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Issue 2: Things

Julien Creuzet, Dorothée Dupuis

Reading time: 16 minutes

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04.05.2015

As told by my obsidian head

Can we transform our relationship to objects which encapsulate problematic moments of history —especially in relation to post-colonial traumas— by talking about them differently, notably through poetry, music and movement? Dorothée Dupuis in conversation with the words, sounds and images of French-Martinican artist Julien Creuzet.

Creuzet_jai quitté parisOpéra-Archipel, J’ai quitté Paris, 2015, video, 20’42”

Julien Creuzet was born in 1986 in the suburbs of Paris, but his parents decided to move back to the French Caribbean, where they were originally from, when Julien was around five. His younger brother was born on the island, and Julien recalls being jealous of him, because he felt his brother was the real Caribbean one, and he instead was born in the Metropole (so boring, he thought). His apparently quiet character fuels an unapologetic practice not far from some early Claire Fontaine gestures, where corporate and activist objects suddenly turned into extremely aggressive artifacts silently shouting unbearable truths to a contemporary art world that didn’t ask so much.

From: Dorothée Dupuis
Subject: a start
Date: 23 avril 2015 11:07:22 UTC-05:00
To: Julien Creuzet

Hello Julien!
I am watching your things
your pictures, your videos
reading your words,
trying to link these things, these fragments
to find a meaning
the globality of it seems to escape me, but I nevertheless understand it, in a weird way
its mechanism remains mysterious
maybe that’s what it is, the idea of the archipelago
distinct places, communicating through seashells kilometers away from one another
I also really like the non-systematization of the combination of video/voicing/subtitles
the collagey aspect of these things, like different tracks, it corresponds to our modern
lives, to our dispersed selves, archipelagic in our ways of thinking, maintaining
relationships with people, with the world
fragmentary, fragmented world
it’s also scary, this acceptance to not understand things, or at least only partially, it’s
like a surrender, and at the same time, maybe we have to accept that in order to fight
it properly, I don’t know
What’s sure is that I love the last sculptures, activated the other day in the studio
with these screens, as talkative as they are mute
like steles
the numeric statufied, but still alive, through your voice, your presence
I also like the systematization of some shapes and gestures, like wearing these
scarves,
these potato bags on your head
it reminds me of Beuys, with his coyote and blanket
a shamanic figure, vaguely human, and as he was pacing around with his stick, you
pace around with your laptop
which is like an independent eye, autonomous
registering things, ghosts, like the wandering figure in the video la serre à palabres
(2015)
And so there are these objects, the computer, the smartphone, the screens,
technological devices that seem to work like places that allow us to enter another
reality, a space in between fiction and reality?
And these other ones, more charged, the obsidian stone, the potato bag, the exotic
fabric, the fruits, the seashells, the tiny plants found here and there, the garbage that
is part of third world tropical cosmogony (the plastic bottles, the bags of crisps, these
things that were once thrown out in the public space are never picked up, they never
disintegrate, and everyone thinks it’s normal
The historical objects: the Mimolette, the sugar lump, the guillotine, the barrel
propsof an epoch, forms, colors, symbols
What is it to attack these objects?
Or more than attack them: to integrate them slowly, to domesticate them,
turn around them
suck up slowly their narrative, symbolic, magical potential,
I like the freedom that emerges from these things, the practice seeks to be ignorant
but in a good way, like a child wondering, unlike some artists’ practices on these
thematics that often seem hypocritical, or demagogic, here it’s more ambiguous
because it’s very informed work
but it also accepts its subjectivity, the one of the poet I guess
Yesterday I was reading that Chris Kraus book, and she was saying that when a
woman talks about her intimacy through poetry, her words are never taken as
universal, she is always entangled in the expression of her own intimacy, when
actually, it feels to me like the exact contrary, that poetry immediately turns things
into objectivity
words becoming objects
fixed, around which one can turn, without being concerned to assign a specific or
static signification
as paradoxically, it’s when words become fixed forms in poetry, that their meaning
gets freed from the obligation of syntax entailed in prose to evoke more
it’s also why this email has this shape I guess
a succession of ideas, words, bribes of sentences, thoughts
I don’t know if you follow me
if I have the right, as a critic, a curator, to employ this language too, but maybe yes, in
the intimacy of a correspondence…
tell me, more later in the afternoon
best,
Dorothée

Creuzet_sépulture, les toucans1

Creuzet_IMG_4763Exhibition view: Scroll Infini, La Galerie, Noisy-le-Sec. Photo: Ana Vega. Opéra-archipel, sépulture, les toucans, les perroquets sont les oiseaux les plus coloriés (…), 2015, Two copies of Toutes nos colonies,” a copy of Les beautés du monde, satellite, fork, pineapple part, bottle, screen, nautilus, poster, paper, golden strap, camp bed, laminated wood. 

Opéra-Archipelis how Julien Creuzet names -along with specific suffixes suggesting the existence of different occurrences or episodes within the series – the newest body of work he has been producing since 2014, eventually leading to his exhibition at FRAC Basse Normandie in France, opening on May 6th, 2015. With this title Creuzet quotes an 18th century opera by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Les Indes Galantes (1735), where a romance unfolds in four entrances,each taking place in a different colony, thus an early example of how eroticism and exoticism were to be permanently linked in the colonial imaginary. This opera is also almost contemporary to another story showcasing an early phenomenon of globalization – the birth of Mimolette, a French cheese produced in the north of France to imitate the Danish cheese Edam, which was forbidden to import under Colbert’s protectionist era. Mimolette was then colored in orange to differentiate it from its northern neighbor, with the help of a natural colorant named Roucouand imported from the newly discovered Americas. From this anecdote Creuzet brings together two emblematic symbols of France, its cheese and its colonial empire, and another image, the one of the redskin” , – a word used at the time to describe the newly encountered and incorrectly baptized Indian people. The reductive exoticism of the opera, the artificial color of the cheese, and the wrong appellation of the people come together in a new series of videos, sculptures, and sound pieces questioning aloud notions of authenticity, origin, and identity.

Creuzet_frac01Exhibition view: Opéra-archipel, Ma peau rouge, Henné, 2015, FRAC Basse Normandie, Caen, France.

From: Dorothée Dupuis
Subject: the 3 questions!
Date: 27 avril 2015 15:11:16 UTC-05:00
To: Julien Creuzet

Hello Julien!
Ok, so following my last email and our skype conversation yesterday, there are these 3 axes that interest me in relation to this issue of Terremoto we are preparing, which is quite the broad idea of the art object. Primarily, the way you succeed in deconstructing narratives contained in objects that are very loaded, notably in relation to these colonial mythologies. Also, the use you make of your computer and smartphone, that are at the same time tools, symbols as such, and protagonists in their own way in the work. And then, the way you objectify landscapes, places, environments, to almost make them tangible, through words, poetry, evocation.

In this issue, I was interested to debate the extent to which an art object can acquire autonomy, or if this autonomy is always dependent on the relationship it pertains with the artist or the viewer. Notions of presentation and representation,” as well as the tension existing between them and that your work addresses particularly are of specific interest to me. By presentation I mean that in order to apprehend the world, one has to be conscious that it appears to us, in the sense of epiphany, that it presents itself to us, and that we recognize it through a Platonic mechanism.
Additionally, the idea that time has to do with the very project of representation, which is the primary mechanism of art. Lets say since maybe cave art (maybe there was already art before?).

Then, the processes by which the presentation/representation of the world succeed are the ones of production and reproduction, technology being what makes this reproduction suddenly potentially infinite, which might seem terrifying. Because technology allows us to emancipate from a reproduction that was initially only possible through the biological

Talk soon!
Have a great night,
Dorothée

opera_15_galerieOpening of Opéra-archipel, for La Galerie’s 15th anniversary, Noisy-le-sec, 2015

One of the first discussions I had with Julien was in Marseille in 2012, and it was around legitimacy, and most specifically about how one’s origin, supposedly grants or on the contrary, denies you the right to talk about a specific given subject. In our case, I guess that specific conversation had to do with our mutual origins, my mom coming from the very same island his parents are from, Martinique. I remember feeling slightly compelled to justify myself on being simultaneously so interested and so external to the subject, given that I never lived there. And besides, I was obviously from the Béké side, as indicated by the color of my skin. But in a post-colonial world, how do these identity matters get negotiated? I remember an equal will to connect, and on the other hand, a reluctancy to do so. Furthermore, Julien is a mysterious person who doesn’t speak a lot, and when he does, its according to his own modalities, through riddles, silences, clues, and evasive answers. What you see is definitely not what you get.

Poème-titre, 2014, video-loop, 8′

From: Julien Creuzet
Subject: I was in a bad mood.
Date: 28 avril 2015 17:57:20 UTC-05:00
To: Dorothée Dupuis

To start, on the fly, I wrote on my cell phone until late last night before sleeping a
wink. I kept in mind your words, all your questions, I looked for the essence inside, to
be able to explain to you my trances, my uses, my rites of passage. I hide an unknown
misery…

Lena wanted to go to the flee market, I was in a bad mood. I had a tube with posters,
there must have been two that were superimposed, a bear on a bear, two beasts, rolled
paper, movement, a cardboard spin. I lost them, put them down, at some moment,
inadvertently. I was rummaging a pile of old books, to reconstitute a collection of
recipes of world gastronomy, scattered in every corner. I liked the pictures of the
adorned dishes a lot. I was salivating at chopping them up. Penniless, I only kept two.
The one from the Caribbean and Japan, against a bear on a bear, I searched for my
cardboard tube everywhere. On a table loaded with tableware, Lena finds a black
glass. She says she is buying it for herself, knowing that it will en up being digested in
my practice.

Everything begins.

I think that I will move this glass a little bit everyday in my head, I will make it turn in
my hands to feel these vitreous sides, an air bubble glass, take it up to see my light
through it. I felt like gluing it to the wall, to place it from the inside. I don’t know if it is
a glass to see, to drink, to provide. For the black to become purple in the light. If you
want to see inside, there is this void that makes room, even placed on the wall; I know
this void resonates. You know in the fetish of wood, in the center, close to the tummy,
excrescence, there is a glass, or a mirror. I know the magic is hidden behind. It is all
that life that swarms. For which men pay to be planted nail-wishes.

I am telling myself stories seeing that black glass, I remembered the obsidian that I
made spin in my hands to turn it into a volcanic memory that rotates, deforms itself
into a soft rock; murmuring, a small engine in the hard drive. From my phone I came
back to my computer, to understand my flow better. I threw myself in the water
without a safety net, to make concentric waves…

obisidienne1

obsidienne2Je me martèle la tête, hard disc, google drive, ça me suit encore (…), 2014, video, sound, 430’’

In Julien’s work, there are many objects. These objects can be used as metaphorical figures (like the Mimolette), images (the caravelle), readymades (plastic bottles, found objects), pretexts for storytelling (the bear posters), protagonists in videos (the black glass), tools or devices that mediate experiences and almost become performers in their own right (the computer, the smartphone). Even when they appear as themselves in the work, they are always this but also something else, and Julien is very careful to never lock their meaning. On the contrary, the idea is to grant these objects new properties and histories through their apparition into an artistic narrative. It then addresses the possibility of art as capable of altering the nature of things, modifying the larger narratives of which objects are the main characters, whether these narratives are historical, social, biographical or anything else. To modify the narratives contained in charged objects, especially the ones loaded with controversial connotations linked to problematic moments of human history such as the colonial era, draws the possibility for historically exploited populations to reestablish a neutral relationship to these objects and thus, their own history, through imagination and poetry.

formesmondesJai marché, pour photographier, mes formes-mondes, 2014, photograph and installation

From: Dorothée Dupuis
Subject: Rép: I was in a bad mood.
Date: 29 avril 2015 10:48:16 UTC-05:00
To: Julien Creuzet

Hello Julien
LOL

Tell me, did my questions help you?
Which form do you think this email interview will take?

PALABRES_STILL_01Opéra-archipel, la serre à palabres (…), 2015, video, sound, 30

Lately, Julien’s computer and smartphone have started to become almost like protagonists in his videos, performances, and sculptures. They are visibly carried around as filming devices, or used like technological mirrors, capturing while reflecting at the same time. Sometimes, they are shown by themselves, their black screens gaining stone-like qualities. At other times, they are filmed while playing a video, and the screen within the screen gains some magical depth, a Foucaldian presence  reflecting our own viewership, questioning our own participation in the world, our possible co-authorship as spectators. Acting both as an alter ego, a third eye, a simple reflecting surface, these technological objects embody the fragmentary nature of the current human experience, in which the digital plays an ever increasing part. Indeed, if the Opéra-archipel series talks about geographical dispersion (ubiquity seems now achievable through chat, video conference, and free long distance calls), it does so mostly from a perceptive point of view, subtly underpinning how our experience of otherness has been altered by the hyper-circulation of images and words, granting us knowledge before experience, reduced to a sum of pure data.

Opéra Archipel, Oracle Noir, Le point en l’air, 2015, video, mute, 2’12”

From: Julien Creuzet
Subject: Rép: I was in a bad mood.
Date: 29 avril 2015 18:33:02 UTC-05:00
To: Dorothée Dupuis

Dorothée,
Why Lol,
tell me,

Mobile,
my cell,
alone,
I go round in circles,
mobile, phone.

I go round in circles,
front, to the screen,
in front of you.

Out of battery,
I felt alone,
empty.

The same object
in the pocket.

I stare at the same pane,
the black glass,
where I saw you,
Aztec image,
hyperlink.

After the flee market,
I put the knee,
to caress the earth.

You too you were,
face time B.C.

I make you listen to something,

They took my voice,
for me to tell them,
the streams of opera,
I talked of the decor.

Maybe it’s boring,
at the end maybe,
there is a track for you.

I put the knee,
to caress the earth.

Julien

jaiquitteparisORDIOpéra-Archipel, J’ai quitté Paris, 2015, video, 20’42”

When I visited Julien’s studio last March in Paris there were several sculptures installed in the room. They were composed of various elements: plastic bottles, small pieces of vegetables, obsolete screening devices used for their reflective qualities, a camping bed, found posters (unless they had been reproduced on purpose), photos pinned here and there, grigri necklaces or shiny headbands lazily hung on the corner of frames themselves placed on other images. In the center of the room was a big basket with a structure holding a picture printed on fabric of iconic hip-hop singer Nicki Minaj. The mute screens were engraved with small poems. They were describing casual urban scenes written during the artist’s residency at La Galerie in Noisy-le-Sec, in the eastern suburb of Paris. Feelings of public transportation, multicultural costumes and habits, exchanges of gazes and words, long walks in between city parts, project buildings, Paris intra-muros and the small XIXth century art center, lost between bars and a discount supermarket. Julien activated the sculptures for me. He was talking in his smartphone linked to a vocoder rendering his voice as metallic and distant. Covered by a flowered fabric like a contemporary Beuysian figure, his voice was bouncing from one object to the other, revealing some specific anecdotes, or on the contrary burying forever some obvious connections. Under my eyes the mildly familiar landscape of the French colored suburb was taking shape through a specific set of words, sounds, signs, and forms. How can words give environments a materiality barely achieved through the visual, especially now that the third eye of our smartphone takes the picture before the meaning of what we see is even grasped in our brain? Slowly filtering as a robotic litany, Julien’s words were succeeding to realistically render the confusion, color and abruptness of the Seine Saint-Denis landscape, slowly sending Montmartre and its cultural sterility to oblivion.

perftwerkOpéra-archipel, danses païennes et corps critiques, Salle Joséphine Baker in Noisy-le-Sec. A conference-performance Julien Creuzet proposed with Afro-Carribean JoSchool (Noisy-le-Sec association for Afro-Caribbean dance), Ana Pi (dancer), Fannie Sosa (sociologist and performer), and the contribution of Elsa Dorlin (philosopher).

From: Julien Creuzet
Subject: le point en l’air
Date: 3 mai 2015 12:11:51 UTC-05:00
To: Dorothée Dupuis

Dorothée,

Opéra Archipel, Cactus, Le point en l’air, 2015, video, mute, 2’12”

I made you the cactus,
first with my lighter,
to press the flame,
in a rainbow, a dot in the air.

Waltzing with a shaking hand.

You will tell me,
hugs,

Julien 

Onde, 2015, video, 3’06”.
A reflection on my face / I am waking up, wild child / wave, page / a flow from the new world / a memory from the other / shore / westward / youthful euphoria / zest, what’s left / I am lost / west of the everest / a bit further west / at my own pace / on your marks / a mess / I am spinning / in the sails of monarchs / in my soul / ember, fire / fire forming / women softening / full of laziness / immolate me / if I loved her / rattles / whines / giggles / a bit further west / bewitched

 

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