MU­SIC FOR A WHILE CONVER­SA­TION AVEC XA­VIER VEIL­HAN ET CH­RIS­TIAN MAR­CLAY

IN A GES­TURE OF RA­DI­CAL RE­CON­FI­GU­RA­TION OF THE FRENCH PAVILION AT THE 57TH VE­NICE BIEN­NALE, XA­VIER VEIL­HAN WILL PRESENT A NEW VER­SION OF KURT SCHIWT­TERS'S MERZ­BAU, IN WHICH AN IN­TER­NA­TIO­NAL EN­SEMBLE OF MU­SI­CIANS PLAY WITH THE CONTEXT OF THE PU­BLIC RE­COR­DI

L'officiel Art - - News - IN­TER­VIEW BY YA­MI­NA BENAï

An­dreas An­ge­li­da­kis

L'OF­FI­CIEL ART : The ex­pe­rience of Stu­dio Ve­ne­zia led you to a to­tal im­mer­sion in the ci­ty. XA­VIER VEIL­HAN:

In­deed, I will live there for se­ve­ral months and un­til the clo­sing of the Bien­nale. I am in­vi­ting eigh­ty mu­si­cians to in­ter­vene suc­ces­si­ve­ly in the pavilion, and it seems na­tu­ral to me to be present to wel­come them. I am ve­ry in­ter­es­ted in this ve­ry spe­cial fea­ture of the se­ven­month ex­hi­bi­tion. It al­lows one to de­ve­lop a pro­ject whose tem­po­ral fac­tor is key, and to go against the cur­rent of the dis-pro­por­tio­nate fo­cus on the Bien­nale's pu­blic pre-ope­ning week. I went quite late to Ve­nice for the first time, at about the age of thir­ty-five. I was cap­ti­va­ted.

Your ab­so­lute ap­proach, which digs deep down in­to a place's roots, in­evi­ta­bly re­fers to the concept of a work's context. How do you en­vi­sage this?

The work is the context. I have wor­ked on the construc­tion of the ar­chi­tec­ture, which is both a mo­nu­men­tal sculp­ture and a set­ting in which the ar­tists who pro­duce the mu­sic come to­ge­ther. This sculp­ture fol­lows the buil­ding's contours, making it di­sap­pear en­ti­re­ly by co­ve­ring it, but al­so by ab­sor­bing the func­tion of the re­cor­ding stu­dio, where the mu­si­cians suc­ces­si­ve­ly per­form. The pur­pose was thus to al­low for a sym­bio­sis bet­ween ar­chi­tec­ture and func­tion, and to create a work that be­comes the be­gin­ning of an en­ti­ty upon which I have no con­trol – that is, the crea­tion unique to each guest mu­si­cian.

Is it a subtle way of “spea­king” to the au­dience?

There are two stages. First of all, that of the vi­si­tor, where I real­ly want to create the mo­ment du­ring which he or she is going to wit­ness at­tempts, to be pos­si­bly in contact with the no­tion of fai­lure. A mo­ment dee­ply ins­cri­bed “in the work”, ups­tream of the mu­sic being writ­ten, re­hear­sed, per­for­med. The per­iod of time of the “I do

not know”. In the live ex­pe­rience of mu­sic, there is a de­ter­mi­ned place of, and a pre­cise re­la­tion­ship to, hie­rar­chy, with more people being in the au­dience than on stage, and a pro­cess that the vie­wer must not in­ter­rupt. There is a uni­ty of time and place, and one can judge that one par­ti­cu­lar concert was more suc­cess­ful than ano­ther. In Stu­dio Ve­ne­zia, I sought to cir­cumvent this as­pect.

Is it a de­sire to es­cape the work's tan­gible, “eva­luable” di­men­sion?

There is the dif­ferent re­la­tion­ship to time, be­cause mu­sic in­tro­duces a chro­no­lo­gy, as in the ci­ne­ma where one en­ters in­to a nar­ra­tive, a pre­cise tem­po­ra­li­ty. The ex­hi­bi­tion, ho­we­ver, poses no boun­da­ries. One can look at the works for a few mi­nutes or for se­ve­ral hours. Stu­dio Ve­ne­zia in­tro­duces this time, which seems ve­ry dif­ferent be­cause of the se­ven months of the Bien­nale. Af­ter this first per­iod of sound wi­thout me­dia­tion, in­ter­pre­ted in front of the vi­si­tors, there is the se­cond mo­ve­ment, the one where we en­cap­su­late time by way of the re­cor­ding of mu­sic. Thus, the vi­si­tor to the Pavilion ac­cepts the prin­ciple ac­cor­ding to which he or she is per­haps not going to be able to “see” or, on the contra­ry, to par­ti­ci­pate in an ex­cep­tio­nal mo­ment.

What spe­ci­fi­ca­tions have you gi­ven to the mu­si­cians?

There is one rule to the game, a sort of gent­le­man's agree­ment, which consists in their ac­cep­tance of seeing vi­si­tors ap­pear in the stu­dio, which is pre­ci­se­ly the most pro­tec­ted place, the place that al­lows for mis­takes and trial and er­ror ... There is, the­re­fore, a cer­tain risk ta­king on their part.

You re­fer­red to the ins­tru­ments as “pros­theses», we can hear in this the idea of a me­di­cal pros­the­sis: the work it­self would de­ploy this or­ga­nic di­men­sion, an im­mense body where va­rious en­ti­ties would come to­ge­ther to form a whole?

You can see it like that. The word pros­the­sis may be ex­ces­sive... When one looks at a mu­si­cal ins­tru­ment, it both per­forms a func­tion and has the shape of a body. If the body had a dif­ferent shape, the ins­tru­ment would have a dif­ferent shape, thus a form of ex­ten­sion of the parts that come to oc­cu­py a va­cant space. But the stu­dio it­self is ra­ther the ar­chi­tec­tu­ral ele­va­tion of this same pro­blem, whe­rein the func­tion is al­so ve­ry im­por­tant.

What links did you have with Lio­nel Bo­vier and Ch­ris­tian Mar­clay, co-cu­ra­tors of this ex­hi­bi­tion, and what was the dis­tri­bu­tion of roles?

Lio­nel Bo­vier is one of the first cri­tics to have writ­ten about my work, he runs the Mam­co in Ge­ne­va, which is cur­rent­ly pre­sen­ting one

of my works, La Fo­rêt, which is lin­ked to the Stu­dio Ve­ne­zia pro­ject, in­so­far as it in­volves the use of the same ma­te­rial. Lio­nel Bo­vier is more pre­ci­se­ly in charge of the edi­to­rial side – we pro­duce a news­pa­per that will be pu­bli­shed twice – and al­so en­sures the am­bas­sa­do­rial di­men­sion and re­pre­sen­ta­tion of the Pavilion. Ch­ris­tian Mar­clay is the artist whom we all know, and his par­ti­ci­pa­tion is a great op­por­tu­ni­ty for us.

In ad­di­tion to the Merz­bau by Kurt Sch­wit­ters, you men­tion the in­ter­dis­ci­pli­na­ry ex­pe­riences of Black Moun­tain Col­lege and Doug Aik­ten's “Sta­tion to Sta­tion”, as well as PJ Har­vey who re­cor­ded an al­bum be­hind a win­dow where vi­si­tors were in­vi­ted to wit­ness a work in pro­gress. Why this choice?

I real­ly ap­pre­ciate the Doug Aik­ten's idea, it contains the idea of the jour­ney and convokes crea­ti­vi­ty in a road trip for­mat, in this case aboard a train. It is the idea of per­ma­nent mo­ve­ment, in a ra­ther gentle form, which is ob­vious­ly not found in Ve­nice, where the pavilion is sta­tio­na­ry, but is si­tua­ted in a place where this po­wer­ful ima­gi­na­ry world joins ex­pe­rience. The co­he­sion bet­ween Ve­nice's su­per-fan­ta­si­zed image and the li­ved rea­li­ty cha­rac­te­rizes the ci­ty. Black Moun­tain Col­lege in­ter­ests me by the pro­fu­sion of ar­tists who wor­ked there, un­der the pa­ter­ni­ty of Jo­sef Al­bers. In the pers­pec­tive of trans­mis­sion, ra­ther than real tea­ching.

At the same time, the ar­chi­ving of the da­ta ge­ne­rates a ma­te­rial which will be use­ful to other dis­ci­plines, and to other crea­tors?

Yes, but I dis­tance my­self from that lo­gic. Maybe I am the mee­ting point bet­ween all these ar­tists, but I do not want to pre­de­fine the form. Ob­vious­ly, the live for­mat, the mo­ment when the thing un­folds, and then this time of ar­chi­ving, of­fer the in­fi­nite pos­si­bi­li­ty of da­ta, of re­pro­duc­tion. Ar­tists ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion and the risk that it im­plies, but they re­main the ab­so­lute ow­ners of their crea­tion.

What is your de­fi­ni­tion of mo­der­ni­ty?

I ne­ver un­ders­tood post-mo­der­ni­ty. I see its for­mal ap­pli­ca­tions in ar­chi­tec­ture and I ap­pre­ciate the po­si­tive im­pe­tus of the Re­vo­lu­tion of 1917. It high­lights what re­mains pos­sible beyond nai­ve­té. When I work with new tech­no­lo­gies, when I think of new forms, I share the im­pe­tus which emer­ged a hun­dred years ago. The whole ques­tion of ar­tis­tic pro­duc­tion, of one's re­la­tion­ship to an en­vi­ron­ment, or to the oc­cu­pa­tion of space, is condi­tio­ned by this pos­tu­late in a form of po­si­ti­vi­ty. For me, this is mo­der­ni­ty, not post­mo­der­ni­ty. We can play with it to­day, but in a dif­ferent way from what oc­cur­red with Su­pre­ma­tism, Bau­haus, and the his­to­ri­cal forms of post­mo­der­ni­ty.

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