Q&A: Jean-Benoît Lallemant
In January the exhibition Public Sessions (séance publique) attracted large numbers of visitors to a public art gallery in Vern-Sur-Seiche, Brittany. Iggesund sponsored one of the exhibition’s most extensive works, by artist and social commentator Jean-Benoît Lallemant.
You had three different art works at the exhibition. One of them (seen in the picture above) is a vast and beautiful piece including Invercote G. Tell us about it!
“The piece is called DDoS (distributed denial of service). It is 10 m3, with 10,000 numbered, 10x10 cm folded carton cubes, each printed with a different image on Invercote G 260 g/m2. DDoS is a barricade of photographic paving stones. Each image represents a segment of Place de la Bastille taken from Google Street View and focusing on a particular texture, such as sky, housing, vehicle, vegetation, surfacing, onlookers etc.
The barricade emerges from the street: an ephemeral, spontaneous, disorganised collection of urban pieces. It’s a rampart of popular insurrection symbolising the fight against the authority of the powers that be. In a time of modern revolution where the internet plays a predominant role, DDoS uses a simple stack of paper in the physical space to represent the eponymous hacking technique that involves saturating a site through a simultaneous attack of a mass of identical, interconnected programs.The profusion and saturation of the images in the piece destroy the digital apparatus and deconstruct the power play.
The development of the public domain in a binary, market-oriented way includes spaces for future hybrid revolutions. The piece is voluminous but can be reduced to the silence of storage, a chaos of photographic textures that offers a perspective on connected revolution.I worked on it with photographer Richard Louvet. It’s our first collaboration.”
Do you often use paper or paperboard in your artwork?
“My work is very different every time, although I have worked with paper before on an installation called Daedware, representing 200,000 black paper cut-out mouse cursor arrows. The work has been shown several times, including in China. I like working with paper. I like the volume that you can have when it’s folded and the fact you can reduce that when you pack it down flat. Paper gives a lightness to my work. It’s a material in its own right. I also like it because historically it is a key material used for sharing information.”
What do you find most difficult in working with paperboard?
“The challenge is that it’s complicated! Cutting out shapes means the paperboard needs a certain rigidity. We tried other papers but they didn’t fold so well and didn’t hold up. We needed something super rigid and our printer suggested Invercote.”
So that’s the main reason you chose Invercote?
“I wanted a paper that was as clean as possible. With digital printing, the ink is hot and that makes the finished appearance rather shiny. We wanted it to be as matte as possible and we got good results with Invercote. The printer had never seen anything like it – such a big print run but with every image different.”
Another one of your pieces at the exhibition was a sculpture of Kim Jong Il, commenting on how politicians and people in power are represented. What is your primary source of inspiration?
“A lot of my inspiration comes from current affairs. I read a lot of news, both national and international, plus specialist publications so that I can keep up to date with what is going on in the world. I’m particularly interested in the digital world and new technologies: what is happening now that couldn’t have happened before we had digital? I also like to think about different materials and how they could be used to create a new object. I do a lot of planning and model making in my head.”
You grew up in Brazil, where your parents were on a farming mission. In what ways has your upbringing affected your work?
“I work very hard. I’m very passionate, very engaged. I’m often enraged by things. I think that has a lot to do with my early years in Brazil and the shock it was to come back to France. I really felt like an immigrant, but I look like an ordinary French person so people didn’t understand. I almost think it would have been easier to have had darker skin. At least that would have explained how I didn’t fit in. Also I had malaria four times and nearly died from it when I was seven. I had some incredible hallucinations and the experience really marked both my character and my imagination.”
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On another of your pieces at the show, you collaborated with a software developer to create something you refer to as a virtual parliament. What does that mean?
“It’s a virtual architecture for a parliament with the aim to stop the process of representative democracy, to give each individual the right to be represented in person. The traditional hemicycle takes an optimised form of a demisphere in which every citizen can be represented and have her or his opinion heard. It is made from 10,000 black adhesive dots stuck on glass, 5 m by 3 m.”
Cool. You were born in 1981, pretty much directly into a digital age. In what way do you think the digital age influences your work?
“The digital age has increased our appreciation of real materials. The movement to the virtual has triggered a resurgence of natural things in contrast. Digital technologies also bring us new conceptions. I like to examine the continuity between canvas and screen as two flat surfaces that show colour. A canvas shows a moment in time, as does a photo. The internet or the screen does this even more. It takes you to things far away and transports your gaze. As humans, our goal is to achieve omniscience, and that can come through digital.”
How long does it take to plan and create a new work?
“It takes me between a year and 18 months to create a new work. It’s a very long process but I usually have around six different projects on the go at the same time.”
What would be the best thing that could come out of your career as an artist?
“The best thing that could happen to me as an artist would be to make a mark on the history of art. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, having my name go down in history. Rather, I’d like to contribute to changing people’s conceptions and their relationships to materials but that takes time!”
Finally, if you had not chosen to be an artist, what line of work do you think you would have indulged in?
“I love to travel. If I wasn’t a painter, I’d like to be a lumberjack in Canada!”
TEXT JOHAN LINDBERG PHOTO RICHARD LOUVET