Organizing a manhunt, going on an expedition on a glacier, making an electrical multi-socket from waste picked up on beaches, digging up a French-Soviet rocket… as many gestures, performances and experiences that have contributed to Laurent Tixador’s fame.
Questioning the idea of ecology, living together, recycling, the economy of survival and production means, the artist (born in 1965 in Colmar) is always looking for and/or creating unusual situations in order to provoke different opportunities and discoveries.
John Cornu: “ As for the comparative demand which men make on life, it is an important difference between two, that the one is satisfied with a level success, that his marks can all be hit by point-blank shots, but the other, however low and unsuccessful his life may be, constantly elevates his aim, though at a very slight angle to the horizon.” That is what Henry David Thoreau wrote in his work titled Life without principle 1. I met you in Siberia and -unless I’m misunderstood- discovered an artist who is proactive. What I mean is that you seem to follow a line of conduct, especially regarding ecology. How do you position yourself regarding the distinction made by Henry David Thoreau and how do you apprehend this philosopher? I would also like you to introduce your piece Walden, which will be shown at the gallery. Anyway, my question is quite large but I really would like to know how, as an artist, you verbalize the relationship you establish between an ecological ideology and its materialization?
Laurent Tixador: I have a relationship that is rather close to what Thoreau developed in Walden, in the sense that I have almost never financially invested in the making of an artwork. I don’t buy materials, I don’t have a studio and each of the objects I produce is handmade by myself. It’s a way to say that one can move away from the classical economic system, disrupt it by despising it. I only work with secondhand primary matters so I can promote their use. It’s free but one has to adapt to it. That’s where it’s interesting because each new discovery of a resource comes with particularities and also generates a new piece. It becomes a collaboration between it and me since I am no longer the only one to decide. From there, I started to use materials that have nothing to do with the environment they are placed in in order to start a depolluting work simultaneously with my artistic practice. The piece I titled Waldenis one of the first I made in this direction. It was during a walking trip from Nantes to the Belleville Biennial (Paris) in September 2014. I had said that I would produce the exhibition pieces during my journey and, walking along the highway roads, I was faced with many wrappings thrown and squashed by cars. Fifty percent of them came from McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Nestlé. It was distressing. I picked up a good quantity that I threw in garbage cans and on some of them I kept a sort of diary. It made me save paper and gave a goal to this walk. As I systematically turned over the wraps, the M of “McDonald’s” became a W and it immediately made me think of Walden. When I came back, it became a multiple, composed of a picked-up cup and a stencil. When one becomes the owner of this multiple, the stencil can be reused as much as wanted, and thus redo the piece as many times as desired. One continues this arborescent picking-up work.
JC: It is obvious that recuperating materials or even waste makes sense in your work. It’s the case for Multiprise (Multi-socket), which is the result of a lovely residency in Ushant supervised by Marcel Dinahet. Can you tell us more about it?
LT: Ushant is an island where there were no trees or very few because the wind is very violent. The picking-up of wreckage wood on the beaches is a historical tradition because it was the only way to get material for construction. All the framework and furniture of old houses are made of it. More recently, there was a maritime rail that went through and on which certain ships lost entire containers. That is how there were, for example, waves on celluloid ducks or sneakers that unfurled on the coasts to the amusement of walkers. The rail has now been deviated but this interest for collecting remained for many inhabitants of the island. Now, one can find many more fishnets and thrown-out plastic waste than real treasures. It’s indeed the case for every seashores and it seems to me criminal to walk by without picking them and throwing them ourselves. It’s interesting to clean and even better to take pleasure in it, but it’s also an action that replaces consumption in an interesting way, because one can repair, find ingenious solutions and recycle objects that arrived there by chance. There is a Hindu term to qualify this posture: Jugaad. Basically, it means finding a way to transform constraints into opportunities in a flexible and simple manner. I got into it without being selective; I systematically picked up each plastic waste I saw so it wouldn’t go back in the sea. I then took from my personal stock all the materials necessary to make a multi-socket since it’s a system I know well. For its fabrication, I found bullets on an old shooting range in the 20th arrondissement. I used them to connect bits of copper wires I isolated with plastic caps by softening them. Red and blue for the phase and the neutral. Yellow and green for the ground wire. The mechanical assemblies are made of longlines, which I made rivets of, and the collages are made of tar scraped off rocks. There isn’t any particle in this object that hasn’t been picked on a beach. I had already done this type of cleanup with a carcass of a radiosonde rocket I had found during a trip to the Kerguelen Islands. It had been launched in the seventies for the French-soviet Intercosmos civil plan to study higher layers of the atmosphere. It was interesting, in my opinion, that it should leave this place of natural reserve, where it was just an object made by man, polluting, to become a object with historic value that one could see more closely. Thus, we extracted it from the ground with shovels with colleagues from the French Harbor base and brought it back on a stretcher during a three or four-hour walk. Ecology is mostly making sure that things are in their right place.
JC: You have just come back from an excursion on a Swiss glacier. Can you describe the trip and the pictorial project that accompanied it? Also, how do you function from a creative viewpoint: do you start from a idea to go towards its making, or is it the experimentation that leads you to develop such and such artistic project?
LT: When one goes on a glacier, the goal is to see landscapes untouched by any form of civilization. It’s a dangerous place that one has to deserve. Places that can be reached without paying have become rare, and those are the ones I look for to set a studio and work in. When I speak of a studio, I mean a site filled with unsuspected influences and new resources. I have already traveled in similar settings, but I have to say that it’s always as interesting to find new possibilities and new constraints to adapt to and create a collaboration. On the Aletsch glacier, I was immediately surprised by the important deposits of carbon soot. There are very fine wind power particles made by exhaust gas and domestic heating that land on the ice. Because they are black, they store the sunlight and speed the melting of the glacier. I had already observed this phenomenon as far as Greenland, walking on the Inlandsis. These particles end up condensing in black, greasy, odorant balls. I patiently scraped everything I could to save the glacier and I kept a kilo of it to make pigment. I had never done painting and I would have preferred not to do some for that reason, but it seems better to me for these particles to be on a wall rather than on the mountains. This exhibition is solely made of waste.
1. Henry David thoreau, Life without principle, 1863
Talk organized for the exhibition “Trasher” by Laurent Texidor at the Art & Essai Gallery -Université Rennes 2, September 28 – November 10 2017.