ƃɹǝǝʇıuƃs ɟɹoɯ ɐ dɐɹɐllǝl ɹǝɐlıʇʎ
greetings from a parallel reality
words: Juliette Estroumsa
Gïl̈l̈ës̈ Bär̈b̈ïër̈ ïs̈ ẅḧäẗ ẅë c̈öül̈d̈ c̈äl̈l̈ ä p̈öl̈ÿv̈äl̈ën̈ẗ är̈ẗïs̈ẗ, m̈ül̈ẗïf̈äc̈ëẗëd̈, ẅḧër̈ë är̈ẗ ïs̈ n̈öẗ n̈ëc̈ës̈s̈är̈ïl̈ÿ ẗḧë f̈ïn̈äl̈ öb̈j̈ëc̈ẗ b̈üẗ ïn̈c̈l̈üd̈ëd̈ ïn̈ ẗḧë äl̈l̈ ën̈c̈öm̈p̈äs̈s̈ïn̈g̈ c̈r̈ëäẗïv̈ë p̈r̈öc̈ës̈s̈, r̈ëg̈är̈d̈l̈ës̈s̈ öf̈ ẗḧë m̈ëd̈ïüm̈. Hïs̈ ẗr̈äd̈ëm̈är̈k̈? Hïs̈ m̈öül̈d̈ëd̈ b̈öd̈ÿ c̈r̈ös̈s̈ïn̈g̈ ẗïm̈ë. On̈ë öf̈ ḧïs̈ m̈äïn̈ s̈üb̈j̈ëc̈ẗs̈ ïs̈ c̈ön̈s̈üm̈p̈ẗïön̈, ẗö ẗḧë d̈ëg̈r̈ëë ẅḧër̈ë ẗḧë b̈öd̈ÿ b̈ëc̈öm̈ës̈ j̈üs̈ẗ än̈öẗḧër̈ r̈än̈d̈öm̈ p̈r̈öd̈üc̈ẗ... b̈ëc̈äüs̈ë äc̈c̈ör̈d̈ïn̈g̈ ẗö ḧïm̈, ẅḧën̈ ïẗ g̈ëẗs̈ öl̈d̈ ÿöü d̈ön̈’ẗ ẅän̈ẗ ïẗ än̈ÿm̈ör̈ë. Aẗ ẗḧë s̈äm̈ë ẗïm̈ë ḧüm̈öür̈öüs̈ än̈d̈ v̈ïöl̈ën̈ẗ, ḧïs̈ är̈ẗẅör̈k̈s̈ s̈ür̈ël̈ÿ ẅön̈’ẗ l̈ëäv̈ë ÿöü ïn̈ ä s̈ẗäẗë öf̈ ïn̈d̈ïf̈f̈ër̈ën̈c̈ë. För̈ Gïl̈l̈ës̈ Bär̈b̈ïër̈, l̈ïf̈ë s̈ḧöül̈d̈ b̈ë ä p̈l̈äÿg̈r̈öün̈d̈ än̈d̈ ëv̈ër̈ÿb̈öd̈ÿ s̈ḧöül̈d̈ r̈ëm̈äïn̈ ä c̈ḧïl̈d̈. Tḧë c̈ël̈ëb̈r̈äẗëd̈ Fr̈ën̈c̈ḧ är̈ẗïs̈ẗ g̈äv̈ë üs̈ s̈öm̈ë ḧïn̈ẗs̈ äb̈öüẗ ḧöẅ ḧïs̈ ïd̈ëäs̈ p̈öp̈ üp̈ än̈d̈ ḧïs̈ öp̈ïn̈ïön̈ äb̈öüẗ c̈ön̈ẗëm̈p̈ör̈är̈ÿ är̈ẗ.
You are the kind of artist who uses different media, such as sculpture, installation, drawing, photography… do you find a different kind of (artistic) satisfaction with every different medium? ||| News from the kangaroo: I jump from one medium to another depending on the type of work I want to achieve. Some are more efficient in sculpture, others in photography, etc. However, I must say drawing, in all its forms, is the mode of expression I am the most addicted to. Regardless of which medium you finally us to execute an idea, it’s always possible to synthesize them in a small sketch.
Your installations aren’t only impressive regarding the actual content, but in terms of scale as well... such as 'Still Library', which shows how nature forces its way back into civilization. Do you have an exact idea from the very beginning of which kind of technique you’ll employ for an idea? ||| Haha, “Still Library” is not that big! I have done much worse. Size is always linked to what you want to express and to how you want to touch your audience. Do you want to touch a certain body part or the memory? It’s a question of amplification. Like in music. You play a ballad for your girl, a cool thing for a group of friends, a powerful song for a stadium, or an easy thing for everyone to shake their butt to. There are many options, depending on the context.
But to answer your question, at first when I am working, there is something like a fuzzy jumble or statements, which then form into something close to an idea. The second step then will be the interpretation of these statements. It’s a very thrilling moment because it’s like I interpreted a Yi King or a tarot card… it’s irrational, it’s magic! Interpretation done, I automatically get an idea about the shape, I connect, my senses become sharp again... and my experience enables me to know how to handle it in technical terms. However, here again, what remains is a lot of liberty, even though the economic constraints are obviously difficult to handle. The thing to remember is that I don’t give a damn about the idea. I could work with any of them, even with the stupid or uncool ones. What matters a lot more is the specific interpretation and comprehension resulting from this matter.
You like to integrate and play around with the human body, and more than often you’re the main protagonist. I was wondering about the reason for this since the very majority of artists tend to find comfort in anonymity? ||| I am the tenant of my body and this one in particular makes me pay a high rent. So I use it whenever I can to make my investment profitable. I use it as a home, but as well as a studio, as a material. The landlord doesn’t know about it… so I will be discreet!
At Lodown we really like the humour you provide through your artworks. Is it your way to make contemporary art more accessible? Do you generally think that today’s art world enjoys having its head up its own butt? ||| Art became bloody boring because of taking itself too seriously. Too many curators, too many mediators, too many critics… all these people must make profits by vying with ideas, seriousness, engagements. I am often dismayed by reading applied literature, because it’s narrow-minded and amnesia causing. You're gonna think I am an old fart, and you might be right since I just celebrated my half-century. But despite my civil status, I am still a teenager... I want to play the fool, I want to have fun. I basically hate everything which can be related to an adult… and I feel that contemporary art turned into a grown up quite a while ago! By the way, I don’t know what’s going on, but I feel that the entire world became adult, like those old couples who are torn apart by trying to decide who'll change the cat litter.
You are settled at La Friche de la Belle de Mai in Marseille, France, a kind of equivalent to the Tacheles in Berlin. Does it influence your work to be in permanent contact with many different artists? ||| It’s actually less about influence but more about dynamism. My idea of art is rooted in the sense that I’m never alone. A place like La Friche has a vocation for being a shared house, an open house even. The studio is like a brain outside of yourself. When you think, you do it with the help of a main guest, through language and communication. It’s a shared process, I think with the others, the people I meet, I read, I love. I think with the landscapes, the seasons, the time, with the pains and joys. I think with the nature. It’s a mistake to believe that we think alone, just by ourselves. The human is a social being who just loves to form tribes in a given environment.
The hermit is a stupid figure, someone who still continues to damage the imagination. Hermits never did anything except to masturbate in their cave, hoping that these walls would protect them from the others’ looks, and from God.
In my opinion, the studio is an open space, the beginning of the exhibition, and the exact opposite of a cave. There are assistants, friends, visitors, gallerists, collectors, critics, my wife, my children. They all have ideas and I listen to them with attention.
So please tell us about your upcoming projects? ||| I am working on a six episode strong graphic novel where the hero is the dice man. I am currently finishing an artwork close to still life, which belongs to the series “Habiter la Viande” (Live in the Meat) - basically three large pieces of meat hanging which will work as the matrix of a small village, like you can see on the Amalfi Coast, with stairs and small bridges. I also have a dictionary page in the works, a POSCA painting which shows “La Femme Presque Invisible” (The Almost Invisible Woman), a sand sketchbook, a series - “a very old thing” - which presents Ben Grimm at the hospice, new pawns, a new series of photographs titled “Planqué à L’atelier” (Stashed in the Workshop). I'm preparing a big scenography with an engineer, the black box, which allows me to show 96 black designs on chair rails moving. I'm also working with Gaël Charbau on what he calls an introspective. An exhibition where we will organize and show 25 years of work from pieces that have never been shown in public. Plus two or three other things... sorry, I do not make this list to show off and play the big guy! But as far as I can remember, I have always worked on multiple projects, and I like it when they all add up to a kind of weaving. At this very moment, I have the feeling of living life to the fullest. Thank you for your attention!