In art, it’s important to have two things: Curiosity and Ambition.
Loris Gréaud (*1979) has both, and he lives them up splendidly. His child-like obsession with objects and knowledge leads him to a desire to fuse different disciplines and practices in a manner that is characterized as “both futuristic and utopian”. A candy without taste, a fictional studio becomes reality, a concert for deep-sea creatures, a movie that blacks out when you get close, a fiction without image, a contract for you to spend 24 hours inside the Belly of Sperm Whale, invisible architectures constructed by air currents, light bulbs that flicker in time to an EEG recording of his own brainwaves… Switching between playfulness and seriousness, rumor and fact, Gréaud ironically proposes to us a world of reversed perceptions where “everything crashes into reality”. Trajectories without destination, Gréaud’s work is in a constant mutation that speaks of ideas and processes rather than an achieved form.
In the interview with Loris Gréaud, we start with his two upcoming projects, The Unplayed Notes, his first gallery solo show at Pace Gallery (New York), and his first short film The Snorks – A Concert for Creatures which will be released in the coming months. The artist also generously shares with us his ideas of art and his observations of today’s art scene.
Paris, 5 May 2012
LG – Loris Gréaud
ST – Selina Ting for initiArt Magazine
ST: You are opening a solo show, The Unplayed Notes, at the Pace Gallery (New York) in early May and in September at Yvon Lambert (Paris) and also planning the release of your first short film The Snorks – A Concert for Creatures in theatre and cinemas in the coming months. I am curious. Why a concert in the deep sea for marine life creatures?
LG: The idea of the project comes from a complete paradox that we know better the surface of the moon than the depth of our ocean. In the last 40 years, we have developed the most advanced technology to reach the moon just to find out that there is absolutely nothing, whereas, we don’t even know what’s there in the depth of our oceans. We only know that the depth of the oceans is more significant than the height of the most elevated mountain. Recent scientific research finds out that there are completely new forms of life and ecology system in the depth. We see that some creatures are able to perform photosynthesis in the dark; some would never die, they would just freeze and be reborn. I am interested in these creatures and more specifically in the phenomenon of the bioluminescence. It’s a natural reaction for communication and camouflage produced by the marine lives in such an extreme condition of total darkness and coldness. Working with the MIT Sea Grant Research Department and the ANTARES station of the international research program LIDO (Listen Into the Deep Ocean), we found out that these creatures are responding to frequency, thus comes the idea of producing sounds in the depth to make them flicker. Later on, with the Hip-Hop group Anti-Pop Consortium we decided to make a concert for the creatures.
ST: You have been working on the project with biologists, scientists, specialists, actors, philosophers, musicians, etc. During the last 3 years, it has travelled in many different cities, presented in different occasions and in different formats. How was the whole project evolved? What would be the final work?
LG: We are making a film out of these. The first movie that I have received from MIT and other bioluminescent phenomenon specialists from all over the world on the bioluminescent creatures actually resembles an underwater firework spectacle. This led me to the idea of working with pyro technicians / group F to recreate in the sky the bioluminescence that we see in the depth. The second step was to broadcast in Time Square in a conventional publicity projection the firework that we realized in Abu Dhabi. The third step is to commission the abstract hip-hop band Anti-Pop Consortium to compose pieces of music specifically for the creatures. The fourth step is to broadcast the concert in the deep sea for the creatures. We hope that they would respond to the sound the way they usually do. Now, we are in the fifth and the final step of producing the film starring David Lynch and Charlotte Rampling as the main characters with the original sound track by Anti-Pop Consortium. So the project is about translation and equivalence. It’s about a reality that is reflecting a narrative, as said by the actress in the movie.
ST: You wrote a year ago that the project may or may not be realized, rewarded. This is part of the rule?
LG: From the very beginning, I know that I don’t want it to be an object or a fixed form or medium pre-determined by the context because I don’t want to have a precise destination and I enjoy many different possibilities and trajectories. I want it to be free in the global experience. That’s why I am producing the movie myself. It allows me the empirical procedures to develop the movie and to decide on its many possible destinations. It’s like a movie that’s building itself in real time, taking shapes gradually and defining its durations and its own ways of making. I wouldn’t have been able to do so two or three years ago. Now, I am at a stage that I don’t want to follow the rules and temporality of contemporary art because they don’t make any sense for me or at least to some of my projects and the procedures. For me, what the work itself requires is a fair question. Now I am able to be free to decide on my own time and my own ways of working which makes more sense to me. It’s the first time that I am completely on my own to redefine the procedures. The production demands all the energy and financial capacity of the Studio, but I am able to produce my own movie, that’s important for me.
ST: The idea of a constant evolution or of « empirical procedure » is also present in your Cellar Door project except that it’s largely supported by institutions. It has travelled in different cities in different forms, and there is also the construction of the Studio in the project.
LG: I am constantly looking for new ways of producing art. Let’s say, Cellar Door is more about shifting and reversing the ways of producing works – starting from fiction, to crash into reality, saying things in reverse, etc. All the shows were talking about the Studio where the works were produced. After that, we put it into reality, i.e. the fictional Studio becomes a real studio built in concrete. So, it’s like a Mobius strip. It’s also about using the field of art to create a space that admits other forms, such as the CD is distributed by a music label; the opera can be replayed in an Opera House, etc… From my point of view, the field of art is not defined, so we can blur everything and take people from every field to this strange and weird field called “Art”.
ST: Whereas The Snorks is doing the reverse of situating contemporary art in different fields outside of art?
LG: There’s always a kind of back and forth between different fields.One of the key concepts of The Snorks is that I am not conceiving an object for the artwork and even less an object for anywhere… I don’t know the destination of the project. It is now becoming a film whose destination can be a theatre. But there are multi-aspects in the work, such as the concert can be played for humans like a regular hip-hop concert. The only thing is that all these have to respect the ideas that both the procedure and the process have to be experimental and have to adapt for every single project. That’s my concept of the adventure of art. I truly believe that the medium you choose have to follow the idea and you have to respect the process that makes the most sense of the original idea. So if I want to commit to such a project of making everything empirical, and be able to adapt the studio to meet the project’s requirements, I have to be independent in terms of finance, procedure and time. The idea of being in the adventure of art is not thinking about the economy of forms and ideas but being in a constant combustion!
ST: … such as taking three years to shoot a movie that lasts 18 or 20 minutes?!!
LG: Exactly! [Laughs]
ST: How do you relate to your own work? What’s your personal point of view?
LG: My point of view on art changes constantly in the last two years. Sometimes I felt rather distant from what I have been growing with; sometimes I have the total synergy to do my best… The most important is to do my best and make things happen. My work is about making things happen and it’s even more challenging when it’s something impossible to achieve. It’s an adventure. The result has to be a great failure and a great success at the same time; otherwise, you failed at some point. The best work always sparks controversy in a binary and contrast way. It has to be black for some people and white for others. People would have to think of you either as “a complete flop” or “a genius”. The tumor is grey – the grey feelings, the grey feedback.
ST: That’s very heroic! All and nothing, love and hate, all comes together!
LG: It has to be! But I don’t want to play hero, it’s just that I get bored easily, so I have to find adventures to entertain myself! [Laughs] In the past two years, some people thought that I was trying a desperate communication strategy by refusing several art awards nominations. My position is in fact much simpler. Other than the fact that the idea of art award is itself problematic, some of them involve lots of voters. As jury members, the voters have to discuss between themselves with the aim of reaching an agreement on the winning artist. Other awards like the Ricard Prize have an anonymous voting process, just like an “election” without any deliberation. The more voters an award has, the worst it would be. If we look at art history, we see that the best artists and masterpieces in history had never aimed at claiming any form of consensus. If good taste is the enemy of art, consensus is the tumor of the art world! So I was just asking myself how decisions were made in these prizes. The juries have to come up with a choice that most members could agree with. It’s never going to be the name that tends to elicit polarized opinions. It will be the consensual grey name. Imagine if you are the winner?
ST: There is a notion of utopia in the Consensus…
LG: I hate such kind of utopia! As an artist, I have to make things crash into the reality. I am constantly trying to be in an unstable, unbalanced state because contemporary art is supposed to create a space of resistance. It must resist all kinds of description or approach, and not to absorb you immediately. Art is not candy! Art can be candy but tasteless! [Laughs]
ST: [Laughs] A nice paradox! Are you a bit skeptical with the art world and the identity of being an artist today?
LG: How can we believe in artists when the paradigm has completely shifted?It’s all about choices. Nowadays, you can choose your career as an “artist”. You can announce to your parents that you decided to be an artist, and they would be celebrating the news as if their child has become a famous lawyer. Such a simple change has redistributed the whole game, like calling a reverse card in a poker game, and here, I am talking about the Final of the World Championship!
ST: That’s the criticism that art schools today are not teaching students how to make art but how to become an artist…
LG: Recently I heard Ed Ruscha saying that it’s a shame that last year’s art students are already selling works from school and galleries are waiting for the next cohort to find their fresh meat. I don’t think there is a problem with that – “acceleration of acceleration” is something we have to deal with, age is not an aesthetical criteria. We all agree that Piero Manzoni [1933 – 1963] was a great artist, right?
But it’s another story in France. It’s what I called the “Rimbaud Syndrome”, the “I is Another”. It’s not a hierarchical overview, but how should we deal with the situation today that bloggers want to be writers, writers want to be art critics, art critics want to be curators, curators want to be artists, and the worst artists want to be artists?
ST: Was it the reason that you said you didn’t want to think of yourself as an artist?
LG: There is a slippery rhetoric that I said once during an interview with Alix Rule that, we all agree that art students want to be artists, but when artists want to be artists, they become art students. So, my biggest ambition is now to skip school.
ST: [Laughs] Despite all these, at the age of 33, you have already attracted a lot of attention both from the institutions and the art market. It seems very easy for you to reconcile the two sectors…
LG: The art market is very easy! Let me give you another paradox. As artists, we are supposed to work in a very edgy environment, but the art system is so dusty and rusty and old, like in the 19th century. Yet we have to play the game – so the paradox! I like artists who play the game and play it intelligently! The essential thing is to do your best and to be totally committed to your work. Then there are external factors such as the market, productions, money, structures, galleries, etc., that you have to be aware of because the romantic image of the artist painting in solitude doesn’t exist anymore. Opposed to the image of the artist-in-the-studio is the artist-in-the-city, i.e. an artist who is conscious of all these aspects of functioning while having his antennas plugged to the world. The world is a medium and the resources. When I have a question, I have to displace myself to have a specific discussion with the expert, be he a philosopher or a scientist. A form, an image or an object could pop up from the discussions and one thing leads to another. Sometimes, the person in front of you would displace with you to another field and the discussion becomes something else. It’s not science, it’s not art, it’s an unknown field that awaits definitions, and in this field, you have the freedom to do things that you can’t do in other fields. This is really exciting.
ST : I think today we got over the era of a very self-reflexive attitude in art, artists today are less looking at art from an intrinsic perspective but trying to expand the scope of art. There are some good artists in every generation who try to push art forward and propose something different.
LG: I think that every big move in the history of mankind has been built on paradoxes. I remember after seeing the Dada show in Centre Pompidou in 2005, I was totally depressed. When you see two or three works of Marcel Duchamp, you realize this guy had done everything! You know it’s scary for an artist. But at the same time, as what you said that there are a few artists who try to push things forward, try to reinvent procedures, so there is the paradox that everything is possible… and still possible. For example, in the 1990s, a few artists had created new highways for everything to enter into the exhibition space. That’s a great thing, but that’s not enough. I think that today, everything could come out from the exhibition space and it’s more exciting.
At the same time, I am very suspicious with artists who invest in a kind of immediately recognizable aesthetics, as if they are doing the same thing all the time. I am not against them because I understand that collectors want signature works and signature works are easily marketable in the first and second hand markets. What I really worry about is the lack of vision and artists are less implied to the world.
ST: But there is another kind of signature aesthetics which is no longer in the brushwork or composition. If you look at the work of an artist who employs different media and forms, you can still trace the lines of thought, subject-matters, sensibility, etc.
LG: The difference could be between artists who are making pieces of works and artists who are drawing a line of works, developing a body of work. I am more interested in the trajectory, the thoughts of an artist. The idea that an artist can make so many different trajectories without repeating the same aesthetics and allows you to link the chain of work, of thought… I am thinking of Mike Kelley [1954 – 2012 (RIP)] for example, whose work is always challenging, never the same. Personally, I like to look at a body of work that spans through several years, and try to retrace the trajectory of the artist’s thought from one piece to another rather than just talking about one piece of work.
ST: But the trajectory is not necessarily linear, it can be a loop, or even randomly going in many different directions. For example, some artists take their exhibitions as an experimental field to redo and undo their previous work, and some systematically incorporate previous works to create new constellations in their shows.
LG: The idea of the exhibition space is very interesting and as I’ve said just now, the transgression of an exhibition space or context is very exciting. In the last eleven years, I have never done a solo show in a gallery because I wasn’t really interested in the gallery format and also because I have important institutional projects. But now I am quite excited with the idea of The Unplayed Notesshow at the Pace Gallery and at Yvon Lambert Gallery. For me, it’s an opportunity to be challenging with the notion of a gallery exhibition. I am not trying to redefine the format of a gallery show, but to test what you can produce from there, what is admissible for a gallery and how you would end up with a production for a gallery show that’s financed by the gallery. I am really committed to transform these conventions. But I am equally committed to transform what an institutional show means to be with the simultaneous shows in Centre Pompidou and the Louvre in 2013.
ST: What are you proposing with The Unplayed Notes?
LG: The Unplayed Notes is also related to what we have just talked about the chain of thought and displacement in works. In the last three to five years, I am more focused on developing projects. I am always thinking about the last work and the coming work, and trying to draw some beautiful lines. The space between two works is the beautiful chain of the thought, the work that you didn’t do. This space creates a lot of beautiful stories. The German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen [1928 – 2007] said that “It is symbolic of my musical work since 45 years that it is the unheard and the unplayed that is the most fascinating in my life”, meaning the missing gap between two works of art or the shift of thought between two shows or two works is as important as the work itself. This is the beauty of art making because it’s not imposed. In cinema, there are protocols of timing, fiction and narration. Even in an abstract film, there is still an imposed narration. In a show, you can displace yourself and set your own timing. The physical displacement from one work to another could create many stories, if they are good works.
ST: What’s the game of “Loris Gréaud is planning a disappearance, arranging for new identification, finding work, establishing credit, pseudocide (creating the impression you’re dead), and more.” in your email autoreply?
LG: It’s a dangerous game. [Laughs] The idea is to get lost, to lose myself. But before I started the idea of getting lost, I was in the unlearning process. That was how I got kicked out from school for the “Music-Unlearning Workshop” [at the age of 14]. The idea of unlearning is that when you have accumulated all the information and the know-hows, you have to unlearn in order to reinvent yourself. You have to discharge what you have learnt in order to “free” yourself and to provide room for re-creating your own ways of learning, thinking, and inventing new procedures. It’s an important and long process that requires efforts and concentrations in de-concentrations. This have led me to the even more complicated and tough process of getting lost. It comes from a military strategy that you can’t be stopped or located if you are completely lost. Nobody can predict your direction because even you, yourself, don’t know where you are going. So, probably, if you attempt to really get lost, you will access the un-built roads and the highways of free. I’m doing my best to get rid of my GPS, that’s a first step. I am kind of succeeding. So, I lost myself, getting lost into my thought and my projects. It was quite intense to get lost, and a dangerous game really!
ST: Thank you!
The Unplayed Notes
Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris
18 Oct – 05 Dec 2012
The Unplayed Notes
Pace Gallery, New York
5 May – 9 June 2012
The Snorks – A Concert for Creatures
Born in 1979 in Eaubonne, France. Lives and works in Paris