a bad year, 2007-2008

“A Bad Year”, 2007–2008, series of photographs
9 pieces: colour and b/w photographs, 25 x 16,5 cm

The project “A Bad Year” is centred on Bouvignies, a town in Northern France, where in the 17th century a great drama occurred – several women of the town were accused of witchcraft and later put-to-death. They were probably some of the last victims of this kind in France. In France, and in the North, witch-hunts were usually reserved for villages. The artist chose this town, as today it is very difficult to find precise historical data on other locations where executions took place. In 2007 she traveled to Bouvignies with a map from the 17th–18th century, on which the site of the tragedy was indicated. Inčiūraitė was amazed to discover that even several centuries later Bouvignies looked as if it has been frozen in time – the topography of the town and its environs seemed to have remained unchanged since those bleak times.

The tragedy of Bouvignies unfolded in May 1679 after an extremely harsh winter. At the culmination of a religious procession praying for a good harvest, four soldiers from the region decided to have their fun in Bouvignies. On that night they paid a visit to a woman of poor reputation Péronne GOGUILLON, and not only demanded money from her, but also made her entertain them. Soon the husband of the victim reported these four soldiers to the town’s court, and they were interrogated and imprisoned. However, Michel FONTENIER, the landlord of one of the accused soldiers, lodged a complaint against Péronne GOGUILLON, whom he accused of witchcraft and demanded that the soldiers be released. The court acquitted the soldiers and accused Péronne GOGUILLON of witchcraft. The poor woman even informed on other “plotters”, including, according to the historical sources, her cousin Jeanne GOGUILLON and her eldest daughter Marie Anne DUFOSSET, who were similarly accused. All these women were burned-at-the-stake. I am curious to know why, exactly, these women suffered such a tragic fate – because of the evidence given by the residents of the town against them, the complicated conditions of imprisonment, or the judges’ sacred conviction in their guilt? *

* After LES DERNIERS BUCHERS “Un village de Flandre et ses sorcières sous Louis XIV”, Robert MUCHEMBLED, Editions Ramsay, Paris 1981, 277 p.