Äkkigalleria interview with Antoine Meyer on Sunday January 15th, 2012.
Äkki: This is your first time in Jyväskylä and after five days in Finland, your first sauna and a snow bath, what are your first impressions of Jyväskylä (Finland)?
AM: It is not as cold as I thought it would be. And the snow angel, is a terrific experience! Suomi land seems like a place worth living in, especially when you come from a noisy and messy country like Belgium.
Äkki: How much have your expectations influenced your observation of Finnish culture?
AM: Very little I think, because some of the only things I knew about Finland were told by Aki Kaurismäki’s movies which have a fabulous yet real atmosphere. I only expected to feel that what is called North could become South in a few hours. And with this I am fully satisfied.
Äkki: And have you found the Kaurismäki atmosphere here?
AM: No absolutely not. And his last movie is a good example of that because it takes place in France and the atmosphere is very close. If his films would take place in Spain I think the atmosphere would be exactly the same.
Äkki: The Äkkiresidency differs from typical artist residencies in several ways, notably in the short length of time and in the nomadic exhibition space, how do these factors affect your working process?
AM: Twenty days is not so short! As a kind of nomad, myself, I just feel at home with this way of working. Looking for a place to make a show while working on the content is a very good way to meet the people and become acquainted with the place.
Äkki: We still do not have a confirmed exhibition space for you. How important, or what importance does the exhibition space have to your work?
AM: it is difficult to answer this question because what does important mean? Important can be so relative. As a permanent walker, the exhibition space primarily represents a break, but the place itself does not have a real importance; although it is the potential value of transforming the space which is significant to me.
Äkki: A lot of your work observes urban landscapes, compositions that are made from complicated or busy atmospheres. With careful choice of focal point and focus you have created very still, almost frozen moments out of chaos. Are the photographs you have made here in this same spirit, or has the less urban environment of Jyväskylä had a greater impact on your work?
AM: I would say that when I am discovering a new environment, a kind of ethnologist grows in me and I starting feeling more focused on having a comprehension of what is happening, than what I could do with it. The works you mentioned were mostly taken in Brussels. It’s a lovely and quite chaotic city. These specific characteristics you have described are from places I know well, and have gone back to, they have been fine-tuned. But here, it’s a research and the result will probably look more “raw”.
Äkki: The use of light and colour in your photographs is very seductive. Can you tell me about your earliest memory of light and/or colour?
AM: unfortunately I cannot, because the memory itself is surrounded and invaded by photographs. Of course, these images were taken by parents and friends not by myself. But to give an answer I could say that my first memory is an 8mm film showing a pack of us kids playing around a construction site. All I can tell is that we had a pretty good time and a lot of freedom. About the colours, it’s the Fuji’s 8mm rolls of film tint is so seductive, I might have been influenced by these.
Äkki: And what about your earliest memory of art or photography as art?
AM: I think it is better to talk about my first memory of visiting an exhibition. This was Sam Francis’ show with huge paintings, may be about 10m high canvases, in the city of Toulouse (south of France). At this time, the Museum of Modern Art was still located in a temporary place and they had had to cut holes in the roof so that some of the paintings could fit in the room. I had only one question in my mind: had the painter himself been informed of this strange situation?
Äkki: Can you name a decisive moment in your career, when you decided to become an artist, or, consciously decided to make art?
AM: I spent some pretty boring high school years and I remember the day we studied the event of May 1968 (France) in history class. I remember the precise moment the teacher told us that we could not say it was a revolution because no one died during the events. And that day, I decided that I while most of my classmates would go on to become engineers, I had to make some kind of art.
Äkki: You have about two more weeks of time left in Finland, and you will be preparing a show of your work in a still undisclosed location, can you give us any hints about your exhibition?
AM: I will try to re-watch the Alfred Hitchcock film “North by Northwest” before...
In France, people often ask me the time in English as if I were Scottish or Irish. I was always considered as a Northern man. However, at school I first studied Spanish and I am glad that I am experiencing how it feels being a Southern man. But that’s my personal experience.
About the show all I can say, is that I am very curious about “sisu”.
Äkki: And now some one word/short answers:
This Äkkiresidency was arranged by Äkkigalleria in collaboration with the Jyväskylä Centre for Creative Photography.