Fiction within reality: an interview with the artist Jerome Cavaliere

 Paris  |  21 May 2015  |  AMA  |  Tweet  |  LinkedIn

Jerome Cavaliere is a young artist from Marseille, who was selected for the 60th edition of the Salon de Montrouge, which is currently taking place until 3 June 2015. A former member of the French national archery team, the artist takes his inspiration from his sporting lifestyle and the electrifying atmosphere of the Phocaean city. AMA spoke to him about his experience of presenting at the Salon de Montrouge for the first time.

The Salon de Montrouge is your first salon… What are your impressions of it?
Yes, it’s my first salon and I’m very satisfied with it as the exchanges have been very positive ever since the first evening. It’s possible to meet people who are usually not very accessible, such as people who work in art centres, critics, journalists, and collectors. There are some people who are in very high demand today and who, for this occasion, have come to see our work. I think that the Salon gives a certain credibility to the work because it’s a salon that has proved its worth over the years, helping many emerging young artists who, after exhibiting at this salon, have gone on to pursue an established artistic career. I am happy as one of my videos succeeded in making the audience laugh on the first evening, which is the aim of my work.

Why did you decided to present at the Salon de Montrouge?
It’s one of the most important salons for young French artists, along with Jeune Création, among others. I plumped for Montrouge because enrolling is free for artists, entrance is free for visitors, and its principle supports equality of opportunity, which I approve of. Financial questions are always present in my work; my means are not unlimited, so sending documents can be quite costly. Here, applications can even be sent over the Internet, so I didn’t have any excuse not to get involved. The Salon is also associated with the Fondation Culture & Diversité which helps people from humble backgrounds access art. The diversity of the works presented means that nobody can leave the salon without having liked a single work.

Are there any works you really loved?
The salon offers a large variety of works so I can appreciate them all together. There were some works that I really loved however, which I think is more of a question of artistic affinity. One of these was a work by NIETO, who enjoys playing with the morbid side of things, and who created a piano whose keys, when pressed, emit the sounds of small dead mice. I really like this type of black humour. I also like Jan Vanderme’s videos from the series J’aime pas, they portray a very humorous attitude. What pleases me are above all works that I can relate to, in terms of humour and self-mockery.

Could you tell me about your two video installations exhibited at the salon?
The first, Competitions are for horses, not artists, is composed of a small cathodic screen on a support, as seen in a hotel or a hospital. Next to it, I placed two big shelves with samples of blood and urine on them. These two elements communicate with one another. The television broadcasts a report on an anti-doping centre which tracks down artists so that there can be ‘clean’ exhibitions and so that artists don’t use illegal substances to improve their performance or their creativity. The report resonates with the shelves and with the samples. The public can therefore think what they want about it… Is it really blood and urine? To whom does it belong to? To the artist? The idea of this piece is to create a fiction in the minds of the public and to create a new reality of time of a few seconds in the manner of an absurd work. It’s possible but it’s absurd…

So, is it really urine and blood?
That’s a professional secret!

What inspires your artistic practice?
I draw my inspiration from my sporting past. From the age of 9 to 18, I did archery at a high level, I was in the French team and I participated in international championships. I had to take many anti-doping tests for this. I stopped due to an injury and studied for five years at the l’École supérieure d’Art et de Design in Grenoble. After this, I took up archery again and wondered how I’d be able to integrate my sporting lifestyle with my artistic practice. These thoughts gave birth to Entretien avec une œuvre d’art. For this work, I threw around a hundred arrows, from different distances – 30, 50, and 70 metres – onto fake Oliver Mosset paintings depicting a black circle on a white background. The concept refers to the young generations of artists who would prefer that the older ones leave them alone, and who are attempting to break away from all forms of surveillance. Regarding doping, I wanted to evoke this issue because I am currently faced with very banal problems. Having an eye problem leads to the use of eye drops containing beta blockers, and I have to ask for permission to use these drops solely for medical purposes as, if I test positive, I will be suspended. But the quantity of these beta blockers is so tiny that this has become ridiculous. It is this slightly excessive absurdity in the desire to be fair and ethical, at the point of neglecting one’s health, which inspired me to make Competitions are for horses, not artists because if the tests took place in the art world… I wondered what would change in art and art history if artists weren’t allowed to use certain substances…

You have a slightly different stance on cheating…
In contemporary art, a section of the audience is disappointed and thinks that it is deceitful to present work carried out by the artist’s assistants as the artists’ own work, when they have merely coordinated the production. The audience is under the impression that an artist creates things with his hands, implementing a technical prowess. For me, this isn’t very important. It’s as irrelevant as asking an architect to build a house. These things are carried out within a team and it’s better to work with competent people who allow you to realise your ideas.

Is this true of your installations?
I realised the installation for the Salon myself, but it was with the help of the Atelier Ni in Marseille, which does production work for artists who lack the technical abilities or resources. I went there to use their tools, and took on their advice. But if I had had the means, I would certainly have realised it so it was perfectly true to my idea. For this sort of work, it is not so important to know whether the artist made it themselves, so much as whether it reflects the wishes of the artist. It is the intention which is important. The rest is about collaboration.

The “open” aspect and internet sources both interest you…
In fact, for the second work that I am presenting in the Salon, Désaccords, which I realised with the artist Stéphan Déplan, we found some videos from the internet, added some subtitles, and put them back online. These days, with the internet, we have access to images, texts, a new form of collaborative learning. Very interesting, but also a little perverse — its veracity is never certain. On the other hand, books — dictionaries and encyclopaedias — act as references, and we can say that they contain the truth. Wikipedia, on the contrary, is very widely read, but at the same time, doubt remains: what is true and what is false? That idea is presented in our subtitled videos, which absolutely do not translate the original film. And the interest in putting them back on the internet afterwards is in response to the current imperative for speed: information to hand, distributing it immediately without verifying sources. In the context of an exhibition, the audience understands that an artist created the subtitles. But once it is on the internet, and video is swept away in the sea of information, these dialogues appear true. Some people I met at the openings admitted to me that they had seen the video on the internet, and that they really believed that two artists had been kicked out of an exhibition and that they were fighting because of that. That is completely untrue.

And keeping with this open source theme, you created Art at Home…
Yes, it’s a free website where you can download files which describe how to reproduce art works in practical terms. The ideas of open source, copyright, and free distribution come into it, because I do not ask for money, nor for any authorisation. I analyse a work by a known artist, to see how they created it, and I write out an explanation so the public can reproduce it at home. All this is because I loved certain works, but I could not afford them. I have a little anecdote: once, an artist contacted me himself to tell me that I was wrong about how his work was made, and that his personal technique is on the site. For an artist, it is quite satisfying to know that somebody appreciates your work and wants to have it themselves. I am also looking for an editor to publish the content of the site in the form of a book. What matters to me is not the materiality of the work, but rather what it gives off and what it means. It is also an interesting way of fostering dialogue. Having said that, I do not necessaryily always believe in fostering dialogue, insofar as I do not necessarily like commentaries on art. I find it problematic as a way of subsituting the work with commentary. So I would rather call it raising awareness of art through appropriation. It is a gateway into the work of an artist.

You come from Marseille, a city with a very active art scene. Can you tell us about that?
Marseille is already well established from an artistic point of view. Marseille 2013 [European Capital of Culture] has granted the city a good visibility, but it was very active before that as well. The city has a lot of energy, and a significant cultural community, which allows local artists to exhibit fairly regularly, practically with free rein. This allows an artist to be very experimental, even if the exhibition is short. Marseille is also a fairly cheap city, so it is possible to give large workshops and to produce works from materials found on the street — you can find a lot there. On the social side, Marseille is a bit of a harsh city, very Mediterranean, with a sort of latent violence, since the residents are very hot headed. This tension is very interesting.

And in terms of events?
There are a number of events, such as ART-O-RAMA, which aim to promote the arts in the wider international scene, and to show a different side to the city. There is also the Spring of Contemporary Art, which takes place in May, in which all public and private venues will host events and openings.

What are your future projects?
I am working on a two-metre-long, radio-controlled, origami boat, with a huge motor, entitled The radio-controlled origami boat, the biggest in the world. The boat is made of wood, and I have worked with a naval architect on the plans, so it is fast and makes a lot of noise and smoke, in stark contrast to the appearance of the boat. I want to create an urban myth: I’m planning to take it to places with a lot of tourists, like the Old Port and the gulf of Saint-Tropez, so holidaymakers will be able to see an origami boat pass at full speed, making huge ripples. This will not be an event, there will not be any adverts, but there will be rumours. The idea is to create a fiction within reality. This is not a performance either, because performances are advertised, it is more of a “happening”. My process can be considered as an attempt at desecration, and an endeavour to deconstruct stereotypes. After all, this boat recalls childhood, an innocence which is easily carried by the tide. My boat is big, it will make noise. The idea is to destroy its image as a nice little boat…

You plan to recount its travels…
The next stage will consist of a film relating the journey of this boat, especially in the Gorges du Verdon, with some aesthetic designs. The idea is to personify it, to give it a soul, as if it chooses its destination. Quentin Dupieux’s work, Rubber, was a great influence. It is about the story of a serial killer tyre which travels around and, when it sees a human, it vibrates and the person explodes. It is a nonsensical idea, but its aim, if I understand it correctly, pivots on the idea of fiction. It is enough to believe it for it to work. That is how we step into fantasy and creativity.

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