Dig deeper, look further
If you don’t like mixing facts with fantasy, don’t read this. But then again, who is not fantasizing on their interviews? London-based French artist Laure Prouvost likes to blend fiction and reality, playfully intertwining incredible stories which may be more real than truth.
Usually artists find it difficult to talk about their work – they prefer communicating through their artworks. How do you feel about giving interviews?
It is hard, you can easily simplify things. There is a lot of mistranslation, miscommunication in my works, so it is a bit tricky. I try not to read so many of the interviews, actually, because sometimes I get too upset: “oh, I would never say that!” or – “did I say that? I sound so silly!” I think it is better when it takes its own path, like an artwork: I made something and it goes, and it lives on its own. In media we create vision of life. It might be a vision of not really my life but it’s OK. I quite like that I’ve got another me somewhere else, someone completely different, who just talks about hair and make up all the time. I don’t mind it. It’s quite funny that it could be many you in different people’s minds.
However, people always try to make this clear distinction between your fantasy and reality.
Oh yes, people always want to know: ‘Is that real? Is this true?’ But life is so complex… A book we read can be more real than a dinner we have with friends. I don’t know where this boundary is. I like to blend things. I think we have many realities and many fictions. I like it when it starts to be less sure what the reader is really reading.
Why do you think people are so keen to know if your stories are real?
I think it is to create a comfort zone. It just feels more comfortable. People want to understand things, categorize and organize everything. We sort of need this organization to live together. Otherwise it would be such a mess. And me too, I am sure, if someone were telling me some bullshit, I would want to know whether it was true or not.
Your newest work is called ‘Burrow Me’. What is the story behind this project?
I was invited to do a project in Vilnius. First, I suggested showing a few of my videos. But then, I walked around the ground and saw a hole, like a tunnel… And my granddad was also lost in a tunnel! He is a conceptual artist, he was digging a tunnel in North London, and for months, every morning he would take a few packs of crisps and go down. Then one night he didn’t come back. That was his last conceptual piece. It was his masterpiece. Now we keep looking for him. So, when I saw this hole in Vilnius, I thought maybe there was something deep in here – we need to dig further. There was just a hole, but when we kept digging, we discovered a little entrance with cups and teapots… I think someone decided to live there. I am not sure it is my granddad, it might be someone else who decided to escape this world a bit. Of course, we were hoping to find him; we didn’t, but we found other things. It is always good to keep digging and looking further in history.
The idea of going down a narrow tunnel feels rather uncomfortable, even scary. But many visitors of the burrow found it surprisingly cozy.
‘Burrow me’ is a burrow of a rabbit, but a burrow is still a place to be cozy, to feel at home. We as human often connect it with death, or being buried in the ground. But you feel really at peace in there, it is like a little chapel. The smell of the earth is really peaceful as well, nothing like a tube or a metro. I was surprised how nice it was to be in there. I decided to show a video in here. I wanted the audience to be taken away by these stories of this lost history of someone escaping this world for a bit.
In your works, you use a lot of video. What do you like most about video installation as an art form?
I love video because it is so layered. There is visual, there is sound, there is movement; you can convey emotion, you can convey smell. I like when somebody says: oh, your video stinks! Because images link to your memory – if I press a lemon in a video, you will have sourness in your mouth. I love this medium for that. It has so many layers sometimes you can get lost in it.
Your editing style is very unique. How do you edit your videos?
It is a bit like a collage. It is very close to painting, where I begin with a raw idea, and slowly start adding layers to it. My videos are fast, quick, I always want to cut more, because I think we don’t need it that long, we do catch it quickly. Human perception can be triggered very fast, we quite enjoy the adrenaline of not catching… I like it when it feels almost too quick. Earlier, I did many videos where used to be just one very long shot, but I grew to work this way. Now I find it hard to leave a longer shot in my video, I need to learn this.
Is there enough silence in your own life?
It is a non-stop this year, really. My son is only six weeks old, and he has already had two shows. It is hard to find the right balance, you cannot over-exhaust yourself and make strong art, strong pieces. There is a lot of traveling, many projects in different countries. Sometimes I wonder what happens with all my time. And with two children, you need to be very organized. I am making a lot of children so they can assist me finding the granddad.
Did winning the prestigious Turner prize change your life? What does this award mean to you?
It was a very important moment in my life – to get the recognition for what you are doing. But it is also a lot of pressure. My work is a lot about mistakes, so I want to keep making mistakes. It is about getting it wrong, or not doing it well, or being ugly or being beautiful… But there is definitely pressure. You feel you need to do something good after that, or do even better, dig more, dig further, keep looking for more… So I keep digging for the rest of my life now. But in different ways – not just digging the ground, but digging images, digging in sound, digging in different ways of doing…So, for me, it means to be recognised – of course, for my art, but also this means recognition for my granddad. And I hope it would bring him back. You won the Turner prize, come out!
You talk a lot about your grandfather. But what do you think he would say about you?
I think he would not be so happy. I make things up, I am not saying the truth. It is all not serious enough.