MEETING WITH PASCAL LIEVRE
Tuesday 19 avril 2016 at 2 pm
Lycée Jean Rostand, 361 Grande rue, Roubaix
An e-mail conversation about the conception of the new Pascal Lièvre installation titled Rêver l’obscur, 2016. The artist talks to us about his intentions, his choices, and the fleeting form of his performance system, which is endlessly repeated.
I remember the first time I discovered in your studio and on a small screen an extract from your new installation Rêver l’obscur, 2016, which you’re screening at the Espace Croisé, with a simultaneous multi-screen arrangement. Two words immediately came to mind: légèreté/lightness and gravité/gravity, or seriousness. I may well know that, in a consecutive way, using black sequins and glitter—calling for a certain brilliance—you are writing the names of 100 feminists whom you’ve listed; I’m also thinking of volcanic sand, of that extinguished lava that’s turned into black dust. That’s when I started looking for the title of that Barbara Carlotti song, with the clip that was filmed in the Canaries, on Lanzarote, on one of the volcanic beaches at the foot of Timanfaya. “Love, money, wind”—that very beautiful title alone declares our constraints. From the clip I remembered the armfuls of black grains, the sensuality, the atmospheric ambience, time passing, vulnerability, a subtle touch, which, in your installation Rêver l’obscur, 2016, transforms the grains into sequins.
Because a woman’s name appears and disappears, and gives away to another name, one wonders how you gave tangible form to this mise-en-scène, and using what criteria you chose the women whom you single out? Are they all dead, for example, to simulate oblivion? Because there’s something that stems from deceased people, or at least from something fleeting, by making the identity of a person appear and disappear. But to re-use the provisional and unstable space of the beach, is it rather more akin to the gesture of the child or of lovers enjoying writing their names in the sand, denying the rising tide?
I wanted to point out to you that if the names appear and disappear, this is above all to summon up the oblivion of all those women. History is still too often a history written by and for men. My video Rêver l’obscur, 2016, is above all a project about this memory which I kindle in the form of videos.
I didn’t know Barbara Carlotti. That song is wonderful, I love it!!!!
I’ve already thought about the name written in the sand. I think it’s the same gesture, except that these are black sequins: a dark, almost Gothic, version of the gesture.
Here’s my pdf document, which I continue working on every day. My work method consists, above all, in Internet searches, country by country, for the most important feminists. Using this list, I try to show all the tendencies passing through feminism in the 20th century, with a special place for the diversity of the countries of origin. It’s a colossal job, but very rewarding. I’m actually learning lots of things about the struggles of Chinese, Islamic, essentialist, queer and other feminists. All over the world, I’m discovering pockets of resistance to the patriarchy, and learning about the battles waged to advance women’s rights. At the end of the day, I am discovering that 100 feminists are not many at all in relation to the thousands of them involved.
I do searches on the Internet and I come across different sources. Where possible, though, I prefer the whole host of different territories and the different kinds of feminism at work in the 20th century. For some countries it’s hard to find information. I only read French, English and a bit of Spanish.
I see feminism as a plastic or visual form with many different facets. I look at the forms and the distinctive features, and limit myself to 100 names: which is already both considerable, and derisory. The struggle for equal rights was the first fight, the first wave (in the 19th and 20th centuries, depending on the country). But then things became diversified with many different claims, some of them contradictory, between Islamic feminism and pro-sex feminism—you can’t get more different than that!!
The video shows all these names which are mainly unknown to the population as a whole. It’s a kind of tribute to all those women who were behind the feminist struggle throughout the 20th century. The video also shows the fright people can have when they see the names disappearing, seeing all these struggles reduced to silence and oblivion, it gives shape to the two aspects, appearing/disappearing. The video takes on the form of the credits of a film which has no ending, in which no image will be visible other than the names. To put it another way, it’s just the presentation of a performance system which is endlessly repeated. I’m not trying to represent something, rather to present this system which is quite minimalist. I don’t think this video aims to represent these 100 feminists, but much more to make these names appear and disappear. There’s just one hand writing, and glitter that’s erased, that’s all.
I like the idea of the endless credits. On reading you, I wondered if you were having exchanges with feminist friends or with specialists in the subject who might possibly hone your choices. If that were so, as you mention possibly antagonist groups, have you had any reservations, if not rejections on the part of activists questioning your legitimacy?
I am in fact having exchanges with feminist friends, and once I’ve finished the pdf document, I’ll be sending it to some of them, friends I absolutely trust, in order to get the document approved. My list may well still grow.
When I have a doubt, as, for example, over a Palestinian feminist, I asked a Palestinian feminist friend, who has been living in Ramallah for about 10 years, if I wasn’t making a mistake in my choice, just as what is happening with the Quebec women… When you decide to limit yourself to a number—100—it is really difficult not to make mistakes or forget somebody. For the time being I’m still in the preparatory stage. I’m starting to film certain names, I’m doing research and I’m talking about things with feminists. Things are being constructed, it’s all living, plastic, full of different contradictions…
I have no legitimacy to undertake this work, I’m not a specialist, I’m an artist. As an artist, I choose to work with the most diverse of media. After philosophy, I’m working on feminism, like clay, from which I will bring out plastic forms. I do not want to be legitimate.