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Interview of Anne-Laure Chamboissier with Diego Movilla

1-You have been invited by me to realize a project in situ at Champchevrier’s castle. What made you interested in this place?

I think it was the nature of the place itself that attracted me above all, that is to say, a castle which is, almost by definition, a place inhabited by heritage. And it tells its own story. Occasional interventions of contemporary art are becoming more and more common in heritage sites, but in my opinion, this only very rarely modifies the essence of the place. We are most often confronted with a scripted story, according to well-defined codes. The objects, furniture and works of art are there to give substance to a narrative while respecting the meaning of the visit. Hierarchies are relative, styles are mixed, periods are superimposed and the imagination is fed by the whole. In this established system, the contemporary has little place (with the exception of its technical or pedagogical contribution), because it is not able to convoke "the real" in the expected sense of the narrative in place. It is very rare, for example, to find a contemporary portrait of the castle’s owners or an account of recent events during a visit to the site. Whereas a dated event, recounting the night spent there by a member of the royal family a few centuries earlier, is necessarily a key element of interest in the place. The question is not so much to link past and present, but to preserve, as if in suspense, an idea of past time in the present, and this through the magic of artifice. The historical and heritage connotation under the prism of the "real" must be enhanced, reinforced and supported by the whole device. One does not transform this reality - even if one were tempted to do so - by a simple artistic intervention. Indeed, you slip into an existing system, you wink, you break the rhythms, you play the intruder. I arrive with my device in Champchevier as the last element of a whole, somewhere illegitimate and unexpected. But as a "guest of honour" entering in pure contrast with the context, it suits me quite well. And it allows me to see this project as a playground for transforming codes, with a feeling of great freedom. After seeing Simon Vouet’s tapestries in the castle’s collection, I had the intuition that there was an idea to be explored. This set of tapestries is simply magnificent! They are very vivid and dynamic images, but fragile at the same time. I therefore started from the principle that a contemporary issue could be at stake here, an issue close to the digital in the conception of the image and its fragility, as well as the question of presence and absence and the possibility of its disappearance too.
It is this dynamic encounter with the image that interests me, what the reception of the image produces, these "ricochets" that Jean-Christophe Bailly describes wonderfully in L’imagement* and into which I could slip very comfortably.

2- In your view of the remarkable tapestries in Simon Vouet’s "Amours des Dieux" suite, you have chosen from the outset not to be illustrative of the subject, and I would like you to tell us more about this. And how did you conceive The Lost Thread?

Yes, this relationship is not illustrative, because it is about constructing a different proposition, a new proposition in relation to the original subject. As I stated above, the starting point lies in the very nature of the construction of the images in the tapestries. Indeed, the appearance of the image from the thread as a unit of construction and the logic that follows from it, is quite similar to that of the pixel. If we take details of these tapestries, we quickly find ourselves immersed in very graphic forms, very strong and contrasted, and at the same time soft and a little blurred, as can be the case with digital images abused by the joys of low definition. This fragility undoubtedly comes from the threads; the construction is long and solid, but carries within itself a system of destruction. Metaphorically - or maliciously - pulling a thread could invoke a glitch in the image, making it buggy and disappear. If we start from this premise, the question of the status of the image, its presence, absence or disappearance is far more important than the mythological subjects represented in these tapestries. Simon Vouet designed several series of the "Amours des Dieux" suite, the one presented at Champchevrier is complete. But the temptation came to me to imagine that one or more subjects could be missing, so the question of absence finds its place in this way.

* Jean-Christophe Bailly, L’imagement, Éditions du Seuil, 2020, Chapter 2, Envoi (Ricochets), p. 41-43. "What happens then is comparable to what happens when a flat stone ricochets off the surface of still water: the grazing is the event from which everything begins, the encounter between a projectile and a surface produces splashes and waves on the latter which are its emotion. It is the image that becomes a projectile and the subject (the viewer) that becomes the surface of impression. ... Although it is present in the manner of an immobile deposit removed from the body of time, every image contains the account of its origin and its sending, every image has been launched ... however the only experience we can have with images is that which happens when we encounter them, all the rest being imaginary (to be imagined). Now it is this imaginary that we call art history..."
Other series by Vouet include, for example, a tapestry on Aurora and Cephalus, and this theme is not treated at Champchevrier. I then took this as a field of exploration and made sketches of drawing, painting and collage, while taking inspiration from Vouet and the contents of the tapestries. I thus worked on the question of the drapery, the figure, the plant, the landscape, but also that of the weft or the borders which are specific to the artist’s work. I played with this idea that a new tapestry could find form in a mental projection of its own becoming, rather than in a concrete, manufactured production. In the end, there are about 70 preparatory drawings for the final installation, which will take the form of a kind of wall assembly of superimposed elements.

3- You like to construct your works in layers, to play with the erasure of an image or with repentance. You use these different processes again in this vast installation composed of drawings and paintings accumulated one on top of the other, of which we only perceive fragments of images. Why this choice of a form of instability in what you invite us to see?

What I invite you to see is precisely this instability, which you mention, in the images, but also in the way they are constructed. When I work on a drawing, I like the idea that everything can change at a given moment, that the question of achievement is very limited. There can be a relatively long working time, but in the end, everything is played out in this very short period of time when a change in rhythm takes place. I also try to avoid the idea of a "unique" image, an absolute image. I prefer to place myself in ambiguity, in the in-between or in imbalance and I use these strategies to try to achieve this. Repentance, erasure, or deletion have become my means of construction. I function by a logic of correction and catching up, by patches and patches put on what escapes me in one way or another. I like to imagine that all this can generate a form of tension between the viewer and the image; a dynamic link is established between one and the other.

4 -In your work, a dialogue is established between the past of art and the research and practices of your time. Is this a way for you to question our present time through the prism of our memory of art history? And in doing so, to experiment with new forms?

It’s a logic that took a long time to settle in my work, because for a long time I’ve been embarrassed to conceive new images and to assume them. The question of choice has a lot to do with it; which image merits to emerge?
Why this one and not another? What does it bring? What does it tell that cannot be told by an existing image? To what extent is it not anecdotal as long as it is drowned in the set of images that are proposed to us daily? How can it succeed in joining a form of collective imagination, when it is already struggling to find its own autonomy? All of these issues relating to the status of the image are at the heart of my artistic questioning. Talking about the instability of today’s image, based on a portrait of the Spanish royal family painted by Velázquez in the 17th century, allows me to tackle the values inherent in the original work, as a masterpiece or as a representation of an authority figure, as well as to provide a contemporary reading of the problem of the transmission and reception of digital images in the broadest sense. Moreover, current image practices have as much impact on the immediate and the ephemeral as on what has been installed for centuries. I think that as soon as we become bulimic consumers of visual material, we can no longer look at the works of the past with the same intensity. As for the question of experimenting with new forms, it is much more complicated for me to express myself on this point. Indeed, I think they emerge independently of my intentions. I do hope to have come across some, but it is not a question I ask myself in advance. I prefer to start with general problematics, such as the question of "repentance" in Velázquez or the portrait in Ingres, and contrast them with the idea of erasure, accumulation or hybridisation. Then, if they are truly new forms, I will need time to see them coming.