In the beginning of twothousandandeleven we’re still flowing upstream and having nothing to eat. Interview with Mickaël Marchand and Flurin Bisig

18 febbraio 2011

An interview with Mickaël Marchand and Flurin Bisig.

I met Mickaël Marchand (Le Mans, FR, 1982) and Flurin Bisig (Samedan, CH, 1982) at their exhibition at Suzy Shammah. I wanted to have a better understanding of their art practice based on the construction of sculptures constituted by common materials and objects re-assembled and given a new significance into balanced structure.
The real, the usual becomes ephemeral, giving life to a new body that follows its own way, but dominated by its own fragility, ending in randomness.

GuidoLet’s start from the exhibition at  Shuzy Shammah “In the fall of twothousandandten we flowed upstream and had nothing to eat”. To start, could you tell me a little bit more about this project and its title?

Mickaël:  I think that the first motivation of this exhibition was to show two different practices of sculpture. How sculptures can look like. It can be a formal object of course, but also photos or videos (documentation). It came clear very early that we didn’t want to separate our work into the space but, confront and associate them. Our collaboration started with the research of a title. That was a very long process for which we got out the time to understand each other. In my opinion, I would have chosen a very strict and descriptive title like I usually do with my work (Place + Date), but Flurin was more interested in poetry and she wanted to stimulate the imagination  (arouse an imaginary) through the title. Slowly I slid over Flurin’s mood. One day I was at his place and he borrowed me a book about Jan Bas Ader. I was walking on my home way when I opened it. The first sentence was: “In the fall of 1971…”
Later, in front of a coffee, we were still looking for a title and Flurin was also concentrated on collecting and writing a list of propositions we already have had. First he wrote: “In the fall of twothousandandten”, when he started to write the second title (his favourite): “we flowed upstream and had nothing to eat”; so we realized at the same time that both titles create together a third new title, which is a poetic description of our situation at this time. It was a very nice, “evident moment”. At the same way, we decided to make a work together for this exhibition, in which we could bring both our own practice. These were collaboration 1 and 2. The principle was very simple. I constructed an unstable soclefor Flurin, and he created a sculpture for it dealing with balance. So I brought him to my interest: balance, and because of realizing an object and not a documentation, he brought me into his practice (inside).

Installation view, Galleria Suzy Shammah, Milan, 2010

Flurin: We were invited by Suzy to display an exhibition. It was soon clear  that we didn’t want to organize an exhibition where each of us should have shown his own work in two different corners. We wanted to do something together, overlapping and at some time collaborating. This was the idea, but we didn’t know how to get there. It was abstract and the first thing we did was to start thinking about the title. This was our very first collaboration: Mickaël was fascinated by the initial words “in the fall of ”, which had read in the book about Jan Bas Ader, because they were at the same time a description and a connection with his work. And I was fascinated for  along time by “we flowed upstream and had nothing to eat” (originally “wir flossen flussaufwärts und hatten nichts zu essen”), a sentence by the Swiss author Paul Nizon. So we putted it together and both liked it a lot, with its romantic notion.

Installation view, Galleria Suzy Shammah, Milan, 2010

GWhat does the word “chance” mean to you?

M: It’s difficult for me to answer clearly. I don’t know exactly what chance is. Probably that chance is part of my everyday life, in a very few proportion, but it is present everyday. So it’s the same in my work. I count on it , but I don’t think, wait or believe in it. Chance doesn’t surprise me. Mischance does.

GCommon to both of you is a systematic research that turns materials and objects, found on the street, into precariously balanced works. All the materials that you use for your works have a past life or pre-existence; ordinary objects take on new meaning. Could you tell a bit more about your method and the physical fragility of your works?

M: With “Berlin 2009” and “NYC 2010” I have worked with found objects, but I have never thought of their pre-existence. If I had done it, I would not have been able to be free and work with. I usually have a very short relationship with each sculpture (some hours) and I just keep a photo or a video. Even if I work with old furniture, I don’t care about them story because I compose with them, I mostly work with 2 or 3 furniture together so it becomes a third object for me. Then it’s with this third object that I have my own story and memory. It’s very different from other works I did, like “Passer“. I cut the asphalt and took the white stripes of a crosswalk. For this work the pre-existence was essential and was one of the purposes. About my work-process with “Berlin 2009” and “NYC 2010“: I always start to work walking in the street, with my camera. I look around into any street until I find different objects, with different volume and properties. Then I look the architecture surrounding and I try to found out what’s interesting to work with. I can describe my practice as “finding by making”. It means that I manipulate the objects sometimes for hours until I find the right composition.
Then I start another work: the documentation. I turn around the sculpture with my camera and try to get in one photo all the dimensions. It’s almost impossible and that’s why I’m personally often disappointed by photos, until that they become stronger that my sculpture’s memory. The process is not different for “NYC 2010“, just the purpose of the sculpture change. I compose an instability.

Mickaël Marchand, Berlin 2009 II (Braunschweiger Strasse 1), c-print mounted on alu-dibond, 25 x 25 cm

F: I guess method would be death for my work. Sure there are concepts that give the works some line. For me the main thing is that I don’t know at the beginning where the work is leading. If I have a method, I will know from the beginning what I want to achieve. But this is not how it goes. For example, for my the long work showed in the gallery I used the same two molds for each of the little sculptures. But than the directions are open. I guess that the repetition fascinates me. It allows to visualize a range of possibilities and variety.

Flurin Bisig, Untitled, 2010, cardboard, wood, wire, paint, kappa, 5 tables: 180 x 128 x 36 cm approx. each, 1 table: 180 x 128 x 46 cm, installation 180 x 800 x 46 cm approx.

 GIs memory an art material?

M: I’m too young to remember something.

Mickaël Marchand, Berlin 2009 II (Mainzer Strasse 15), c-print mounted on alu-dibond, 25 x 25 cm

F: I don’t know. But I have the feeling that what is interesting for me are materials, surfaces, lights, tastes and smells that have an incredible potential to activate our memories and let us time to leave our mind free to travel. Marcel Proust gives wonderful descriptions of these things.

Flurin Bisig, Postcard-series 2, 2010, postcards, Plexiglas, 9 elements, 13,8 x 18,1 cm each

GWhat is your relationship with the exhibition space?

M: It’s a difficult space to embrace in just one time, but very easy to read. That gives us the opportunity to create surprises. I have the sensation of a very mathematical and strict space. In a such strong way it is evident that we will disturb (change, play with) it. Finally, I think that we bring fluidity and, in some point, we can embrace it in once. And this is a consequence of the installation of Flurin’s sculpture, and the visual-pivot that collaboration 1 and 2 makes.

F: The relation before we arrived was that we were invited to display an exhibition there. For me it was Suzys space when we arrived. Then we started to build our exhibition and to take in the space in a unique way. So that people no longer think of the Suzy-Shammah-Space, but obout Mickaël-Marchand-Flurin-Bisig-Space.

Mickaël Marchand, Berlin 2009 II (Hertzbergstrasse 22), c-print mounted on alu-dibond, 25 x 25 cm

GHow much does architecture influence your works?

M: I’ve been studying and working in an Architecture office before to enter the Art School. I also grew up in a big city and was always fascinated by the cityscape.I’m interested in architecture more than influenced. I don’t want to copy a style or follow a philosophy. I read books of course, Gaston Bachelard, Le Corbusier, Adolf Loos and others. But in fact I’m interested in composing with what already exist. All different architecture interest me. I would like to manipulate them as I do with found objects. What I have the sensation I’m dealing with is: Architectonic. This is common to every architecture, every buildings. They all depend on it. In an other hand, Architecture surround my work mostly. In a way I believe that I sculpt the city, this sensation was even stronger in “Passer“. Instead of a scissor I had an “electric stone-saw” and instead of a piece of wood , I sculpt the city.

F: It influences me a lot. The atmosphere of the surrounding, the people, the measurements of the space, the light. But at the end – and that’s why I think sculpture is so interesting – I try to create something independent. On the other hand I’m convinced that there’s no such thing as neutral. So when I install my work I try to find a confrontation with the architecture to create a view that includes both: you can’t see the sculpture without the architecture and the other way round.

Flurin Bisig – Mickaël Marchand , Collaboration 2, 2010cardboard, wood, wire, paint, kappa210 x 140 x 72 cm

GYou graduated with Florian Slotawa. How has his work influenced you?

M: More than by his work, I’ve been influenced by him as an artist and a teacher. All the decisions he’s taking are strongly logic and in any situation he belongs to this logic. The most fascinating is his impressive mastery of space. What’s make his exhibitions very sharpened. Somehow this very strict way of working and thinking arrived in a very good moment for me. He and his class gave me the structure I needed to step in my work as an artist.

F: It’s very difficult for me to answer. I’m sure he had influenced me, but I can’t name fields. One thing I admired a lot when I met him for the very first time, was that he didn’t loose his head and calm in busy and emotional situations. All romanticism needs practical support to stay livable, that’s one thing I learned from him.

GWhat are you currently working on? 

M: My preoccupation since a long time is to develop an “inside-work”. So I profit by the winter to try it. It goes in two directions. I’m working in the space with simple modules of beton and wood. And at the same time I start to develop smalls abstracts sculptures.

Flurin Bisig – Mickaël Marchand, Collaboration 1, 2010cardboard, wood, wire, paint, kappa, 343 x 120 x 80 cm

F: I have time in the studio to develop my work. I have time to walk around. I have time to travel, like right now. I’m not project-orientated, like others. So I’m working on – further. That’s all I can say.

Flurin Bisig, Postcard-series 1, 2010, postcards, Plexiglas, 5 elements, 13,8 x 18,1 cm each

Guido Santandrea



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