When he was little, Bertrand Gadenne always knew he wanted to be an artist. As an adult, he has moved from medium to medium – from painting to slides and, later, videos.
From January 22 to March 13, his poetic light installations were shown in a two-part exhibition called Fragments of a World at Galerie Jordan Seydoux. Three installations and a video were on display during the gallery’s regular opening hours; at night, an image of a giant eagle was projected on its shop window. We met up with the French artist.
Tell us more about this giant eagle.
It’s not just a traditional image of an animal, or just an image projected onto a wall: it is perfectly integrated in its urban environment. But what is also very interesting about it is the relationship between the image and the viewer: the image creates a fictional situation and the viewer gets involved in it, almost against his/her will – by chance. There is nothing that announces or advertises the presence of an eagle in this particular place. Its location can be surprising, unexpected…
Especially at night!
Yes, the context is very particular. The fact that the projection happens at night creates a dream-like situation. The viewer enters a sort of in-between space, a place between dreams and reality. I am very interested in the hallucinatory potential of this kind of situation and the narrative that could develop around it. Once people see it, they might talk about it during the day; then, because of this ‘word of mouth’, more people will come to see it at night. It also gives me the possibility to reach a very different public, a larger public than that of the art world.
What other animals populate your art?
I have a real bestiary: I have lots of images of birds and many other animals.
I filmed rats, snakes, owls and a few predators.
Any disqualified animals?
Yes – spiders, for example. I can’t film a spider, because I film animals on black backgrounds in an effort to decontextualise them, to remove them from their natural environment. I will never go in the forest to film animals. Spiders are rather dark, so they’re disqualified.
Is there any meaning behind your choice of animals?
I never choose them for their meaning. I’m more interested in their behaviour in front of the camera, their morphology or their colour. I mean – yes, the eagle is the symbol of Germany, but it wasn’t premeditated. Even without giving it any meaning, an image has the power to signify something and the result can be surprisingly pleasant or unpleasant.
Some of my images were censured. In 2000, the mayor of the 16th district of Paris was totally against me projecting an image of a predator flying away onto a wall. He wanted me to show a dove.
Of course not. I went through an entire year of debate and ended up using the initial project.
What was the reason?
I guess I film the animals in a very realistic manner and sometimes they reveal certain kinds of phobias. But to me, people’s reactions are really interesting. In the context of a city, an image is never innocent.
What makes a video really good, not to say perfect?
I’m a video artist, but I’m not sure I make videos. My works are more like objects – they are staged installations.
When is an artwork finished?
An artwork is never finished. It is always recontextualised; every time it is looked at, it is perceived in a new way. Nothing is fixed or finished and that’s a terrible feeling for the artist who made it. Art is a total fraud. It’s an illusion. And that is what interests me the most about it.