Conversation with Martin Kersels
I feel like since 1995, we have always remained in conversation with one another! Do you think this relationship shows in your art?
Our relationship has always been about meeting, talking, seeing other opportunities for the work. Through working with you, I have done so many things that I would never had the chance to do otherwise: riding a Vespa through Cahors, The Nest peace at Pompidou, the Fat Man at Jeu de Paume… These are opportunities not just to show but to create things that interact with a place. Doing a gallery show is a little different, sometimes you struggle to find the right balance of works and objects, of big things, saleable or not saleable. This show is an interesting balance between objects, the very distinct sculptures and the photos. The spinning wall is like this object that makes the sculptures become more performances; and I feel it has found a very good balance between the nature of a gallery (which is a commercial place) and it being also a place for ideas, allowing for a new way of looking at things to exist. When I was making this show, I was thinking specifically for your space. This is my fifth show with you, a long relationship of art!
There is always something about the body in your work, but this is maybe the most sculptural show you have ever done. The chairs show incredible superposition of materials but they remain real chairs and functional objects.
Actually I like art that is « useful », that you don't put on a wall or in a vitrine, it seems ordinary but not at all, it is familiar but also strange, you don't understand the architecture. It looks as if it would not be confortable at all but when you sit, it becomes unified. From what you see, it seems like a mess but from your feelings it becomes unified …
For the Hercules piece or for the Thrones chairs there is this very sense of body, mine or the absence of it, the other pieces are real objects. This is something I am interested in, putting forward that they are separate from me. With the wall that turns, I wanted these objects that are not « me » turned to performers on a giant stage. You stand in front of the wall and it turns and all of a sudden they are revealed like characters in a play. They disappear and you look to the other side of the stage, you see Zeus, then _Orpheus_… I have been interested in the activation of using sculptures in performance but I think the wall has made the objects more « performers » in a larger play.
The spirit of your black and white photos in this show seems different from the representation of yourself as a performer we are familiar with. It looks like you are hiding yourself but at the same time they are also very intimate …
The first Falling photos were black and white, then I started to do things in colour like Tossing a Friend, the Whirling series … When I did the Fat Iggy series, I wanted to turn more to the object. But Fat Iggy was also about me performing. Next I decided to take part but not through performance, rather with an intimate component. It was frightening for me to do that: my body might be « too Rubens », really not in the modern aesthetics of the « green world », I may use too much carbon!!!
I wanted to be intimate but also frightening and pathetic. The silver stickers on my body remind me of stars, I thought about constellations. All our constellations are after Greek myths, the sky above the earth to which the body belongs.
It seems that in this show, you are more viewer than anything else…
I feel like early when I was making shows, I wanted to surprise myself. I didn't care so much where it fits in the world of Art. But as each year goes by, there is a certain « calculation ». I have to maybe honour a « Kersels' look », which, I have no idea. For this show, I wanted to surprise myself again and hopefully I will surprise other people too. I feel more free, I am using the energy of the spirit and emotions in order to make my works. I want to be in this very moment. I started thinking about the work like the chairs not as assemblage or bricolage but rather in a way of talking about theatre of improvisation. In improvisation many times you are given two or more elements and you have to « go » with it in acting. You can go about a hundred different ways but I wanted to be in the moment with the material, to be surprised and enjoy it. The works I enjoy the best are often the work that people enjoy the most.