Not Random Art - Page 47

Hello Darryl and welcome to NotRandomArt. I would start this interview with my usual introductory question: what in your opinion defines a work of art? And moreover, what could be the features that mark the contemporariness of an artwork?

What defines a successful work of art for me is how well it grapples with the question; “what does it mean to be human?” It is the ontological struggle. There is a universal shared experience of our time on earth and art is the activity that engages, interprets and explores the highest level of this experience. Whatever the ideology, there is a part of us (often termed spirit or soul) that’s responds with a deep knowing when we interface with great art and we find ourselves groaning deep within in a sort of ancient yearning for a sense of wholeness or belonging that the work has dislodged in our subconscious.  Art for me should connect us with the transcendent essence that underlies all being.

I am a bit unsure about the notion of contemporariness though; there is this idea that art can be anything because somehow the long held supercilious criterion that defines art practice should no longer apply. The art can be anything idea has us looking at crafted objects or performed mediums and being titillated under the spell of Debord’s “spectacle”, but is it art? I feel contemporariness could be considered pushing forward to break new ground to engage the ontological mystery whilst perspicaciously and even pragmatically referencing the history of art.

Is there any particular way you would describe your identity as an artist but also as a human being in dynamically changing, unstable times? In particular, does your cultural substratum/identity form your aesthetics?

II was raised in a completely “no-nonsense” family culture, everything was black and white, i.e. this world is all there is and that’s that, this over time left me with a distinct sense of emptiness, a vacuousness I needed to resolve. So from a pretty young age with no reference point I started searching. Ultimately I became intensely interested in both religion (all of them) and science as two parallel life long investigations.

There is more to reality than what we see; this mystery is at the core of existence and I feel art is sort of like an echo sounder that plumbs these depths. There is a fascinating idea that is embodied in the German word Sehnsucht that has inspired my work over the last couple of years; Sehnsucht’s meaning is complex but filters to mean a deep yearning for a sense of home beyond the boundaries of this world. I discovered it when reading about the work and connection between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, both men discussed and wrote their works with this word/idea as an essential part of their inspiration. Some people might say they haven’t experienced Sehnsucht, yet I feel that this can be missed, there are moments when we experience either overwhelming joy or sadness and at that point there is something deep within that can emerge; a sense that we all belong to something that is so much more than the here and now. Everything I do tends to explore this mystery.

Could you talk a little about the intellectual background that has influence the way you currently relate yourself to your artworks?

If I had another life I would have been a theoretical physicist. Science and in particular quantum science fascinates me. Wave particle duality, string theory, quantum entanglement and time science all have informed my work over the past few years. It seems the deeper science goes in unraveling the substructure of the universe, the more interwoven I feel the notion of the metaphysical is found within the physical. There is an experiment called the double slit experiment (sometimes known as the most beautiful experiment) whereby particles of light are seen to behave quite differently when they are observed than when they are not. The engagement that consciousness (human observance) has in defining the properties of the corporeal world is intrinsic to what is known and how we understand the very nature of everything. It is the nature of consciousness in constructing this illusory materiality that my work explores.

What is the role of technique in your practice? In particular are there any constraints or rules that you follow when creating?

A large chunk of my career trajectory has been spent designing and producing commercial projects such as broadcast television, theatre and museum developments. As a result of this rigorous discipline of delivering state of the art entertainment style projects technique is extremely important in how I make art. Refinement, quality image and precise presentation are very important in relaying my ideas. I feel visual literacy today is very sophisticated, people are used to high level presentations that have had copious amounts of time and money spent on them. So my work needs to at least try to match that, often without a budget, the challenge is that the connection with the piece is not lost in a viewers interpretation of the work being tainted by low production quality.

Could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about race and ethnic identity in visual culture?

It’s hard to identify one artwork that has influenced me. The entire oeuvre of the surrealists and metaphysical painters, de Chirico and Magritte in particular, have been very important. I had an experience in front of Bill Viola’s The Raft about 6 years ago that was groundbreaking, until that point I was not a fan of video art. Coming from a narrative media making background, I really struggled to connect with the medium and most of what I had seen seemed to be so difficult to access that I couldn’t get beyond this. When I saw The Raft that changed instantly, here a group of people out of nowhere are knocked to the ground by a wall of water and then the group flails and some get up and reach down to help others, all in super slow motion and so beautifully shot and rendered. I was so moved.

I belong to a minority group in society and that identity is always a part of me and my work. I don’t believe my artworks are changing due to unstable times but that I'm working my way through a theme and a method over time. The content of my work is becoming more and more personal and I think that is because I dare to be more honest with myself. What I find interesting to work with is in my immediate presence. When I collaborate with stageartists, we often focus on a current political theme. In these collaborations I work more as an art activist and have a broader openess for the aesthetics. My work is then more experimental with research on different ways to develop live presentations in the space.

Could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about race

and ethnic identity in visual culture?

“Revolted by the Thought of Known Places… Sweeney Astray” by Joan Jonas was one of the first performance installations that really made a huge impact on me. I was living in Paris during this time, in the early 90s, with a lot of influences from different cultures. It became the starting point of my own work. Joan Jonas practice has explored ways of seeing, the rhythms of ritual, and the authority of objects and gestures. Jonas continues to find new layers of meanings in themes and questions of gender and identity that have fueled her art for over thirty years. She is a great inspiration still today.

It is impossible to avoid the topic of body consciousness, embodied emotions and the image of body and personal identity that we see in your practice. What is the function of the identity appearing in your artworks – is it a canvas used to present your ideas or rather the subject of the art? What inspired you to use this as a theme in your practice?

I have been developing my visual imagery since I began studying art and film - from conceptual thinking, composition, using light and colour in different ways, through all the different techniques I've utilised over the years in my work and in my collaborations with stage artists such as dancers, musicians and actors. My approach is always developing through exploring these things. Visual imagery in essence is your way of experiencing what you see and transforming it. This is my world that I want to share and express through my art. The body consciousness, embodied emotions and the image of body and personal identity is part of this visual imagery, the emotional essence in my practice. Always present and always developing in different themes and projects.

Marina Abramovic stated: You see, what is my purpose of performance artist is to stage certain difficulties and stage the fear the primordial fear of pain, of dying, all of

which we have in our lives, and then stage them in front of audience and go through them and tell the audience, 'I'm your mirror; if I can do this in my life, you can do it in yours.'Can you relate anyhow to these words?

de-identify myself, by losing my roots, my culture, I would be very happy. Unfortunately the human being does'nt choose the place where he is born. He grows up in a society that automatically identifies, through education, culture, family... More than ever I think it's more important to go on a way of self-knowledge with the aim to meet “the other”.. This other without which we can not exist. It's the same for the artist. It is more important for me to be focused on my practice than to try to define it according to esthetic criteria of identification. It's probably the reason i like to remember the painter Matisse who said or wrote that an artist must never be prisoner of himself, prisoner of a style, prisoner of a reputation.

Would you like to tell us something about your background? Could you talk a little about experiences that has influence the way you currently relate yourself to your artworks?

All my way is influenced by encounterings.

It began by the meeting with my professor of literature at school. More than giving French or Literature classes, she brought us to discover texts, movies, plays, visual artworks and to think about on what we saw or read.. Thanks to her that I met Pierre Vincke, a theatredirector who was worjink in the tradition of Grotowski ... Both of them have led me to go to theater school. In this school I had meetings. Meetings with artists but also and especially human beings that made me discover. I always need o discover rather than to master a practice. It's probably the reason my encounter with Monica Klingler and Boris Nieslony was decisive for me and led me on the path of Performance Art which is a form still difficult to define. Each performance artist has a different definition of what it is...

Could you identify a specific artwork that has influenced your artistic practice or has impacted the way you think about race and ethnic identity in visual culture?

No I don't have a specific artwork that has influenced my artistic practise but many.

I'm influenced by some philsophers as well as poets or musicians or dancers or visual artists but also by some places or landscapes or atmospheres ... For some years, I was used for example to go to India where I was used to follow some traditionnal muscians or to learn bharatanatyam and practice vipassana meditation... Of course this experience has impacted my art work.... This brought me to think and work differently... My experience in India brought me to discover traditionnal strong art and paradoxally to the way of Performance Art. But there I see one common point: to make no separation between art and life and to be here and now, without projection on the future.

It's difficult for me to speak about race and ethnic identity. But I can say that today we miss more and more this notion of “to be here and now” which is more present in some cultures ... By practising Performance Art, it's my way to be connected to this way of thinking. And even in this field actually it's more and more difficult. The society and the art world brings us more and more to plan in advance, to define our work, more than to do. Just to do. To do what we deeply need.

And of course, my encountering with Black Market International and later the notion of Open Source or Open session via PAErsche have also a big impact on my work. When we go on that, each of us perform by sharing time and space but without trying to convince each other on some common way. This is for me a wonderfull way how we can meet each other, regardless of our origin, our race or our “identity”...

Many of your works carry an autobiographical message. Since you transform your experiences into your artwork, we are curious, what is the role of memory in your artistic productions? We are particularly interested if you try to achieve a faithful translation of your previous experiences or if you rather use memory as starting point to create.

My memory is clearly a starting point to create. I don't have any autobiographical message. I use my personnal experience ( what I feel , what I see, what I learn, what I ear...) to work. It's a motor or a material. I'm not able to paint, so I can't do something with red or white or yellow or black colors. All I have is life, a body alive. And I need to do something with that...

My sensation about life sometimes is too intense then I need to transform this intensity in some action. Some artistic action... If people can take something from this action this is great... but I don't want to give them “a specific message” or to control the translation of my experience.