Tique | art paper asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Benjamin Sabatier.
Lives in France
How do you describe your own art practice?
My research always starts from the discovery of the qualities of materials, from the possibilities to reveal it or to transform it. I do “experiments”, with the sense the American philosopher John Dewey gives to this notion : without knowing exactly where I am going, I discover the artwork while doing it, led by my practice. Matter transforms : heavy becomes light, solid becomes fragile. Gestures I apply to materials often are radical, and even “brutal” : assemblages, repetitions, compressions… Despite the metamorphosis, gestures and matters are always visible at the artwork’s surface. I am comfortable with the certain literality of my work. This extreme readability of the fabrication processes, and the regular use of raw material that are easily available – bricks, nails, wood, concrete bags, cardboard, scotch, etc.-, aims at standing out of the heroic gesture of an “inspired creator”, in favor of a working-site-esthetics that seems to make possible and accessible the reproduction of an artwork by anyone. That way, by suggesting to the spectator to become a producer, my research can be seen in light of Walter Benjamin’s theories. Beyond “making” sense, there is always a socio-political commitment at play. I see creation as the inseparable reunion of making and thinking. In my work, theory and practice are developing in one same movement.
What was your first experience with art?
I always lived in an artistic environment. My parents both graduated art school and were curating exhibitions in the 80s. Thanks to their activities, at a very young age I could confront to contemporary art and meet various artists such as Keith Haring or Gina Pane. I was drawing in public with Haring when I was 6 years old and this experiences is a very striking memory for me.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
Materials I use are part of our common universe. Starting from a common realness, from materials that are know by everyone and that I manipulate with readable gestures, is a way to inscribe my work in a social dimension. By suggesting to the spectator to become a producer, my research brings up the ” Do It Yourself ” alternative and emancipatory theories, that came from the American libertarian utopias of the 60s, and their desires of autonomy and self-governance. The recurrent utilisation of materials and tools coming from building construction plays with this reference to “auto-construction” (“self-construction”), a practice that consists in building your house by yourself without seeking services from professionals. An approach that allows to discover oneself through practice and direct confrontation to materials. By the way, in Homer’s universe, Ulysses and Paris build their house by themselves. For Philosopher Hannah Arendt, this is part of the autonomy of the homeric hero, a free supremacy over yourself. Creative work, close to ultimate autonomy, is the most human activity and manifests the emancipation desire of everyone: in this way, the artistic act is eminently politic.
What do you need in order to create your work?
First, I need to be alone in my studio, then I need to put myself to the test and experiment. Finally I need the time to take my time in “making”. Only work and time allow me to move forward and discover, but also to discover myself.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am following my experimentations with burnt wood and concrete. In this perspective I am working on an monumental installation project for the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig. The exhibition will open during 2019.