Matthieu Laurette

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May 1, 2015 – May 31, 2015

Every month Marginalia invites an artist, curator or project to provide a series of images that will serve as the background of Terremoto, in relation to their practice and current interests. At the end of each month, the identity of our guest is revealed and the whole series of images is unveiled.


Tropicalize Me! Part 1 : Colombia (2010)
Tropicalize Me! Part 2 : Mexico (2014)

A few questions to Matthieu Laurette by Dorothée Dupuis about Tropicalize me!

Dorothée Dupuis: What does “tropicalize yourself” consist in?

Matthieu Laurette: Well, that is indeed the question. I can’t answer it. I ask people to suggest me actions for me to “tropicalize myself,” I call that “tasks” in English, they are things to do, to read, to eat, to go in order to try tropicalize me. Everyone responds in its own way with its own interpretation of what the project consists in, and I am trying to achieve these tasks, to the best extent possible, also financially, I try to accept things I can do … because some are a little risky…

DD: Can you give me an example of an easy task?

ML: Some of them are related to the respect of local life: for example one is to adjust to meal times. Well, that’s a normal thing, but it’s very important. Also, Oliver (Martínez-Kandt) asked me to taste all the seasonal fruits (Task # 32 Eat all the seasonal fruits planted in the area). And honestly, there are lots of fruits I’d never seen, that us Westerners have no idea about. There was even fruits that Olivier didn’t know existed, or knew the names. We really wanted some fruits of this region of Mexico, and available during this season (Spring). I tasted more than a dozen different varieties of fruit. Pablo León de la Barra asked me to reinterpret a famous photograph of Francisco Toledo, the Maestro as he is called in Oaxaca, of a picture he had made in his garden with a banana leaf. He asked me to do the same photo and we managed, thanks to one of his daughters, Lorena, to access to the garden and redo it in the same place. This photograph is for Pablo León de la Barra an interpretation of the myth of tropicalisation by Toledo (Task # 144 In Oaxaca, photograph yourself like Francisco Toledo. You don’t need the girl but you need the plant). Then there are more complex things I have not done because I did not have the time or because I would not want to do them in precipitation as spend some days in the jungle. Mario Garcia Torres asked me to read a very special poem in the forest (Task #184 Turn poem written on a white pillar in the forest into poem by Edward James spoken in the middle of the jungle) and also go to Xilitla, this city where there this surreal garden (Task # 157 Go to Xilitla!). Well, there are things like this, that are also a way to quote or cite existing narratives, and that are also linked to notions of points of view.

DD: What do you think it means for a european artist to try “tropicalize” himself ?

ML: The question is not so much what it means, it is perhaps rather the question of what it questions in my modes of production, in the way I behave, in the idea also to may be able to come back… To accept that my work has other rules, work within a set of local conditions, in a different relationship to context, to time. For the exhibition, we produced everything in three weeks. The other aspect is also that the project is obviously a comment about everything that happened after “Magicians of the Earth,” but also what’s happening nowadays, like why all these museums in the world are trying to build collections very quickly because they missed some episodes of “exotic” modernity that leads them to acquire many works of Latin American art for instance. All the people I’ve asked “tasks” are people I’ve known for a long time for most of them. These are not necessarily people I have met in their own country, I have met some abroad or worked with them, be it Pablo or Oliver, with whom I worked in Belgium and Holland… So this is not an immersion in three days here, it’s really an issue of continuity. People gave me tasks because they knew me, they were thinking of my practice, of how they see me or how they could possibly direct me into other work directions. The question is to see how it undermines my modes of production, in the way I behave or connect with other artistic scenes. The other aspect of course, is that here in Mexico in the 1990s there was a generation of artists like Melanie Smith, Santiago Sierra, Francis Alys, who came here and that too, in a way, fed the local scene and brought other things, that were assimilated and now are part of the culture here, and are potentially now representative as Mexican artists too. So the issues I raise in this project is also the issue of our role of westerners today, that would go back to those countries that we obviously damaged at another epoch.

DD: So you mean you also speak of these power relations?

ML: I’m talking about power relations, while also raising the post, post-post colonial issue, and the idea of who can talk about these things and how can we talk about it? Me being a French white middle class guy. Of course, it is a question. At the same time, I don’t want to exclude myself from these possible debates and this is why I am questioning this through tasks that are suggested to me by local people, even though not all of them still live in Latin America. This Mexican part is the second part of a project that already exists, that I started three years in Colombia, mainly in Bogota, and that had already been shown two years ago at the gallery La Central. For the rest, I want to go to discover other countries, continue to work with these people I know, so I hope soon to go to Guatemala, Brazil, Peru …
Matthieu Laurette



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