Re­flet dans un oeil Dior

L'officiel Art - - Sommaire - IN­TER­VIEW BY PIERRE-ALEXANDRE MA­TEOS & CHARLES TEYS­SOU

IF YOU BE­LIEVE IN FO­RE­VER, THEN LIFE IS A NIGHT ON ACID.

A PAINTER AFFILIATED WITH THE CO­BRA MO­VE­MENT, FOUNDER OF THE AVANT-GARDE MA­GA­ZINE THE SI­TUA­TIO­NIST TIMES AND DE­SI­GNER OF JEWELERY, JAC­QUE­LINE DE JONG WENT THROUGH THE 20TH CEN­TU­RY WITH AN IN­SA­TIABLE APPETITE. THIS IS THE STO­RY OF AN EPIC WHICH CONTI­NUES TO BE WRIT­TEN BET­WEEN LOS AN­GELES AND HER HOUSE IN THE BOUR­BON­NAIS.

L'OF­FI­CIEL ART: Ori­gi­nal­ly you wan­ted to be­come an ac­tress ra­ther than an artist?

JAC­QUE­LINE DE JONG: Ac­tual­ly, I star­ted ta­king thea­ter classes in Pa­ris in 1957, when I was wor­king at Dior. In Lon­don, it was more pres­ti­gious, I en­te­red the Guild­ford School of Art and Dra­ma. My pa­rents wan­ted me to be­come a painter but I wan­ted to be­come an ac­tress. I was en­cou­ra­ged by an ac­tress when I was in high school in Hol­land, who thought that I had ta­lent ... Af­ter Lon­don, I re­tur­ned to Hol­land. I wan­ted to work at the dra­ma­tic aca­de­my but I fai­led the exam.

That was when you wor­ked for Willem Sand­berg when you came back from Lon­don?

I de­ci­ded to find a job, to find my way. I wor­ked at book­sel­lers and then wan­ted to stu­dy li­te­ra­ture. Then I saw an an­noun­ce­ment for an as­sis­tant po­si­tion at the Ste­de­lijk Mu­seum. I went to work there, even if my know­ledge of art was li­mi­ted to what had been trans­mit­ted to me by my fa­mi­ly's cos­mo­po­li­tan and cultu­ral at­mos­phere. I wor­ked there from 1958 to the end of 1960 in In­dus­trial Art and Design sec­tion.

What were your ini­tial contacts with the Si­tua­tio­nists?

That hap­pe­ned through Constant and Ar­man­do, but it was above all Constant's in­fluence.. When I Met Jorn in 1959, he ve­ry qui­ck­ly spoke of Gruppe Spur in which there was Nele Bode, the daugh­ter of Ar­nold Bode. At the time, she had a small ex­hi­bi­tion of en­gra­vings at Ste­de­lijk. She al­so told me about this group of young Ger­mans whom I ab­so­lu­te­ly had to meet. Gruppe Spur was the Ger­man sec­tion of the Si­tua­tio­nist In­ter­na­tio­nal. It was thanks to them, and Jorn of course, that my in­ter­est in the mo­ve­ment dee­pe­ned.

When did you start painting?

I was wor­king at the Ste­de­lijk and I thought that I could at­tend the eve­ning classes at the Aca­de­my of Fine Arts, but the director did not want me be­cause I was a “lef­tist”. He was ve­ry conser­va­tive. Ins­tead, I lear­ned other things. Ty­po­gra­phy with Sand­berg, the set­ting up of ex­hi­bi­tions of in­dus­trial art and pu­bli­shing. I star­ted painting when I was wor­king at Ste­de­lijk. Du­ring the sum­mer of 1960, I was Giu­seppe Pi­not-Gal­li­zio's as­sis­tant in Al­ba. Yet ano­ther ex­clu­ded si­tua­tio­nist. He was doing his in­dus­trial pain­tings. From then on, I star­ted doing dra­wings in small books – self-taught, but still ve­ry in­fluen­ced by Jorn. My first pain­tings were done at the age of 15. Then la­ter, in Ja­nua­ry 1961, when I left the Ste­de­lijk Mu­seum to go learn en­gra­ving In Pa­ris, in the Ate­lier 17 ani­ma­ted by Stan­ley William Hay­ter, I ut­ter­ly im­mer­sed my­self in painting. Jorn, and above all a lot of sur­rea­list pain­ters like Max Ernst, Man Ray or Mat­ta, wor­ked there. In par­ti­cu­lar, I be­came friends with Hans Haacke. In the end, I spent two years at Ate­lier 17, and was in Pa­ris un­til 1971.

Can you tell us about the Si­tua­tio­nist Times that you foun­ded in 1962?

It all star­ted with the ex­clu­sion of the Dutch sec­tion of the SI, on the grounds that one mem­ber of the group had par­ti­ci­pa­ted in the construc­tion of a church. In a case like this, it is quite nor­mal to be ex­clu­ded from an avant-garde mo­ve­ment. De­bord sent me a let­ter saying “Hol­land is yours”, so I was, from then on, the on­ly re­pre­sen­ta­tive of the Dutch sec­tion. But six months la­ter I mo­ved to Pa­ris. I an­noun­ced the crea­tion of the ma­ga­zine in 1961 in or­der to have a Si­tua­tio­nist re­view in En­glish. There was Spur in Ger­man, IS Bul­le­tin for France, and so I cal­led it The Si­tua­tio­nist Times. Eve­ryone was ve­ry plea­sed. De­bord was ve­ry en­thu­sias­tic about ha­ving all the IS texts trans­la­ted in­to En­glish. He sent me se­ve­ral texts to trans­late, but I did not want to make a co­py of the IS Bul­le­tin in En­glish. No one hel­ped me, so in the end the re­view did not see the light of day. My ex­clu­sion from the SI in so­li­da­ri­ty with Gruppe Spur gave me the op­por­tu­ni­ty to do it. I cal­led the Pa­ta­phy­si­cian Noël Ar­naud, a friend of Jorn and me. He had al­rea­dy done the re­view Le Sur­réa­lisme Ré­vo­lu­tio­naire in 1946. To­ge­ther, we ve­ry qui­ck­ly ma­na­ged, in May 1962, to do the first is­sue of the Si­tua­tio­nist Times. We did the first two is­sues to­ge­ther, and then I went on alone. The ma­ga­zine ex­plo­red concepts re­la­ted to to­po­lo­gy and ma­the­ma­tics. Each is­sue re­vol­ved around a fi­gure: the ring, in­ter­la­cing, the la­by­rinth, and fi­nal­ly the spi­ral. The 7th is­sue should have been on the wheel, but in the end it was ne­ver made.

How did you come to ma­the­ma­tics and to­po­lo­gy?

It was through Jorn. He had been in­ter­es­ted in it since 1957, when he wrote the book Pour la forme. He had done stu­dies on the idea of in­ter­la­cing, es­pe­cial­ly in churches. Through the stu­dy of in­ter­la­cing, I be­gan to take an in­ter­est in ma­the­ma­tics, en­ough to do the ma­ga­zine.

Were you in touch with Gé­rard Fromanger du­ring the events of May 1968?

He made films with Jean-Luc Go­dard. Not at all. But by the mid-1960s I par­ti­ci­pa­ted in a se­ries of hap­pe­nings. In par­ti­cu­lar, I made a war­drobe as part of an over­night ex­hi­bi­tion with An­to­nio Se­gui.

In the 1970s, you par­ti­ci­pa­ted in te­le­vi­sion pro­grammes in the Ne­ther­lands?

It wasn't a pro­gramme. But I star­ted to be a

lit­tle more well-known in Hol­land be­cause of my par­ti­ci­pa­tion in the events of May 68. At that time, the VPRO broad­cast a one-hour por­trait of me. At that time I was still in Pa­ris. I played pin­ball, es­pe­cial­ly on this show. We talked about po­li­tics, in May 1968, in a ve­ry French way, in contrast to what was hap­pe­ning in Hol­land.

In the mid 1990s, you bought this house in the Bour­bon­nais?

In 1996 in fact. At first, with my hus­band we were loo­king for a house in Ita­ly, around Um­bria – there were rui­ned vil­lages but it was far too ex­pen­sive. In the end, we found a house in France by way of an ad in a Dutch news­pa­per. We went to vi­sit it on the wee­kend of Pen­te­cost, pas­sing through by Pa­ris to get to know how long it took from Saint-Ger­maindes-Près. We dis­co­ve­red that the land­scape was ra­ther like in the south of En­gland. The place was beau­ti­ful and wi­thout much work to do. We im­me­dia­te­ly de­ci­ded to buy. There is no real ex­pla­na­tion for this pur­chase. I wan­ted to make a kit­chen garden. My hus­band said to me, “If you make a ve­ge­table garden, I want po­ta­toes, be­cause of the war”. So I be­gan a po­ta­to farm. The seeds were like hair, and I star­ted ma­king them in­to ob­jects. The great je­wel­ry col­lec­tor, Clo Fleiss, had bought Jorn's je­wels from me and she wan­ted me to make a je­wel. I said to my­self: “These po­ta­toes could do so­me­thing good.” I star­ted to paint them gold, but fi­nal­ly I went to a je­we­ler to make them.

Can we get back to your ne­wer pain­tings?

In 2013, I star­ted a se­ries en­tit­led War on che­mi­cal bom­bing in the First World War and in Sy­ria to­day. I al­so did some por­traits of Ar­thur Cra­van as a boxer. I al­so made an artist's book, pu­bli­shed in New York in 2015, and pre­sen­ted at the Blum and Poe Gallery in New York, cal­led The Case of the As­ce­tic Sa­tyr.

Your mini-re­tros­pec­tive, or­ga­ni­zed by the Cha­teau Shat­to Gallery, re­veals ano­ther fa­cette of your work, na­me­ly eroticism.

In a way, yes. There has al­ways been eroticism in what I did. Eroticism is in­herent in life. A se­ries of dip­tychs that I made in the 1970s are more par­ti­cu­lar­ly concer­ned with ho­mo-ero­tic aes­the­tics.

This might sug­gest Agnès Var­da's Pa­ta­tu­to­pia, on the po­ta­to as a de­sire for exis­tence. You al­so de­ve­lop an eroticism of the po­ta­to, right?

It's not on­ly the po­ta­to, but the po­ta­to flo­wer that is ero­tic. There are, for example, what I call the po­ta­to's balls. In these lit­tle balls are found the po­ta­to's seeds. So there is an ero­tic confu­sion in the po­ta­to. Out of these, I made cuf­flinks for men that will be ex­hi­bi­ted at the ex­hi­bi­tion “Je­wel­ry for Men” at the gallery Mi­ni­mas­terPiece in Pa­ris in Sep­tem­ber.

Can you tell us about your next pro­jects? You wan­ted to adapt the 7th is­sue of the Si­tua­tio­nist Times on pin­ball in­to an ex­hi­bi­tion?

In­deed, the idea is not ba­sed on a simple pin­ball ma­chine but on the one I saw at MIT in Bos­ton last year. It im­pres­sed me a lot, and re­min­ded me of the 7th is­sue of the Si­tua­tio­nist Times, which was in­ter­es­ted in pin­ball to­po­lo­gy. There was a sym­po­sium on to­po­lo­gy in the Si­tua­tio­nist Times at the Os­lo Kuns­thalle. As a re­sult, Tor­pe­do Press of­fe­red to or­ga­nize an ex­hi­bi­tion in November 2017.

Jac­que­line de Jong, Hor­se­men, 1918, (dé­tail), 2014, de la sé­rie War.

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