Interview by Simon Delobel
Simon Delobel At the moment there are three exhibitions of your work on view: a solo presentation in a project space called In Extenso in Clermont-Ferrand, France, a duo show with Carl Palm in Komplot and a group show curated by Jean-Paul Jacquet in Brussels. Why have you recently decided to step out of anonymity and join the art world?
Jakup Auce I met Marc Geneix the Director of In Extenso in Brussels a few months ago. I showed him some of my works on my smartphone upon which he contacted me again later and asked me to do my very first exhibition in Clermont-Ferrand. To that request I said: 'Why not?'. Then I decided to produce new works based on what he saw in Brussels. I wanted to experiment with new things. I was looking for an intermediary medium, somewhere between a screen and a wall. Because of the rather small exhibition space, I also wanted to exaggerate the scale of the pictures. Therefore I printed digital images on vinyl to create pop-up screens like the ones often used for advertisements.
SD The result is rather claustrophobic and overwhelming.
JA If you fully want to enjoy the pictures, you need a rather big distance. And this is exactly what you don't have in this 25m² exhibition space! I wanted the installation to be labyrinthine and really closed. I obstructed the window to avoid perspective views. It worked pretty well: I even got frustrated myself when we started to take pictures of the show. This exhibition just can't be documented properly.
SD Would you have displayed the images differently if you had a bigger space?
JA I don't think so. They were made for that space. I wanted all the images to be very close to each other. If I had another space, I would make them bigger or produce more to get the same atmosphere. Distance is the very subject of this exhibition. Not only in the display, but also in the works themselves. The background of the images is always an aerial view I found in books, scanned and modified on Photoshop and on which I pasted other scanned images, also extracted from books, in order to create amorphous spaces.
SD And how does this relate to the title of the exhibition "Fell in love with the wolf"?
JA I just liked this sentence, as I liked Marc Geneix’ remark about it: Ce n'est pas la manche du loup qui lâche mais c'est la chair du mouton. In French, they call some masks a "loup" and if people would have enough distance to look at the works, they would easily discover faces in the compositions. I can't make abstract images. One could call me a portraitist. I need anthropomorphous elements in my works to feel comfortable. It's like literature. If there is no life in a story, it doesn't interest me. I can't stand literature being just about a style. I think life is more important than anything else. Real events that are fictionalized or the other way around: it doesn't matter as long as there is some form of reflection about the human condition and how we struggle with the delusion of existence.
SD Where do you find your images and how do you select them? Do you follow a certain strategy?
JA Living in Brussels is a great advantage because there are so many second hand book shops. I started hunting for images in old books a few months ago. I select them intuitively: I immediately know it when it is an image I can use or not. Then I mentally associate them. There is always a kind of alchemy in the compositions I create. For example, I found an image of a volcanic eruption and another one of a glass sculpture. I knew immediately they would fit together. As I said, I scan images and modify them in Photoshop, but I only use the basic functions of Photoshop: autocontrast, autocolor, darkness... I never use filters or special effects. I only slightly adjust the colors, to get the same quality in the color contrasts I found in the books. And if I don't like the colors, I just switch the images in black and white. My work might use digital technology but I associate more with the technique of collage.
SD Our contemporary world is flooded by images. What motivates you to create new ones?
JA There might be plenty of images but there are never enough good ones.
SD For the exhibition in Komplot you present completely different works. How do you switch from one medium to the other?
JA Wood sculpture, oil painting, assemblage,… every technique is interesting to me, as long as it follows the idea. I'm not afraid to experiment with new materials. On the contrary, it's crucial for me. A few months ago I discovered a shop for fish keepers in Brussels. I was completely fascinated, not as much by the animals they sell as by the objects that surround them. I loved the decoration inside the aquariums, the glass etc. Therefore I decided to use this shop as my new supply.
SD Tell me if I'm wrong, but there are again faces in this installation.
JA There is indeed one large face on the wall and six smaller characters, gathered as a group next to it. They are displayed like on a theatre stage, with a leader in the back and the one on the wall dominating the group but at the same time being completely isolated. As I get older, I suffer more and more from vertigo, not only from flying and but also from the idea of belonging to a group. Groups can make the individual feel stronger but they can also diminish self-expression. In the installation in Komplot, there is an auditory dimension in the work: air pumps create bubbles in the aquariums. One could say that the figures are speaking but that their words can't be understood. There is just a constant bubbling sound. The piece can be seen as a comment on our society and a reflection on the place of the individual.
SD So would you feel comfortable with Fernando Pessoa’s consideration in The Book of Disquiet about the inevitable failure of collaboration?
JA I can collaborate with others as long as the individual behavior of each group member doesn’t have to change.
SD Did you give a title to this installation?
JA Kimberly Clark.
SD How does it feel to exhibit your work for the first time?
JA Spending and wasting time in my studio is a privilege, but I do miss feedback from external viewers. Like many artists, I'm always interested in how my work is perceived and how people react to it. At the same time I feel there is always something sad and tragic in exhibiting your work.
JA Because it's always something personal that you give away and leave behind.
SD Would you consider it as the essence of art?
JA Not really. It depends on the kind of art you make. Personally, I like to put some guts in my work. It's primordial to me even if I also try to stay aware so that the work doesn't become too personal neither.
SD One last question. During the interview, your cellphone rang. I'm quite intrigued by the song. I didn't want to interrupt you at that time but could you tell me more about it?
JA It's a Dutch song from 1980 by Robert Long. I really like this song for its lyrics. They are quite cynical. Why don't we finish the interview with them?
Ik voel me soms zo machteloos wanneer ik televisie kijk
Terwijl ik koffie drink met soms een glas cognac
Ik zie de armoe in Seoul, de hongersnood in Bangladesh
En ook die vreselijke toestand in Irak
Ik zou die mensen willen helpen en hun noden willen stelpen
En nu weet ik wat ik doen kan, want de oplossing is kak! Ja, kak
We kunnen met een schoon geweten voortaan nog wat meer gaan eten
En dat maakt mijn plan nou juist zo geniaal
Want gewone mensenmest is zo vruchtbaar als de pest
En dat is voor arme landen ideaal
En het kost u niets, dus hou je geld maar op de bank
Mijn nieuwe actie is getiteld Stank voor Dank: D-A-N-K
(En DANK, dat is dan de afkorting van Die Arme Neger Kindertjes)
Want aan stront is nooit tekort en 't bederft niet bij 't transport
Dus ik zou u willen vragen
Mensen, stort allemaal van nu af aan voor een arme Biafraan
En geef spontaan uw diarree voor het volk van Nieuw-Guinee
Laat een goeie natte wind voor een zielig negerkind
En maak hun leven minder zwaar en draai een drol voor elkaar
Stop dat hongerig gereutel met een mooie grote keutel
Zorg voor stront aan de knikker voor een arme kleine nikker
Raak je schuldcomplexen kwijt en roep de buurt bijeen en schijt
Laat ons tonen wat we willen, dus ontbloot massaal de billen
Red de wereld met je gat
Ze moeten nou maar weten dat
We al die tijd al schijt aan ze hebben gehad
Work in process
Oberoy Primate, print on vinyl mounted on a roll up stand, 200 x 150 cm, courtesy Trampoline, Antwerp
Installation view, In Extenso, Clermont-Ferrand 2013
Installation view, In Extenso, Clermont-Ferrand 2013
Work in process
Installation view, Komplot, Brussels 2013
Installation view, Inside 15, Brussels 2013
I just believe in me, the dream is over, digital print, 119 x 84 cm, courtesy Trampoline, Antwerp