Barthélémy Toguo
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Barthélémy Toguo, Paroles d'artistes
Art absolument, Summer 2006

Art absolument: How would you define your artistic approach in a few lines?

Barthélémy Toguo: I would define it as being first and foremost multifaceted: it was born from my will to deal with social, economic or political concerns like the problems of frontiers, North-South exchanges, also the shifts and migrations of populations, and the ensuing interactions and shocks. To illustrate my work, I use several mediums such as drawing, sculpture, video, performance, installation and photography.

Aa: Can you pick one of your most recent works and comment it?

BT: The installation called Rain on a Private Garden (2006), created for “Notre histoire” in the Palais de Tokyo. The public is invited to enter a tent (represented by immense mosquito nets) in which I open a secret garden. The voyage begins. Bodies enjoying and suffering from life are seen. I question them on their itinerary - for example the inhabitants of the banlieue called Seine-Saint-Denis after the November riots, who inscribed their expectations, their impressions on illustrated postcards. ..

Aa: Who are the artists past and present whom you consider as important?

BT: I shall quote Martin Kippenberger, the Viennese actionists, Rubens, the Titian, Bodys Isek Kinguelez, Rosemary Trokel, also artists like Matthew Barney, Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons because they were capable to sweep aside and go beyond the carpers’ rhetoric on the end of sculpture and use materials considered as passé, like ceramic.

Aa: What is the function of art according to you - in so far as art has a function?

BT: Art must not be self-centered; it must celebrate life, its sufferings as its pleasures, its joys and its pains. For me, art must go toward people, make them talk, make them dream.

Aa: Is there a French stage for art - a stage for the artists in France? How do you think its presence can be made more obvious?

BT: Yes, there assuredly is a French stage for art. But all form of buddying up must be annihilated. Only creation, its diversity, its splendor must be celebrated, the fabrication of artists avoided, talent praised. No individual can decide which artists or which mediums are good. Artists feel uneasy in France because of the existence of such prigs. In the sixties there were critics like Pierre Restany who helped to promote the Nouveaux Réalistes. He talked about what they did, their works without decreeing whether you had to like them or not, nor what they had to do. To-day every sentence uttered by those prigs is taken as gospel, they are the scourge of the French art stage.

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