Elie Blanchard, also known as Yro, was invited last month to the International Intangible Heritage Film Festival in Jeonju (South Korea) to present his performance Triangles Irascibles, as well as an original creation for the opening of the festival. This is a good opportunity to come back to his artistic approach, which fits into this –not so new- wave of « new media » projects. Yro has accompanied this movement for more than 10 years, creating; in particular, several founding works like Eile, an experimental cinematic performance or the Synthome cycle with Transforma…
In his latest experimental performances, he works with the photographic medium and a shoot apparatus inspired by the animation rostrum to create an experience close to cinema.
Yro, tell us how you integrated this new material into your visual art?
YRO: Through the back door, by chance, as often happens in my work. I was in residence in Brazil at the Aberto Workshop, invited to propose a carte blanche. After several weeks spent exploring dozens of possibilities, filling up pages of ideas, wishes, infinite geometric forms…I was totally lost and rather lonely. I don’t really know why I asked my parents to send me some photos of the family that were in an old box. I knew my mother would play along; she likes that kind of mission. The result was way more than my hopes. When I started manipulating these photos, « interpreting » them, a new form appeared that was obvious. I had at last distanced my artistic approach from the mirages of abstraction.
These first experiences were the origins of Triangles Irascibles, a performance where I mix family archives with photos that I took in the Paris suburbs. The story it tells isn’t my own but it could have been.
So, some of these images aren’t yours?
YRO: I didn’t make them, but taking the time to look at them and putting them into relation for the performance is a creative work as much as making them. They become my work even though they continue to exist as family archives.
In my work, I’ve always used objects I’ve found, diverted. I spend a lot of time looking for the hidden meaning of a volume, a material, what it carries, by maintaining an emotional relationship with it. I touch the objects, manipulate them, see them grow old and change with time.
With the use of photographs, my first impressions were of fear, fear of losing the evocative power of the object, of its abstraction. In fact, the different experiences of the spectators that I received are very interesting. The performing form creates a balance between suggestion and free interpretation of the fixed image to make a narrative and introspective experience.
The test of time, the interpretation and reinterpretation of a work makes your creative process fragile and in perpetual movement. Since 2008, Elie has been presented in twenty countries, Triangles Irascibles has been translated into 9 languages, the trilogy withe the Germans of Transformer covers 10 years of work, yet some of these works like Haeneyo and Where do you from come? , commissioned by institutions have had shorter lives…
YRO : Where do you come from ? with the rock group Cheveu for the Cité nationale de l’immigration à Paris. Haeneyo was made for the opening of the heritage museum festival in Jeonju. The principle reflections of these two institutions are about archives and the presentation of cultural and historical heritage. The difficulty wasn’t so much about what material I was going to have to use but more about my position in relation to it and the dialogue that I could construct.
In this work, created for the national Cité of immigration history, apart from the incredible length of time spent classifying, notating and numbering the hundreds of photos, one of my responses was the staging of an imaginary photographic laboratory. My role in the performance was that of an operator of machines and chemicals used in the silver image development process, the person who reveals the images. I used the archive photos of St Ouen, which date from the 1930’s to 1950, documents rarely shown to the public. These archives document the form of this town, its industrial past and the daily life of the migrant population of that time. This performance was presented to 1500 people gathered together for an evening at the Fete de la Musique in the decorative arts building built in 1931 for the international colonial exhibition at the Paris Porte Dorée. The work in situ, the symbolic weight of this place, along with the creation, makes inseparable links.
In the same way, it seems improbable to me to present Haeneyo anywhere else but South Korea. This creation shows women of the sea, women divers from the island of Jeju-do. I was lucky enough to have access to an incredible collection of images showing these women fishing, trying to get warm round a fire, in intimate moments or their daily life, impressive in their costume and their equipment, faces covered with their mask, often very old, their skin wrinkled from staying too long under water. Who else better than the Korean public to understand the emotion I felt when I discovered these images and that I tried to convey, in my own way.
For the past year you’ve been collaborating with the experimental musician Emmanuel Mailly for the creation of a new performance : Rodeo Ranger. You’ve just presented a stage of this work at the Agnès Varda cinema in Beauvais. In this creation you involve young refugees from Guinea and Eritrea, actually accommodated in Aisne, in the writing process and in the production of the material. In the past you have collaborated several times with different populations ( adolescents in the series of videos Black & White, adults with disabilities in l’œil acidulé, …). Are you looking to establish this relationship ?
YRO : Ranger is very different. With Emmanuel, we were looking to get these young people on board when we were writing the project. No structure asked us to do it, there is no institutionalized socio-cultural project that justifies obtaining grants behind this. We had total freedom, a necessary freedom to find accuracy and not betray the confidence these young people had in us.
The creation exists through our mutual energy and our wish to take the time & gage the rhythm of this coming together. These days, it’s important that everyone commits to making space, to creating links and to doing things together, because it’s surely not by turning inwards on ourselves or by restraining individual liberties that we will live in a fairer world.
Rodeo Ranger will be presented the 21 January in Beauvais after a series of residences at the Grange à Musique in Creil.