Sans domicile fixe 

During the schoolyear of 2010-2011 I was studying at l’Ecole Supérieur des Beaux Arts de Toulouse, France, where I got to know some very special people. The French call them ‘Les S.D.F.’s’, which is short for ‘Les sans domicile fixes’. The literal translation for this term would be ‘Those who have no certain domicile’.

We got to know each other through our mutual love for dogs. On this subject, I’ve learned that there is a big difference between the relationship the homeless have with their dogs and the one I and most people I know have with their dogs. For the homeless I’ve met in Toulouse, dogs have to fulfill tasks and roles of vital importance. In winter, the zonards , as they like to be called, would freeze to death without them. At night the dog guards and protect its master from the attacks and robberies plaguing the homeless. The dog is also the only social contact that they can ever really count on: In most cases, the zonards haven’t only lost their jobs and homes but also their family and friends. It’s true that most of them have an addiction. You can argue about whether this is the cause or the consequence of their situation, but the fact remains that being an addict means it’s extremely difficult to maintain relationships. Add to this the fact that most relationships an addicted homeless person can have are relationships with other addicted homeless persons, and you’ll come to the conclusion that homeless people have to cope with people turning their backs or die on them constantly. The dog is the only one that will always be there for them. Every S.D.F. knows that.

In my works ‘La caresse de l’autre est la caresse de soi’ (To caress the other is to caress yourself) and ‘Sans domicile fixe’ I approach the subject of the homeless through their dogs. It can be interpreted as a tribute to these dogs, as well as a metaphore for the homeless in general. Like Derrida said: “The beast looks at me and i stand naked in front of him. And maybe this is how reflection begins”. At least, that’s how it went with me.



Sylvie Van den broeck




les sdf