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Laurent Grasso

Prominent French artist Laurent Grasso has a passion for unusual installations; so far, he has placed structures on the rooftops of the Palais de Tokyo, next to 16th century French castles, and most recently on our own Central Ferry Pier. He tells Leanne Mirandilla about people’s relationship to artchitecture, and how artists
should aim to confuse their viewers.

By Leanne Mirandilla | Jun 14, 2012

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  • Laurent Grasso

HK Magazine: Could you tell us a little bit about “Anechoic Pavilion,” the room on top of Central Pier 4?
Laurent Grasso: “Anechoic Pavilion” is a place I built to create a quiet and meditative mood, you know. I tried to create changes in reality and offer the viewer something a little bit different. The space could be a place to sit alone or with one or two other people, but basically it’s a place to be [detached] from daily reality. From the cinematographic side, you can also see the [surrounding] landscape—the project is similar to a vision machine that provides a specific way to see what is outside.

HK: How long have you incorporated architecture into your art?
LG: Since the beginning, I have been interested in architecture and the effect of architecture on the viewer. My first photography series, when I was a student, was to take pictures of people in the church. It was obvious to me [there] that architecture has a strong effect on people—you can especially observe that with religion. People are more able to meditate, I think, in a temple rather than in a forest, because there’s organization that has an effect on the body and mind.

HK: Do you think this is an unusual practice for artists?
LG: Artists are interested in space and installations; for a long time, especially in the 20th century, there have been concerns about the way to display artwork. Even Marcel Duchamp was concerned with this subject. It’s not possible for an artist to just put something on the wall. More and more as I was invited to do installations in a museum or gallery, I tried to do some modifications of the architecture; it was a concern to find the right way to show my artwork. After I started to build my own space, this interest [in installations] grew. Now, for example, I have a solo show in Paris, and I have totally rebuilt the architecture of the museum: I built a long corridor with windows to the left and right, and through the windows you could see some artwork, movies, objects. People won’t be able to recognize the museum. I think this makes the viewer more aware of the fact that the architecture and the space is part of an artist’s project.

HK: What would you say the aim behind your artwork usually is?
LG: It’s very simple: I think people need to be confused. They need to be a little bit lost, in another state of mind, seeing reality in a different way. I think that this is an aim of the arts. Unfortunately, a lot of artists today are doing very obvious, stupid projects. Everybody is scared that the viewer won’t be able to understand, so they want to make everything clear. I think it’s the last thing [they should do], because today even a lot of media are already like that—if you go to see a movie, everything is done to make you understand. There is no gap between what you think and what the movie actually is. I try to create this moment where you don’t know exactly what you’re looking at, so you have to think.

HK: How would you say the art world has changed since you started making art?
LG: Today, people have problems understanding what an artist is. People think that designers are the same as artists, they think fashion is the same as art, but artists are the only people who are doing things without any commercial direction. Artists make things without any function. Afterwards, you might be able to sell your artwork, if you’re lucky, but when you start you’re doing something that nobody knows, and you’re looking for something new. I think it’s really stupid and really a problem that people compare designers—people making chairs—to artists.
Catch Grasso’s exhibits before they close; “Anechoic Pavilion” on June 15 and “Future Archeology” on June 16.

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