queen alter ego, Rose de Bordel, the artist imagines restorative works of fiction depicting marginalised figures of mythology. Their work has been presented during the festival Inact in Strasbourg in 2021, at Artopie in Meisenthal by the LoRA network in 2022, at the Maison des arts de Malakoff and at the Magasins Généraux with the collective Æchillea in 2023. 

Héloïse Farago (born 1997) lives and works between Paris and Normandy. A 2023 graduate of the Villa Arson in Nice, she uses different mediums (drawing, performance, video, ceramic, etc.) to break down the hierarchisation of practices and portray the too-often forgotten stories of Mediaeval women. Her work was exhibited at L’Annexe in Paris and IVECO NU in Noisy-le-Sec in 2022 and at La Tôlerie in Clermont-Ferrand in 2023.

Giorgia Garzilli (born 1992) is an Italian artist who lives and works between Naples and Milan. After studying documentary film, she went on to graduate from the Haute école d'art et de design de Genève before attending the Mountain School of Arts in Los Angeles. Her paintings explore the frontier between everyday reality and the depths of the subconscious. Her work was presented at MACRO in Rome in 2021 and at the Triennale Milano in 2023.

Jérôme Girard (born 1993) lives and works in Paris. A graduate from the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs de Paris, his work mixes sound creation, live performance and installation. Often using salvaged materials, he draws inspiration from and then diverts traditional forms and gestures. He won the student prize COAL and the Prix de la Casa de Velásquez - EnsAD in 2021. His work has been exhibited at several art centres, including CAC Brétigny, Bétonsalon in Paris in 2021 and the Vincent Van Gogh foundation in Arles in 2022.

Hanna Kokolo (born 1997) lives and works in Paris. After studying applied arts, she graduated from the École nationale supérieure d’art de Bourges (ENSA) in 2021. Her multidisciplinary pieces explore the issue of intergenerational memory through characters she embodies and depicts in works of autofiction. Her work was exhibited at the 66th Salon de Montrouge in 2022 and in a solo exhibition at the Graineterie in Houilles in 2023.

Clara Pacotte (born 1992) is an artist, author and filmmaker who lives and works in the Paris region. Graduating from the École nationale supérieure d'arts de Paris-Cergy in 2017, she depicts real and imagined archives in her work. She regularly collaborates with other artists on research and publishing projects. With Charlotte Houette, she created EAAPES, a research group focused on feminism in science fiction. Supported by CNAP, Fondation des Artistes, Lafayette Anticipations and CAC Brétigny, this project has seen the production of several publications, films and workshops.

Margot Pietri (born 1990) lives and works in Aubervilliers. Graduating from the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon in 2014, she develops work in science fiction story writing and sculpture. These pieces take the form of technological relics from a time that could be ours, somewhere between a past that hasn’t been assimilated and a future that is uncertain. Chosen for the Révélation Emerige grant in 2019, she has presented her work as part of group shows at the Thaddeus Ropac gallery in Pantin in 2017 and at Art-O-Rama in Marseille in 2021, as well as in solo exhibitions at the Institut d’Art Contemporain in Villeurbanne in 2020 and at La Serre in Saint-Etienne in 2023.

Aliha Thalien (born 1994) lives and works in Montreuil. Currently a student at Le Fresnoy, she graduated with a master's degree in cinema from the Sorbonne as well as from the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris. Her work in film, installation and sculpture focuses on trauma at an individual, family and community level. Her pieces take the form of fictional stories based on real archive material. In 2019, she directed her first short film Feu Soleil, which was selected for the film festivals Rencontres du Moyen-Métrage in Brive and La Cabina in Valence. Her work was also shown at the Villa Magdalena in Hambourg in 2022, and in a solo exhibition at Confort Mental in Paris in 2023.

Joséphine Topolanski (born 1998) lives and works in the Paris region. After studying printed image at the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs de Paris, from which she graduated in 2021, she turned her attention to weaving and textiles. Her work questions the boundary between fiction and reality by focusing on belief systems and their relationship to truth. She was awarded an honourable mention from the jury of the Révélation Design ADAGP prize in 2021. The following year, her work was presented at 100% L’Expo at the Grande Halle de La Villette and was added to the Pantin city collection.

Pierre-Alexandre Savriacouty (born 1993) is a French-Malagasy artist who lives and works in Paris. A graduate from the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Montpellier and the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris, he addresses historical and spiritual issues through sculpture and assemblage. His work has been shown at spaces such as FRAC Ile-de-France (Château de Rentilly) in 2020 and at the Biennale Internationale de Saint Paul de Vence in 2021. Winner of the SARR prize in 2021, he was artist-in-residence at the Villa Albertine in Chicago in 2022.



  • From Saturday October 14th to Sunday October 22th 2023

    Les conjugueuls #1: It’s all about the panache


    For the first chapter of the cycle of exhibitions “Les conjugueuls” by curator Valentina Ulisse, the artist Héloïse Farago invites visitors of the Salon d'art of Marolles-en-Hurepoix on a journey into a fantastic world. With humour, she invites us to take very seriously the zaniness of children's tales, which carry an emancipating and rebellious force. The artist offers us feminist rewritings of the founding myths and fables of yesteryear. New love stories are born: here, monsters and chimeras are the companions of intrepid heroines and knights in search of their sweetheart.

    Free entrance. Salon d'art, Salle des Fêtes François des Garets in Marolles-en-Hurepoix.

  • From Saturday January 20th to Sunday February 11th 2024

    Les conjugueuls #2: The magical hour


    This second chapter in the “Les conjugueuls” series of off-site exhibitions is set in “The magical hour”,  at dawn or dusk: an interval between two worlds where future things are born and things from the past come to die. Here, artists create works that open up other dimensions. In doing so, they weave narratives that emerge from the depths, unfolding in a dreamed-up or joyously reinvented reality.  

    Free entrance. Open from Wednesday to Friday, 2:00-6:00 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. and 2:00-6:00 p.m.
    Galerie Francval in Arpajon.

  • Saturdays January 27th 2024 and February 3rd, 3:00-4:30 p.m.

    “A monster at your window”

    Artistic workshop for all

    After discovering the chimeras and hybrid creatures that inhabit the “Les conjugueuls #2” exhibition, and in particular the medieval-inspired works of Héloïse Farago, participants imagine their own legendary animal. They try their hand at painting on glass, to create a fabulous monster!

    From 3 to 99 years old. Registration: reservation@cacbretigny.com or +33 (0)7 85 01 10 31. Galerie Francval of Arpajon.

  • From Saturday April 13th to Sunday May 5th 2024

    Les conjugueuls #3: Planetary memories


    This third exhibition in the “Les conjugueuls” series has been imagined as a wander through the multiverse, in dimensions parallel to our own, where “planetary memories” can be explored. The artists brought together in the Donjon de Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, a place where stories melt, are composing real or fictional archives from other contemporary worlds or alternative futures.

    Free entrance. Open from Wednesday to Friday, 2:00-6:00 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. and 2:00-6:00 p.m.
    Espace Brel, Donjon of Sainte-Geneviève-des-bois.

  • Saturday April 20th 2024, 3:00-4:30 p.m.

    “Welcoming the unknown: first contact and extraterrestrial hospitality”

    Artistic workshop for all conceived by Joséphine Topolanski

    Aliens arrive on Earth. Their landing spot: the square in front of Donjon de Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois. Using a mix of fabrics, drawings and collages, participants are invited to create the most extraordinary banner to welcome the aliens!

    From 3 to 99 years old. Registration: reservation@cacbretigny.com or +33 (0)7 85 01 10 31. Espace Brel, Donjon of Sainte-Geneviève-des-bois.

  • From Tuesday April 23rd to Saturday May 11th 2024

    Les conjugueuls #4: Lingua cosmica


    In this final chapter of the “les conjugueuls” series of off-site exhibitions, words from yesterday, today and tomorrow resonate. On the windows of Les Lavandières library in Leuville-sur-Orge, or tucked between the pages of books, appear drawings and pictograms from an alternative reality imagined by Margot Pietri. In response to this language to be deciphered, messenger figures from a time to come, descending from the sky or emerging from the waters, will appear in performances by Hanna Kokolo and Rose-Mahé Cabel.

    Free entrance, during library opening hours.
    Public library Les Lavandières in Leuville-sur-Orge

  • Saturday May 4th 2024, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

    “Welcoming the unknown: first contact and extraterrestrial hospitality”

    Artistic workshop conceived by Joséphien Topolanski for families

    Aliens arrive on Earth. Their landing spot: the square in front of Les Lavandières library in Leuville-sur-Orge. Using a mix of fabrics, drawings and collages, participants are invited to create the most extraordinary banner to welcome the aliens!

    From 3 to 99 years old. Registration: with the team of Les Lavandières library in Leuville-sur-Orge.

  • Saturday, April 27th 2024, 3:00-7:00 p.m.

    “Les conjugueuls”

    An afternoon of performances

    An afternoon of performances between Leuville-sur-Orge and Sainte-Geneviève-des-bois, as part of the third and fourth chapters of the cycle of exhibitions “Les conjugueuls” by curator Valentina Ulisse.

    Join us at 3pm at Les Lavandières library in Leuville-sur-Orge for performances by Rose-Mahé Cabel (& Rose de Bordel) and Hanna Kokolo, and then at 5pm at Espace Brel, Donjon in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois for a tour of the exhibition in the presence of the artists, accompanied by an aperitif.

    Free shuttle from Paris and between venues available: Pick up at 2:15p.m. at 104 avenue de France, 75013 Paris (the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand metro stop). Mandatory booking for the shuttle at reservation@cacbretigny.com.

  • Wednesday June 5th, 10:00-12:00 a.m.

    “Roberlax's walk”

    Artistic workshop conceived by Joséphine Topolanski

    Joséphine Topolanski takes toddlers on a journey to an unknown planet! Using a narration and a playmat imagined and made by the artist, children discover, explore and manipulate, at their own pace, the different textures, colors and landscapes that make up the story.

    From 3 to 36 months old. Registration: with the team of Marguerite Duras library in Brétigny-sur-Orge.

  • Saturday, July 6th 2024, 2:00-6:00 p.m.

    lunulae and Les conjugueuls

    Closing of the off-site season

    Closing of the 2023-2024 off-site season, with a joint programming of the cycles of exhibitions “Les conjugueuls” by curator Valentina Ulisse and “lunulae” by curator Thomas Maestro.

    Free shuttle Paris-Brétigny available: Pick up at 2:15p.m. at 104 avenue de France, 75013 Paris (the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand metro stop).
    Mandatory booking for the shuttle at reservation@cacbretigny.com.