Dak’Art 2014: Interview with Joël Andrianomearisoa

Joël Andrianomearisoa was born in Antananarivo, Madagascar. He lives and works between Antananarivo and Paris. His work crosses boundaries into video, fashion, design, sculpture, photography, performance, and installation. Andrianomearisoa has participated in a number of group shows, including Africa Remix, Rencontres Africaine de la Photographie in Bamako, the Havana Biennale 2006, Fashion in Motion, and Africa Now!. He has exhibited internationally with solo shows in Istanbul, Stockholm, Antananarivo and Ghent. As part of The Dak’art series, he discusses with 1:54 the ephemeral nature of his work and the border between art and life.

We should begin with the beginning, how did you decided on art?

JA: I made no decision to become an artist. When I decided to do something in art, I was sure I wanted to do something between forms and aesthetics. I actually studied architecture and I’m officially an architect, but I consider myself an artist too. I did not make the decision; it came from different people I know – many friends, gallerists and curators. Now I feel I’m an artist, and it has been this way for 10 years.

A number of your recent works have dealt with the sentimental; an idea expressed through lightness and fragility in these ephemeral installations. Was there an exhibition that triggered this interest in ephemerality and immersive spaces?

JA: The first show was in 2000 at the Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris called ‘Paris Pou Escale’. The show was very interesting in terms of medium because I did a performance. Since we are talking about ephemerality, I should say that it was very interesting to talk about the body as a medium. The show was very interesting because we were talking about the new location of the new artists, especially for African artists, who are living between Africa and elsewhere. I realised that while we are African artists, this doesn’t mean we have to stay in our countries. I’m interested by this mix of politics, geography and many things.

You talk about using the body as a medium. How does your body influence the way you work with material forms?

JA: When I start a project or when I do a piece, I don’t begin in any specific way. I collect lots of specific materials including paper, plastic, textiles and wood. The only thing that remains constant is that they have to be black; it’s a kind of signature. Black is a statement, and when I’m using black I’m actually using lots of colours. But there is no specific meaning; it depends on space and on context, and most importantly on my emotions. For Dak’art 2014, I decided to use the wind as a medium; here you have the textile with all these small pieces of plastic. The work is constantly changing with the wind and the weather, and also the audience, which this is very important to me. For me, the material has to work with the body, and the body can also be the audience too, not only the body of the performer. With the body you can use material in a different way.

Performance has been a strong point of discussion here in Dakar, along with a certain hybridisation of practices that defy obvious categories. Is there an aspect of your practice you’d like to experiment with further?

JA: I am working with everything because are no such categories on my mind. I would not define myself as a photographer and yet I am making images, nor am I an artist who conventionally works with video, yet I find myself producing videos. I’m even using textiles and clothes in a stylized way.

I am presenting a another piece at the Dak’art biennial called ‘Sentimental Products’, which is largely a readymade. I want to use everything, it depends of the emotion and the context. If I’m in Dakar I have to think more about this specific place, perhaps I’m very emotional and you can feel this in the work.

The idea of bridging life and art of something we have seen in African artistic tradition for a long time, and is particularly present with Senegalese art history. You talked about the emotive aspect of your work as a guiding principle, is there a distinction for you between art and life?

JA: For me there is a big distinction, my mind and my art they art together, but my life and my art is different. I have a private life, of course. I think this is very big question for artists. For 90 per cent of my work, I have to socialize, but I have a normal life, which is very basic. I think romantic notion of the artist over. Now we are at the biennale and you have to meet some people, you have to socialise, but there will be a gap between when I return to a certain kind of normality.

It is customary in architecture that buildings are designed, but they don’t get built. I was wondering if you had a concept or a work that hasn’t been realized?

JA: I actually I did something in Madagascar. I bought an old house, and then I did a restoration and then a project on the set design of a show, so it was not a real building. I am an ephemeral person and the reflection on the space is very interesting for. This is why I’m working a lot on installation, the space and the context is very important for me.

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