Le Grand Incendie

Paris ·

13.04.16 → 30.04.16

They set themselves on fire to make themselves heard

In France, between 2011 and 2013, one person set himself or herself on fire in the public square every 15 days. From Jan Palach to the Tibetan monks, self-immolation by fire appears, everywhere and at all times, as an ultimate act of protest.
In France, the denial of these acts, treated as news items, condemns to oblivion their protest significance, which points to the breakdown of the French social project.
To immolate oneself in the public square is to summon the responsibility of a company, an institution, a State. The choice of the places pointed out by these acts makes sense and constitutes a part of the message. In Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in front of the headquarters of the governorate that he considered corrupt. Apostolis Polizonis immolated himself in front of the bank held responsible for his bankruptcy. In the parking lot of his public company, in the schoolyard, in front of the tax office, or the employment center… in 2011, the figures of immolations by fire in France were comparable to those of a Tibet occupied by China.
What is unprecedented is that this political act has spread to the democratic West and to countries where there should be other ways of making oneself heard than taking the people as a last resort.

Samuel Bollendorff photographed 11 of these places, in France and abroad. “How to give an account? There is no need to show the violence of an immolation to be sensitive to such an event, to receive the shock wave. On the contrary. The calm and the emptiness of the place feed the imagination of each one. The orchestration of the denial figures the horror”.
This project restores the emptiness of these places, left without trace, and the words of these men and women or their relatives, left without echo.


chez agnès b.
17 rue Dieu
75010 Paris
Open Monday to Saturday, 11am to 7pm

Thursday, April 14 at 7pm
Screening: Le Grand Incendie
Realized by Samuel Bollendorff and Olivia Colo, production by Honkytonk Films and France Télévisions



Sylvie Grumbach
Martial Hobeniche
+33 1 42 33 93 18


Communiqué de presse (pdf)