Jean-Pierre Sergent


(X 4) Films Interviews transcriptions (2022 - 2023)

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The artist and the anthropologist exchange and discuss about Art, Art History, Contemporary Art, shamanism, violence, sexuality and the various ethnographic influences that deeply inspire the artist's work. Filmed at the Besançon studio, September 1 and 15, 2023, Lionel Georges cameras, with special thanks to Christine Dubois for proofreading.

Noël Barbe is an anthropologist and researcher at the Laboratory of Political Anthropology (EHESS-CNRS). His work focuses on forms of presence of the past and their politicisation, forms of allocation of heritage value, the politics of art, the political epistemology of ethnographic knowledge, the experiences of anti-capitalism, and a political anthropology of literature. Much of this work is engaged in practical and political arrangements.



- JEAN-PIERRE SERGENT: Hello, hello everyone, hello dear Noël. It's a real pleasure to welcome you here at Atelier; we met some time ago at the Courbet Museum in Ornans, and then again at the Popular Arts and Traditions Museum in Champlitte, France. You're an ethnologist and we've met already several times to prepare for this interview. We came up with the idea of having this discussion between us, because in my work, I deal with themes that you often deal with in your professional life. I'd like to thank you very much for coming here today, and also today was the birthday date of my father René, who would have been 97 years old, and I'm thinking of him a lot. Because it's the first of September, his birthday. It's an aside, but it's important too, because people are always with us in some way, even if they've gone to some other World... To begin with, I would just just like to quote this small extract as an exergue found in a book I'm actually reading, to start our conversation with. It's a book by Robert Byron, titled:


"As a member of a community and heir to a culture that are today equally controversial, I wanted to discover ideas - if indeed those of the West were outdated - likely to improve the course of the World and, to this end, also to know, via the language of my own sensibility, the beings and things that constitute THE ESSENCE OF THE WORLD."

So there it is, our conversation is off to a good start. And our first idea was to talk about shamanism. Would you like to say a few words about it?

- NOËL BARBE: First of all, I'd like to thank you for this moment of dialogue, which is for me, a little exploratory, because, as you said, we met not so long ago, just a few months ago, in June, I think. We met around your work, in particular the art piece which is exhibited at Champlitte. In fact, we were able to exchange views quite quickly on a number of issues and questions that I think indeed we have in common on a number of themes; you mentioned shamanism, but not only, of course, and the question of Art, or in any case, the approach to Art, is also of great interest to me as an anthropologist. And this crossover that we can make in our questions and interrogations is of great interest to me... And, at the same time, if I may say so, I'm not extremely familiar with your work... I'm discovering it as we've talked together and prepared for this interview. I am interested in shamanism for different reasons... To tell the truth, it interested me because you are talking about it a lot, you take a stand on it, so to speak. At the same time, this question of an artist with a strong position on the specific issue of shamanism; there have been others, maybe we'll talk about it, I don't know? Pollock did it too! And at the same time, this question of shamanism is, as far as anthropology is concerned, much debated, if I may say so. It's debated, no doubt because we apply the word to too many things or too many situations, and that can muddy the waters a bit. In any case, what's common to all this is, in the end, the idea that a singular being is linked to a community: ritually or otherwise, with a community, travels through several Worlds, from a visible World to an invisible one, and, in a way, makes them interact with each other... somehow, summons them one into the other. And, for me, this question about shamanism, which is what you're working on; for me, it also has a resonance, in relation to everything you mentioned, finally, about the question of the Western World... The Western World's relationship with this question is rather complex, or sometimes rather problematic to be honest... This relationship with shamanism, in any case, raises questions for us Westerners, and perhaps we'll come back to this? About our ways and means of getting to know the World more deeply, which you sort of mentioned earlier?

- JPS: Yes, to start with, perhaps I'll show the visual, as you suggested me, of the work I'm actually exhibiting at the beautiful exhibition. This is the witch Ixchel; and it's true that there's great energy in this work. The exhibition is called "Sorcières, sorts de femmes!" at the Musée Départemental des Arts et Traditions Populaires in Champlitte, and I believe you are co-curator?

- NB: No, I'm not co-curator... well, I participated in some parts of the exhibition...

- JPS: Yes, that's right, it's a very great exhibition! Of course, behind the term witch, it's mainly today's feminine conditions in general that interests us, since it's still nowadays a total disaster and shame (e.g. Iran & Afghanistan) for example. But even in Western Art, there are practically no works by women in museums, where there are historically absolutely not any works by women. And so, this mayan Goddess (Ixchel), she has breasts that hang down, she's an old lady, she wears bones of death on her dress, she wears a snake on her headdress, she spills like a pot of water on the Earth to regenerate the Worlds. And in my work, that's often also what it's all about: trying to regenerate energies somehow... Because I think we're in a state of total loss of energy, and contemporary man is in a state of loss of vital energy. That's kind of my main favorite topic, one could say. And that's why I use so many so different and so varied energies... Whether they're sexual or colorful in my work; to get out of this kind of miasma, of depression. I mean, in a way, we're living in an undeniably global and collective depression... Did you want to comment on that?

- NB: Yes, well, perhaps in relation to the question you asked about the Western World, again. I mean, when you talk about it in terms of energy... I find that questions about shamanism, just like questions about witches, or witchcraft thinking, to put it another way; they question both our relationship to the World and our ways of knowing the World. In other words, in the Western World, roughly speaking, with the passage of time - but it goes back a long way, to tell the truth - it's a story that's similar to that of the 'spell', or at least, of what Western thought has done to the dream. Is the dream a reflection of reality? Or is the dream a gateway to another world, one that allows us to experience things differently? As, today, however, this question of dream as reflections of reality is extremely omnipresent (and reductive). It's as if it were no longer completely autonomous from the real, as if it represented reality in some way, in another form, in another way. And this, I find, is a question that runs through the Western world on countless subjects and problems; in the social sciences, for example... Just this; for a long time, and still today, we tend to distinguish between what is the REAL that science would come to say...

- JPS: The real that science alone could understand and define!

- NB: And that people, who are not scientists, would only have representations, that would be somehow disconnected or with false visions of reality. And this red thread that runs like this, through the action of shamanism and communication between different Worlds, different modes of knowledge, the action you mentioned of witch thinking or the way the Western World has built itself on a thought of science. For me, it's more or less the same thread that runs through it all.

- JPS: But for me, as Mircea Eliade used to say, shamanism is what he called an archaic technique of ecstasy, and it really is a technique! And we know very well that for the shamans of Colombia (the Kojis), it takes them 20 years of apprenticeship to become a shaman, you have to acquire knowledge technique and science. So it's not magic. And I disagree, in this sense, with Claude Lévi-Strauss, who sometimes named it 'magical thinking'! Because there's absolutely nothing magical about it. It's another reality. And this other reality, shamans can define it and name it, because they can show it and map it. They can physically experience it, so it's totally wrong to name that 'magical thinking', as far as I'm concerned, because that would set up something that's non-existent, fabricated and imaginary, and dreamt up. for when you get into a trance, it's not a dream at all. This is exactly what Henri Michaux, which I will quote again later in this interview, said: "Was it a dream, an illusion, a hallucination? It doesn't matter, it just happened." In other words, one can't demolish and despise the whole body of spiritual knowledge that goes back thousands of years, in one fell swoop, just because it hasn't been scientifically proven yet. While today, medical studies on trances show that they change the brain's vibratory waves. For me, it's a material reality, as tangible and as surely as this table.

- NB: You're a little harsh about Lévi-Strauss...

- JPS: No, but it's just about that term of 'magical thinking', that I dislike totally!

- NB: I'm not really a Lévi-Straussian when it comes to the term; moreover, that's not the question, but it's true that he also embraces other things related to this question of the word 'magic', which has also been very much, I don't know, whether the right term is devalued... But in any case, it's been worked on a lot in a negative sense. Somehow, magic is something that's of the order of illusion, of the unreal, of what doesn't happen... Or of what happens because our senses are deceived, altered etc... And so, this question of shamanism that we've been talking about and this access to other Worlds, for which the question of images is very present...

- JPS: Yes, of course!

- NB: It is very present; I like the question of Cave Art. You know a lot about cave art, because it's a subject that interests both of us. Parietal Art, as ultimately something that would have a link with shamanism or, because sometimes, it would represent shamans in a state of trance, effectively, in action. Or again, because, in the different forms that are there, in Cave Art, which range from geometric forms, ultimately, to figuration, would represent the different states of trance...

- JPS: Yes, that's true!

- NB: And it's a hypothesis that's been put forward by a number of prehistorians colleagues and is still much debated nowadays. But Cave Art that is often very much debated... About the shaman's actions and levels of intensity of shamanic trances, his state of consciousness perhaps?

- JPS: But, for me, what particularly interests me about Cave Art is that it's often a COLLECTIVE work, even if sometimes, of course, it's just the work of one unique artist... Because I had a bit of a revelation when I went to see the Pech Merle Cave with my sister. You can see these digital tracings: they were drawn by several artists at completely different times periods, that's it! And it's this 'layering', all its stratifications and layers of superimposed drawings that makes these works so interesting to me.It's not just one person, one artist, or one individual, but it's a whole collective thought process at work, drawing those paintings, here, in this cave. And that's exactly what's going on in my work too. Somewhere along the line, I try to mix images originating from different horizons, precisely to create this kind of COLLECTIVE strength and intelligence. And as always, there's sexuality.... We see a well-drawn nude woman here, a woman here and an animal there. It's a kind of language of the collective unconscious that's present in this entanglement of Cave drawings and it doesn't matter what anyone says about it! But it's there, it does exist and has a powerful presence. And I wanted to show you a second example: this image comes from the film Embrace of the Serpent; it's a Colombian movie and it shows a shaman in Colombia tracing his drawings on the Wall. And for us, it means nothing at all, but maybe it means a village, the world of the dead and spirits, or the journey of the soul? It tells their personal and collective stories... As you can see, and I find it so touching, human and important! And then, all that connection that we've lost to the World around us, the Nature etc.  they've kept it… They're inside and encompassed by the World. We're outside Nature! And they, the First Peoples, are inside it… And they add Suns... I don't know exactly what it is, but it's a Presence to the World that's been acted upon. Perhaps we can't define it as Art?  But it's much more than Art! It's being there, fully present into the World!

- NB: Yes, but with regard to what you've just said about the question or the fact that, in the end, we're talking about the figuration of a story, it's their story that's depicted, that's what you said. At the same time, you said that, for us, we don't necessarily understand this stories; and it's exactly the question of the 'missing part' (of Georges Bataille) there, in relation to these images and which, perhaps, are referring to a kind of double, dual articulation between the question of the image and the mythical oral narratives. How, in the end, these images may have been utilised as a basis for mythological oral tales...

- JPS: Yes, absolutely, epics as well !

- NB: Or, mnemonics stories. As there are, for example, shamans - I've forgotten where, to tell the truth - who have dozens, even hundreds of pictograms in front of them, and for whom it's a kind of support for telling the tribe's history, for telling their story. So the question of the relationship between the graphic and the oral, which is there, and orality, which is the 'missing part', is also quite interesting, I think, in this relationship to these Worlds which, for us, are Worlds that have both disappeared... and which, at times, we have misunderstood, because we have understood them with our Western eyes...

- JPS: Peoples without writing.

- NB: Without writing, unless you consider that as a form of writing, but without linear writing yes, exactly.

- JPS: Yes, but for example, for the Australian Aborigines, it's what Bruce Chatwin called The Song Lines. These songs tell the stories of how Aborigines could get from one point to another across deserts. Those drawings are in fact geographical maps, a bit like our IGN maps. You see what I mean: it's a mnemonic aid for surviving into the desert. They're not just regular aesthetic drawings but life-saving maps!

- NB: There's an anthropologist who had said that he examined the drums of Siberian shamans, which are in Museums and are presented as two-dimensional objects; I think that's what he calls them, two-dimensional objects, and then one day he turns them upside down. I don't know if you know this anecdote? He turns them upside down and, as a result, he sees the images inside, the images underneath, in a different way, and he refers to texts, in any case, to things said by Siberian shamans, again, I believe, but we'd have to check; who finally say that these series of objects represented there on the skin of the drum, it's not figuration, it's not something that represents their pantheon of Gods, as it were. It's a compass! Which goes back to what you just said, it's a compass for orientation...

- JPS: Yes, to guide the shaman into the spirits world's, absolutely! Yes, that's important. I wanted to talk a little more about shamanism and Cave Art, I wanted to quote back to Antonin Artaud, to finish and to talk a little more about shamanism; since he made his journey to the Mexican Tarahumara Indians where he did experienced the hallucinatory drug of peyote. And I wanted to talk about the importance of the body's physical presence into trances:


"I say: reversed to the other side of things and as if some terrible force had given you back to what exists on the other side."  

- You just mentioned. 

"You no longer feel the body you've just left and which assured you in its limits; on the other hand, you feel much happier to belong to the unlimited than to yourself because you understand that what was yourself has come from the head of this unlimited, the Infinite and that you're going to see it."

- It's a discovery of "God", somehow with quotation marks!

"You feel as if you're in a gaseous wave, emitting an incessant crackling sound from all sides. Things that used to be your spleen, your liver, your heart or your lungs come out relentlessly and burst into this atmosphere that hesitates between gas and water but seems to call things to itself and command them to come together." 

There's also this idea of unity and fusion into almost every shamanic trances, and I've chosen a drawing by Artaud; it's not really a shamanic trance, but it's so violent, it's exactly what he's just told us: there's his head, his brain bursting and his head disappearing: "I'm suffering from an appalling disease of the mind". So, Congratulations to Artaud! And then I just wanted to finish with a sentence from Henri Michaux in L'Infini turbulent; and it's here too, an experiment with mescaline: 

I would have been mad to investigate and thus detach myself. This time, I was in. People ask me: "But was it a vision or a hallucination? Or an apparition?"
- It just happened.That's all!"

I don't think there's anything to be gained by overanalysing things. Perhaps we'll end this first part with this quote?



- JPS: So, in this part, we wanted to talk about few of the many books I've read on shamanism. I'd like to mention The sky falls by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert, which is part of Jean Malaurie's very interesting Collection 'Terre humaine', which publishes some magnificent ethnological books, of course... He's talking about a shaman who is still alive nowadays, as one often talk about shamanism, but shamans have practically all disappeared and their cultures as well. But him Davi, is still alive and was able to do an interview with an ethnologist, and he talks about the Xapiris, the spirits that come to inhabit him during his shamanic trances. He recounts:


"The xapiri* made me become something else so that I wouldn't lie. They really wanted me to become a spirit. They removed the forest and replaced it with some land covered in white feathers. They laid my image on the back of the sky in the center of their mirrors. It was very frightening, but my fear quickly disappeared because everything I saw was beautiful." 

(Scenic beauty into the trances). That's really something one often experience in shamanic trances, i.e.: it's both very frightening... and very magnificent, it's incredibly beautiful! So, he says of the xapiris: 

"Their hitherto barely perceptible paths became sharper and brighter. As fine as a spider's thread, they floated glittering in the air and came to cling to me, one after the other. So the xapiris are always preceded by the images of their path."

They show the way, the spirits are showing him the way!

"Then they follow our arms and legs like paths, where our elbows and knees are clearings where they stop to rest. Then, at last, they penetrate through our mouth to the inside of our chest, which is the house in which they will do their presentation dance."

So he defines also the xapiri as follows:

* "The xapiri (spirits) 'in their free state' have the mountain tops as their Home and move about on the mirrors of the forest. The xapiri who have become auxiliary spirits of a shaman 'father' live in one or more collective houses, the top of which is set in the 'chest of heaven', and the central place of which is also a mirror." 

And one can think, here, by similarity, of the mirror effect also present in my work, somewhere, I hadn't thought of it, but it's true that, in my work, the viewer's image is also always reflected into my work itself. Here are two images of Xapiri spirits. We see a bird with, certainly, the sky or clouds… This is the tree… and here we see the shaman, with all the mirrors around and all the different Universes, and I find that really exiting: "At the center of the mirror of the spirits". And that's a position we should all have, as human beings: TO BE IN THE MIRROR OF SPIRITS! I think contemporary man has totally lost that place.

- NB: Maybe to take into account what you've just said, this quote, and what you said earlier: "It just happened! That's all!"  

- JPS: Yes, absolutely, that's it!

- NB: "It just happened. That's all!" In other words, whatever we think about the possibility of the existence of spirits... of seeing the World or understanding the World differently, they're there because they're summoned in any case, and from the moment they're summoned, they're there and they become, de facto, actors, since they have a form of presence for certain helpers, they're there! This question, which is extremely important, once again takes us faraway from the question of representation, which we'll perhaps talk about later, because I deeply think that your work escapes the question of representation, to tell you the truth...

- JPS: Yes, thank you very much!

- NB: That there would be something else as well; it's also extremely important. You just quoted an important book, The sky falls, which was co-written by an ethnologist, Bruce Albert and someone from the human Amazonian Yanomami collective in which he worked. And there's a bond that develops between the two, and in a way they co-write this text, this The sky falls, and then, in this operation, in a way, in this companionship or in this relationship between the two of them, there's a kind of reversal that takes place at a given moment. This is the situation I was describing for the person who was to be the ethnographer's object, who actually comes to the West, who comes to New York and says things, he wrote truth and relevant things, about the way we, Westerners or we whites people, whatever we name ourselves; how we finally treat, among others, what we call the poor, the homeless in a kind of indifference in the relationship that's nowadays present (which is not the case in his tribe)… So there is this kind of reversal that takes place in this book and this book, I think it's also important, because of that, this kind of reversal, of co-writing, the idea of writing together or one writes with the other; this word 'with', it's very important. It also raises questions, I think, about what we, on the Western side, are dealing with what we can… So, searching, gleaning, perhaps to use your term too, gleaning, actually, from these Worlds that are distant Worlds... Or that are actually vanished Worlds, what are we doing with those informations and to what extent we are responsible for the disappearance of those First Societies, in some way...?

- JPS: Yes, of course, we're responsible because we're the ones destroying these Worlds, of course! The West is 100% responsible, yes! Even if certain Cultures have destroyed themselves or just disappeared as well. There were quite a few wars in Mesoamerica, it is well known, that the Mayas, other Mexican tribes and later on, the Aztecs were beating each other to death! But it's true that capitalism is entirely responsible for the disappearance of all animal species and all 'Primitive' Cultures... And so many languages are still disappearing today, right in front of us! Yes, that's for sure, and it's a very sad reality! Is there anything else you would like to talk about?



- NB: To follow up on the question of the relationship between different social worlds, as they may have been objectified by anthropology without, without necessarily truly being claimed. The question I was asking myself, is how we translate the experiences described, how we translate them into our ways of doing or being, as it were, today. And Georges Bataille's question seems rather interesting to me, because, ultimately, what he describes is a kind of fact and path that, in a way, individualizes or singularizes, a particular state that, when described in anthropological texts, is rather a collective state, or at any rate a state of relationship with the collective, of driving a collective mind. I'll read a small quote of Bataille, but not all of it:


"By inner experience I mean what we usually call mystical experience: states of ecstasy, rapture, at least meditated emotion. But I'm thinking less of the confessional experience, to which we've had to adhere until now, rather of a raw experience, free of attachments, even of origin, to any confession whatsoever."

In other words, what Bataille states is a kind of extreme detachment, in a way, an extreme detachment from the idea that we've been, up to now, attached to something in terms of experience, and that we're reworking it differently, that we're detaching ourselves from the original experience, to put it like that.... And in a way that's not necessarily a good thing... So we're redetaching from that, the way we Westerners sometimes inherit shamanism; or this duality of Worlds,  or the idea that the action of the invisible is proposed, that it's there in a way, sometimes, doesn't escape this. In other words, it's singularised, it's individualised as an individual experiences and no longer at all collective, in a manner of speaking…

- JPS: Yes, that's true, but we live in a completely individual and selfish way. Of course, yes, yes, it's exactly like religion. One can't share a religious feeling if you don't believe in it collectively, with other people, of course. We're fiercely and unapologetically selfish. Yes, that's what shocks me deeply, of course. And what I want to demonstrate within my work, it's this LINK that exists between everything: the past, the present, the various cultures that have vanished just before us as well as different ways of thinking. And in some ways, every thought is valid somewhere! Yes, I think so...

- NB: Which seems to me to be related, although we'd have to talk more about it further, which seem to me to be related to certain eco-feminist movements, which do indeed claim the heritage of trance or the heritage of shamanism, in a new relationship established with Nature, among other things?

- JPS: Yes, so what? Were the shamans women or men? Does it really matter?

- NB: Yes, that's not necessarily the essential point at the moment, it's just the idea that we're effectively remobilising other knowledges, other relationships to the World, than those imposed upon us, so to speak. As for we could go beyond this relationship imposed by : Modernity, Nature, Culture, and so on!

- JPS: Yes, that's true!

- NB: To put it a little like that, in twisting the stick a bit, you see what I mean!

- JPS: But we need to re-enrich our World, of course, our daily lives, of course, yes, but Art is perhaps there for that purpose, to re-enrich our daily lives; yes, that's true. Can we do it or not? That's up for discussion. And you also wanted to talk about the relationship with Time into my art works, because you thought that space was 'folded' a little differently and that Time could also be experienced differently?


- NB: I think I've read or heard somewhere that your work is a kind of 'expansion' of Time. Whereas I tend to think of it as a 'crystallisation' of Time, like this... That in your work, different conceptions of different relationships to Time are interwoven or articulated. So, sometimes, there's a question that arises, that we can talk about, which is the question of the timelessness, for example, also raises the question of the event: how do you paint it? How do you write? In the general sense of the term. How do you record what is an event? How is it worked out? How is it made possible? And in this respect, I think Jean Genet, for example, wrote some very fine texts lines, at that extremely tragic moment, which was the massacre of the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatila. And his seminal text, in fact, begins with a play with the time itself. That is, he doesn't start by evoking the massacre, he starts by evoking his strong ties with Palestinians before, the nice moments he spent with them, before and after, then, he moves on to the massacre. So, in a way, it's a game with time: 


"Photography doesn't capture the flies or the thick, white smell of death. Nor does it tell you the jumps you have to make when going from one corpse to another..."

So, what he describes here, is the idea, in this moment of this tragic event, which is happening there, is the impossibility of recounting such an event somehow.


- JPS: Yes, well, that's very beautiful... But, in fact, what is the connection with my work?

- NB: Yes, the relationship to your work, I thought, was ultimately a question of the event or the moment. In your work, there is, de facto, the question of the transcriptions of trances or the moments of trances, you've experienced, how are they presents? How can you make these moments present into your art?

- JPS: I make them present by showing the TEMPORAL-FUSION that occurs during those trances. Because then, one have sometime this gift of ubiquity and simultaneity, which isn't always true, because trance always develops in a linearly manner in the brain somehow.. But, then, at one point you're in Africa, the next moment, you're in Siberia, then you transform yourself into a Tiger, then you're in a Whale in the middle of the Ocean... You're everywhere at once, you're in the whole World... It's what we can name a 'cosmic journey'. And to encounter all these energies and lights and forces, it gives you a POWER... One could say; we're not going to talk about Nietzsche's 'superhuman' but, it's something more. It's more powerful than the dream, it's, in fact, much more than dreaming, because you stay present and lucid; you're really present. And of course, real shamans can direct their journeys trip's. I can't, because I'm not a shaman. But those experiences have given me a power, a strength and an understanding of these incredible energies... Yes, that we can call cosmic... And perhaps also this deep, true and raw animality, that we wanted to evoke with Georges Bataille text's. There's something that's got to boost things a bit, that's got to shake and boost things up... It had shaken me up deeply and perhaps, by force of circumstance and the butterfly effect, will shake up or shake up the viewer at some point or other? It's like Pollock's paintings: maybe they took forty years to be appreciated. Maybe it'll be the same time for my work? But I want to work with these energies, yes, I do. As you said, the unspeakable is unspeakable, but it does exists really, in any way. That's it, That's it, it is THE PRESENCE! PRESENCE! Exactly! 

- NB: It's presence, yes, and I wanted to pick up on something you said, I think it's in an interview or in a lecture you gave, I don't remember exactly, when you said: "It's a long-term job to be an artist!"

- JPS: That's true yes!

- NB: Is what you've just described, in the final analysis, an embarkation of events... The ones you've just described, the ones you speak about in fact, it's the trance, embarkation of that moment or those moments, that's part of your long artist's journey...

- JPS: Yes, it's true, but it's a whole experience of being human. When I was young at 20, I was painting abstracts and then, at a certain point, I often tell the anecdote that in Montreal in 1992, I had painted a huge abstract canvas, which was maybe three meters by three meters size, and I stood in front of it and said to myself: wow! Magnificent! But, so what ? And then I stopped painting altogether for more than two weeks in saying to myself: I can do plenty of variations on this topic, but it won't be enough for me as a human being. So somewhere, out of intellectual honesty, I have gone beyond this abstraction achievement and reintegrated images. There are plenty of artists who stop at this stage-point: they paint their flowers or abstract paintings in spades, and then they do about the same thing during all their lives. But I said no, that's not enough for me. And then, in New York, there's also a second thing that forced me to go way further, which is that at the MET, there are the Asmats poles and these are totems where there's the great-grandfather, the grandfather, maybe the mother, the father and the child who comes out of the father's ejaculation, like that, in a carved wooden lace chrysalis. It's a bit magical and spectacular. And I used to go to the Metropolitan Museum almost every Sunday, or every other Sunday, and every time that I stood in front of those sculptures, I'd say to myself: in New York, maybe there were 50,000 or 100,000 contemporary artists, and none of them was capable of making such a beautiful and powerful work! I am talking about Art in terms of POWER, ENERGY and ENERGY-FORCE! And I said to myself: but why? Mostly because we are living alone and we don't have anymore the strength of an entire culture with us. Whereas Asmats works are made in a community by a social group that still possesses a mythology. We know that the Asmats carry the skulls of their ancestors with them on their belts and put them in their huts, so they always live with their ancestors… As for, this ancestor's strength gives them vitality... which is very rarely found in Contemporary Art. You can find it a little into Basquiat's works, because he had this attraction to "Privitivism" and a little to Art Premier, perhaps also because he was Haitian and of black origin... So, you can find this kind of energy there and, of course, you can also find it in Pollock's paintings. But I wanted also to work with these energies... And what are the primary energies mainly? Of course, they're Sexuality and Death, yes!


- NB: On these two questions, finally, the one you mentioned earlier, that is, that the fact of producing something, the same thing over and over again, ad infinitum somehow. And, despite your: "wow!" In front of your painting and despite that, it didn't suit you anymore, in a way. In fact, your work as an artist is, at the same time, a work in progress, a work on oneself, of subjectivation, which is constantly evolving and always changing?


- JPS: Yes but above all, it's also the encounters that are the most important... Because I was lucky enough to meet this lady Glenda Feinsmith, who practised shamanic trances... If I hadn't met her, I probably wouldn't have done this kind of work... And thanks also to my numerous trips to Mexico too!


- NB: In other words, for you, an art work - I don't know how you call it, it's always a bit of a tricky word, but we'll use it anyway; a work of art that you produce, the word produced isn't very appropriate neither. In short, a work that you produce, that you create, should be  at the same time, a work by itself and will also be transforming you intimately somewhere?


- JPS: No, it's not really me. I don't matter that much as a self, I am the artist, I'm just the sum of everything I've encountered. It's a sum, it is not…? I don't take away, I don't subtract, it's an addition. I am adding things, in some way, because yes, my work is an accumulation of disparate informations. Yes, I glean images and put them into my work, because they appeal to me. I don't always know their deep and ritual meanings, I can sense a bit of what they're talking about, but unfortunately I don't have the degree of spirituality of the Hindu Brahmins, somehow, I feel that there's an awakening and a development of consciousness that's present in the images I have chosen. Or there's also the Bindu point, the point at the center of the cosmic big-bang. I like talking about that, but somewhere along the line, I think we need humbly to know how to self step aside in front of the multiplicity of things that happen to us!


- NB: Yes, but at the same time, they are shaping you deeply! 

- JPS: Of course, yes, they shape and change me, of course. Yes, it's the experience! That's why I sometimes say that it takes at least forty years to become a true artist. There are exceptions, like Basquiat, Picasso or others, but I think that you have firstly to learn a lot of things and then unlearn them... And then, finally, you do whatever you want to do, even if the price to pay is prohibitive. Because it's true that when it comes to be working on sexuality matters, here in France... The "Four Pillars of Heaven" Exhibition at the Museum of Fines-Arts in Besançon was a good example. It's not that I payed a high price, it's that I got absolutely no return on the time and energy I invested in putting on my exhibition at the Museum… And, at the end, somewhere along the line, this exhibition brought me: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I DIDN'T GET ANY FEEDBACKS ! it's absolutely despairing...

NB: Yes, it's a kind of indifference. Maybe we can tip over on this, since we're already on the subject of your exhibition at the Museum of Fine-Arts in Besançon!



- JPS: We're going to talk now about my current exhibition "Four Pillars of Heaven" at the Besançon Fine Arts Museum. But first, I'd like to talk a little about Contemporary Art in general. I'm going to quote Burroughs. I don't know from which book I'm quoting from, but he says quite rightly: "What does the money machine eat? It eats youth, spontaneity, life, beauty and, above all, it eats creativity. It eats quality and shits quantity." William S. Burroughs

And this is exactly true and tangible in the Contemporary Art that is exposed today. So I would also like to mention the critical situation of Contemporary Art in France in particular. And then, we'll come back to my exhibition. Antonin Artaud, in 1936, his "Revolutionary messages", already said it clearly: 


" But before reducing intellectuals to starvation, before breaking up the 'elites' who make a society glorious and, above all, make it last; society should at least make an effort to get closer to these elites, that is, to understand them.
An eminent man to whom I complained about the sad situation in which artists have fallen in France, replied: - "What did you expected? In our World, artists are made to die on a heap of straw, when it's not the straw of a dungeon."

Well, that was more or less in the Van Gogh's period! But never the less, it's still happening today. Because the artist are relatively little respected in French society. I think much less than in other European countries. As less than 1% of French professional artists can make a living out of their work, whereas in Germany it's around 5%. It's not that much, but it's still five times more! And I wanted to talk about this because, at the moment, I've got this big exhibition at the Besançon Fine Arts Museum, which includes seventy-two paintings, making a total of eighty square meters, which have been installed in the two staircases of the Museum for four years already! And unfortunately, I've only had a few press articles written by friends, but otherwise, no other feedbacks… If you like, it's pretty frustrating! You see the problem...

- NB: Yes, we went to see this exhibition together. And when we went through it, when we took different points of view, on the staircases and on the landings; there was something that appeared to me from a point of view, ultimately contradictory, which was at the same time, where we could see your art work and, in the background, we could also see the first painting in the next room; and we had also passed through another room (of 19th-century paintings) before arriving, and in the painting we could see, which was a painting, a nude painting, as I could remember? And that, in the space we had passed through, which, as you pointed out, was a room that presented works in the modes of representation of a Museum, a few hundred years ago, like in the 18th century. So all of a sudden we found ourselves in front of your work, I find, in a kind of confrontation like that, a bit harsh, between this paradigm of representation, which was where, roughly speaking, we can identify something: what is represented, who represents it and the spectator who is there, at least the three constituents... Not the four pillars, but the three pillars, in fact, of this model of representation. And I was thinking that, in the end, Jean-Pierre Sergent's painting escapes this. It's not representational at all! Which is perhaps what makes it so difficult, to look at, to tell you the truth...

- JPS: To be seen? understood?

- NB: To be seen. Is it because, in a nude painting, a human being is represented, well or badly etc.? But we have a direct key on the painting to enter into it, it's a human being and everybody know what it is about, it's obvious…


- JPS: Yes, a landmark and a vanishing point!


- NB: Yes, you can play with that, it's a vanishing point. I think that's one of the biggest differences with your work?


- JPS: Of course, yes, but I'll come back to that, precisely because historically, European painting has always been 'ego-centric': I took this example of this Maurice Denis painting's Hommage to Cézanne, because it's a work that describes exactly what European painting has been (just a Man affair, purely aesthetic and despiritualized completely) for the last four hundred years, at least. In other words, in this picture, we see a painting by Cézanne, surrounded by mostly men, dressed in black, with Hauts de Forme hats; they're very austere and there's only one woman, who's the wife of the artist Maurice Denis, who's there. So, the woman (in the History of Art) is within paintings in general, either outside of the painting (on the edge of...), or painted as the central subject (object of desire), naked to give men a hard-on, to put it more bluntly. And to titillate their senses on! And this painting is the very archetype, the apex of Art with this masturbatory perspective, centred on the Cézanne's painting (the 'masterpiece'!)... Showing the importance of 'bourgeois' Art, in quotation marks… It's not that I want to criticise Cézanne's work in particular, but it's everything American artists wanted to get rid of…


- NB: Unwinding, yes...

- JPS: To break themselves  free completely, because, for example, Rothko had been to Pompeii, where he saw the Villa of the Mysteries and others walls frescos, he understood then, that it was some 'façade' painting, as he named it, somewhere! Whereas this is a 'window' painting! And I absolutely want to escape from that concept. In fact, I wrote an entire text on the subject because, in my work, I always wanted to escape the window, because, ultimately, it's a 'narrow-minded' vision of the mind. It's a cartesian vision of a rational thinking, and it's not THE TRUE vision of the Human Being. None witty man think within a window frame, it's a purely architectural, narrowing, aesthetic, simplistic and monotheistic vision... Indians live in teepees and they would never put a painting like this in their teepees, which are painted all around, if you like; it's a painting with the four directions. So my paintings is also all-encompassing and geographically situated in the four directions, and I really want to escape from this European idea of painting. And then, in the exact same kind, there's of course Velasquez's Las Meninas...


- NB: Yes, of course...


- JPS: So there, the viewer enters, sees the little infant in the foreground; then he goes over there... he looks at that one and then... The painter is here at the very end... With his "asshole" ego: it's him, it's him who painted that, it's me, I! I painted Las Meninas and I fuck you all. Here's Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, with the same system, of course, you enter the painting with the same glance (that of the prostitute in the middle staring at you), you enter there and then you go there and then you go there... It's a magnificent work that I love, of course, because it has an intrinsic and somehow, within quotation marks, 'primitive' force, if you like. But that's exactly how it works (a system for capturing the gaze), because, with that visual system, the spectator can enter into the painting, as you said... But on the contrary, at the opposite, the viewer can't actually enter (or only with difficulty) into my work...


- NB: Yes, and about the question of the painting-frame, I don't know if this rings a bell, but there's an American author, Michael Fried, who has written several books on Courbet, one of which, in particular, The Realism of Courbet, defends the following thesis, which I find interesting because he defends the thesis that Courbet, in several of paintings, not all of them necessarily, but in a way, intends to go beyond the framework of the painting!


- JPS: Ah yes, interesting, that's right!

- NB: And among other things, by hypothesising... all this being done at the same time as a debate on theater etc... And hypothesising that the figures showing their back into Courbet's paintings are, in fact, both something that incorporates the viewer and some representations of Courbet himself. Which means, there's a kind of interplay between the inside and the outside, and we're entering into something that could be thought of as almost three-D, rather than as a simple flat dimension of the painting. So there's that, and also the question of the painting's enclosure or the canvas's enclosure (finite space); I was thinking that, in a way, we're getting back to the question of the shamanic drums... That is, either we consider them, when we take them as figurations of different places, of a pantheon of beings, gods or objects, enclosed in surrounded spaces, all the same... But if you take them as a compass, that is to say, if one incorporate them roughly into your ritual way of life, or at any rate into the experiences you may have, geographically speaking, then it's the shamans... Well, you can think of it another way, you incorporate them into that in an other way and it becomes, not something that's of the order of distancing, as in a show, but it becomes something that accompanies you in a fusional manner into your life experiences. 


- JPS: Yes, it's an entry point...


- NB: It's an entry point and it's a point of accompaniment; it can provide informations, in a way, for our life paths. And I was wondering, at the end, as I was making the comparison, if we couldn't say that, in relationship to your work, we're somewhat in the same register? Maybe I'm wrong? But you can tell me that without any problem... Because, if we consider that your work, or at least certain parts of it, is a kind of crystallisation of time, which comes to crystallise experiences: temporal, personal, collective, in any case, as you can see and understand them...


- JPS: Yes.


- NB: It's something that can accompany us  


- JPS: Absolutely, that's true...

- NB: One don't necessarily see your work as a show or an event, but rather as a journey through your work.


- JPS: Yes, that's right, and there's also the large mural dimension in which the body can be taken on board. And that's very important to me. Yes, of course, the body has to be taken into my Art, yes, that's true. And I'd really like the audience to enter the picture physically. It's a bit like the experience I had in the Tomb of Queen Nefertari in Egypt, where I was really taken into another World...  and this other World was made for the dead. I work for the living, or at least I hope I do so, but it's true that it's important to take spectators into Elsewhere, which I've been lucky enough to discover, experience and personally live.


- NB: Which is also, no doubt, a way of resizing our relationship with Art, in a way. This idea that it's not only something that's a mirror or a spectacle, but something that you actually take on with you in your way of living and thinking, more as in the Gilles Deleuze's model and more concerned with agency.... In other words, we don't produce spectacles or representations. We are organizing things, so to speak...


- JPS: Yes, we're not in the business of spectacle, but of spatial-temporal entanglement, exactly, that's right, that's it. We're not at all in the 'society of spectacle', whereas Contemporary Art is nowadays 100% in this 'society of spectacle'. That's why there's a complete hiatus between my work and main stream Contemporary Art in general.


- NB: So, shouldn't we not accept Museum exhibitions anymore? Which are a kind of culmination, then, not all of them... And not to the extent that I'm going to say it, but I'm twisting the stick: 'temples of spectacle'?


- JPS: Yes, but factually, if you don't show your work, then that work doesn't and will never exist!


- NB: But are there no other places to exhibit your Art today?


- JPS: Well, no. No, there's no other place. For example, my work is fragile and I can't show it outside because Plexiglas is extremely fragile... No, for me, there are no other places. Unfortunately, no; we have to go through Galleries or Museums, or Art Centers and that's not a bad way in itself! My current exhibition had the merit of existing, and we shot a 360° video there, which is really superb. There will be some traces of it, after all?


- NB: And then there's the catalog...


- JPS: There's the catalog, with some very nice and interesting texts. Yes, it's not just a negative experience. Even if I'm a little disappointed by it, but I think it's the fate of all artists who have been alive at a given time period, which was of course the case for Van Gogh and a myriad of other artists during history etc. I told you the story about a farmer who nailed up a Van Gogh painting (Portrait of the doctor Félix Rey,1889) to fix a hole in his henhouse. So that's what Art stands for! At the Museum, they used my paintings to 'decorate' the staircases. And what's more with Art? Anyhow, I was able to film interviews with friends, like Thierry Savatier or Nicolas Surlapierre, and I also gave a talk there: 'Eros Unlimited', so all is not lost. But it could have had more guts, more scope and more ambition, if you like, because it's a work of great scope and it could have been a milestone…



- JPS: We're now moving on to a section on sexuality and eroticism, which are omnipresent themes in my work, as well as light, beauty, sexual and spiritual ecstasies. In a way, my work is subversive, one could say, and I wanted to quote a phrase by an author I don't really know, but his name is Francisco Alberoni, and he has this beautiful sentence on this matter, in Eroticism:


"There is, in man's eroticism, an anarchistic and antisocial component, an anxiety about his freedom that he himself admits with difficulty." 

And it's true that all my (very erotic) work is based on limits: how far can we go? What can we exhibit? Where can it be shown? Can it be shown in New York or in England? Where would my work be totally not exhibitable, to the point of being directly imprisoned, for example, if I was about to exhibit it in Iran. And, I'm thinking, here, strongly of the Iranian women who are fighting for their freedoms (WOMEN, LIFE, FREEDOM). It's really horrible what's going on over there, and we're lucky enough to be in living in France, where we can express ourselves more or less freely on this subject... So maybe I'll show a few visuals of my erotical works. This is the Bones, Ropes & Flowers series completed in 2015, I did a whole body of work on bondage, you see,  it's in fact a reflection on violence, the body, the presence of the body; the body is of course present in ecstasy, but it forgets about itself (annihilation of the ego). This is what's essential! There are three visuals, and this one is also with a pattern... And this is with a skull. And this is my latest series of the Karma-kali, Sexual Dreams & Paradoxes, which I will present at the very end of our interview. It's a series I did last year! Here, it's a woman ejaculating with sperm-spilling male sexes all around her, like this. I can say, it's difficult to put a real number on that, but let's say that maybe about 50 or 60% of the images I am using, are erotics one.

- NB: So, what makes you choose, at a given time period, call upon or rely mainly on this motif or this sexual subject... for your work's raw material? What, in quotation marks, justifies it, but not in the sense of justice? What actually justifies the fact of summoning and working with images where sexuality is so present, what can you tell us about this? 

- JPS: Yes, it's more a kind of KARMA-FORCE, more of an energy, that's what it is! I paint and describe more an energy: a primary, Vital Energy... Because without sex, of course, there's no Life. What shocks me is, when visiting Most museums in Europe, there are absolutely no scenes of sexual penetration. Whereas, if you go to India, even in the street, there are all the lingams and yonis that are representations of the interpenetration of the male and female sex. There's something essential that, for me, is desperately lacking in Western Art, of course (apart from pornography). In other words, historically, it seems as if Life is transcended or accepted, in artistic representations, only through the suffering and death of Christ... But I transcend Life through Life. And I don't need a God or anything else, because the body suffices itself, is self-sufficient and can transcend itself, that's all!


- NB: So, for you, in relation to this question of sexuality and its illustration into painting and Art, there's both this question of the idea, somewhere, of a freedom lost in our Western World, and the imagination and figuration, effectively, of sexual activity. There's the question of bondage, perhaps, which effectively comes back, on the question of working on limits and freedom…  which you've mentioned several times, the question of the relationship to suffering versus pleasure, which is there. And then, it seems to me, there's also the question of...? In any case, that's what I felt or saw, rightly or wrongly, in one of your lectures at the Fine-Arts Museum...

- JPS: Yes.

- NB: Pursuing the question of an extreme or all-out approach to sexuality, there's both the question, somewhere, of energy, which we could come and also, the question of the relationship to a pantheon of Gods or as something that would be under the sign of the sacred?

- JPS: Yes, possibly, yes. But perhaps and indeed intimacy is something sacred by itself? Yes, without a doubt! But sexuality is very beautiful, of course, yes... It's an unspeakably beautiful, yes! So why not talking about it freely and display it widely?

- NB: On the subject of energy, you often come back to energy. Could you define this question of energy a little more precisely?

JPS: Absolutely not! Can you define the Wind, the Sea and the Stars? No! No, I can't. It's a personal and intimate experience... Somewhere, you're in front of something or with someone and you feel that there's an energy, which is flowing! I often recount this anecdote: once, I was in New York at a party and, on the other side at the back of the room, I saw a very beautiful Indian woman. I went up to her and tell her: "But you've got such beautiful, extraordinary energy!" She replied: "Yes, but it takes two, in order to feel that kind of energy!" She was in fact a Hindu yogi. So in a way, I'm also on that right spiritual path, I'm on the same path as the Hindu yogis, but well, I'm doing this with my own small means, with my art and paintings and small prints, but I didn't have had any spiritual teaching. I went towards what inevitably attracted me: for example: Mayan women's woven tunics, attract me because they tell of the Cosmos and Colors… and also about their deep humility in front of Life, too... I strongly believe that one must remain humble in front of the greatness of Life in general. Although my work is a bit majestic and extraordinary, but it's always done on a daily basis and consists of small modules (1.05 x 1.05 m) that I assemble together to create a monumental art installation.

- NB: Which corresponds in part, or can be paralleled, with what you were saying about your relationship to the work of an artist? Is it also working on yourself? Or to put it another way, is it work on yourself with others? A work on you, in which you take on board other things, other beings… Or a job of boarding the viewer with you?

- JPS: Yes, because each and every time, of course... as a painting only exists when it's completed and looked at (importance of the viewer or the buyer!). It's a truism, It's stupid and simplistic to say that, but it's a reality. That is to say, especially in silk-screening on Plexiglas, as I work in reverse, without knowing what the end result will be, the last layer is the one that gives the final tone. As for, before I start printing, I put myself in a state of concentration. I'm talking to my father, my grandfather, the Earth, the Trees or the Flowers... It's not that I'm asking them to tell me what color to put on, but I need to be in harmony with myself, at this particular moment. If you like, it's true, you could say it's working on oneself, but being alive also means being aware of the World, of course. It's not about living alone. I'm not thinking about myself neither of my own asshole (like many other artists)... I'm thinking about the World as a whole... I'm thinking about beauty, Desire, Nature and exchanges; you're right, being an artist is a perpetual exchange, yes.

- NB: Does this refer to another word you also often use, which is VIBRATION?

- JPS: Yes, of course, yes, and I see it very well, because when people come to my studio, they each vibrate in front of certain paintings and not on others. And we each have our own vibrations scales at different times in our lives and also... thanks to or with, what happens to us during our lives: our failures, our successes, our encounters and so on. And, of course, as me, for example, I discovered Rothko's painting when I was only in my twenties and I discovered his painting on the cover of a book (and not into a Museum), and then it struck a chord within me. But it wasn't until then that I really felt moved by abstract art. And sometimes, you don't vibrate at all! In fact, some people will never vibrate at all during their entire lives. Because it's a blessing; for me, it's really a great blessing to vibrate, and as we say in English: 'It's a blessing and a curse'. In other words, we all have different sensitivities to Energies. For example, the images I collect and choose today are often found on Twitter and the Internet... Whereas before, in New York, I used to go to Museums and take photos, now I'm in Besançon, so I am collecting and gleaning my images much more on the Web. And as soon as I find an image that speaks to me, even if I don't really know why, maybe because of its energy, precisely; I put it aside, save it and work on it later... At the moment, this year, I haven't yet decided whether to work or not. I'm thinking about it and I do have a stock of maybe 5,000 pornographic images and other themes. And next season, when I've got the time and money, I'll choose a few images, redraw them, make it my own, so to speak and silkscreen them. I've got a gigantic corpus of images, and I like that. I'm a bit of a demiurge. I'll glean things and then use them.

- NB: You do, as you say, assemblage, you put things together...

- JPS: Yes, it's assemblage, but it's not collage. Because I don't like the term of collage at all, because then the images don't fit into each other (they don't merge), so I preferred the term 'fusion'.

- NB: Okay, and in your relationship to the question of sexuality, in the work you do, in a way... Maybe it'll shock you or bother you what I'm about to say, but there's a very heterosexual side to your work, in a way?

- JPS: Yes, but, it's what I am!

- NB: So, these questions of the relationship to energy and the possibility, indeed, of the relationship to the visible and the invisible, as well as building a relationship between the two, working with both... It doesn't correspond only; but I'm not saying that's what you meant... But they don't correspond only, necessarily, to a heterosexual energy, if I may ask so?

- JPS: Oh no, of course sexual energy is a whole and has is own energy (visual Greek erotic vase)! Yes, it's a whole, there's no need to differentiate them, not at all… As for me, I paint women because I really love women's bodies; if I had loved men, I'd paint men, but that's not the case! Wait and see, one never know! But I am crazy about women's bodies (their pussies and tits, etc.), yes! And to come back to what you said about shamans: they were often people who've endured a lot of suffering in their lives, who've been ill, who've almost died... So we can talk about experience after death too. I've had dreams like that, where I've gone into the light. And the other day, on France Inter, Stéphane Allix was talking about his book: Death doesn't exist, about this very subject, because he's done some long researches and collected numerous testimonials on that. It's very interesting, because we've all had more or less the same visual experience, the same journey, the same encounters... That is to say, little by little, we see the souls... personally, I saw the souls leaving the Earth and I entered into this vortex, this maelstrom of light, and then I woke up just before entering the Central Luminous Vortex, in this final fusion. It's really quite stunning and magnificent! Then again, was it a dream, an illusion or a hallucination? In any case, many people have had this experience! So, shamans have had this experience of death because, very often, in trances, you die. In order to be reborn and be transformed into something else and new (the animals spirits). Yes, that's it: Birth, Death, Rebirth...

- NB: That exactly what do you reported in one of your texts about a trance? You become a skeleton etc.

- JPS: Yes, absolutely, so let's talk about the shamanic journeys I made in New York. So, it's in the catalog of the exhibition at La Ferme de Flagey (Ornans, Courbet Museum) that I'll be showing into the video! So, it's about going on a spiritual path:


"I lay in a sunny field, crossed the wooden bridge and climbed the mountain path."

There's always a kind of elevation in every shamanic trances.

"In the middle of the path I met an Ant; then there were thousands; they ate my flesh and organs, and when my skeleton was all clean and white, they left me; then came a Snake that nestled in my belly to lay its eggs. These Snakes are supposed to protect me from the Lion who wants to eat my skeleton." 

Well, it's a bit trippy, but that's what really happened...

"I passed through a vortex of energy and was bathed in an Ocean of yellow light. Then I found myself simultaneously in the matrices of 4 Women of different races; they were there to protect me; they changed my skeleton into a crystal; I think they were holding the 4 canopies of the ancient Egyptians with my 4 main organs. Then they each placed themselves at a cardinal point of my body: on the right shoulder is the Yellow Woman, on the left shoulder is the Blue Woman, on the right leg is the Red Woman, on the left leg is the Black Woman. They placed a crystal in my chest and rebuilt my flesh. I was bathed in green light."

Then I also wrote a small statement:

"What's important in my work is Color and Lights. Images and symbols are the carriers of dreams and actors of the sacred. I've experienced, during shamanic trances, a place where you can meet the spirits; my paintings are souvenirs of these rare and beautiful encounters."
JPS, Notes from New York, February 2005

So there you have it: it's true that you can't really understand my work without knowing that I've been somewhat 'initiated' into these trances and that I've experienced them personally. I've encountered these energies and lights... It's a bit of a personal experience, but then, you can do what ever you like with it, it is a gift! Did you want to comment on that?


- NB: No, I think it's great! It makes a pretty nice transition for the next time, with the question of your work; with the colors, and everything we'd noticed: graphics, colors and images...


- JPS: Perfect! Thank you so much, Noël, for coming here today, for this wonderful interview, and thanks also to Lionel who's behind the cameras etc So see you soon, we'll try to film the part two next week, with great pleasure... 


- NB: It's been a real pleasure!


- JPS: Thanks a lot!





- JEAN-PIERRE SERGENT : Hello everybody and hello dear Noël.

- NOËL BARBE: Hello dear Jean-Pierre.

- JPS: Thanks again for all the time you take to work on these interviews together. We're now arriving to the second part, because we filmed the first part on September 1, 2023 and today is September 15, and you wanted to develop a few ideas that we didn't have time to develop the first time we met. Perhaps you'd rather talk about violence, because it's a recurring theme in my work and you'd like to bring it up?


- NB: Yes, we started talking about violence after our visit to the Besançon Fine-Arts Museum, on a double idea, there's a fairly basic idea, if I may say so, which is a kind of observation, that the World is violent and that your work, both of our works, develop and build in the context of a violent World, that's perhaps the first thing. And the second thing that came up in our discussions was the idea that your painting was violent somehow. Or at least, that some people can feel it as a violent, it seems to me. The questions I was asking myself around this issue of violence and, perhaps in relation to the World in which we live, in this violent World; violence has several intensities, it also has several levels of action, of effectiveness and what struck me a little in your work was the relationship, ultimately, to some non-Western Worlds, in a general, global context, of our World which was and still is, a colonial World altogether. And how do you actually play with that, or negotiate with it? I mean, we're all negotiating with that, with situations that aren't necessarily easy, so how are you getting along with problem?


- JPS: Yes, it's a difficult and terrible question, and how can I really answer it? I negotiate with this problem, because I find; well, I can't say that I really find solutions, but I find some societies in which violence was much more integrated and where it was much more ritualised and organised (and therefore more acceptable), if you like. Whereas today is a time when violence cannot be said to be ritualised as chaos and violence are the despair of Humanity. Poor people are dying in the streets... Yes, it's terrible what's happening today, and almost all of us are feeling as 'left behind'! And we talked a little about the testimony of Davi Kopenawa (Amazonian shaman), who visited New York where he said that the poor homeless were all, dying in the streets, abandoned, and moreover; we no longer have the structures to integrate the whole of Life and all the Living Beings. In other words, we have gone 'elsewhere'. This idea of capitalism sends us directly and inexorably down the line, as if on straight tracks into a sort of terminal apocalypse. And in fact, I wanted to quote him at the end of our interview: it's like in Werner Herzog's beautiful film Where the Green Ants Dream (1984), in which there's a guy, a homeless man, who says in this film that it's much better to be in the very last wagon of the train than in the first one, because Civilization is in the process of spitting itself out completely. And the strange thing is, we're living it to the fullest today - it's an undeniable reality! We're now in 2023, and every day there are climatic events that show us that we've gone too far down the wrong path. And perhaps, I like to pay homage to all those Cultures that lived life differently, in pre-colonial eras... After all, maybe it's just an illusion, maybe it's just a vain dream, a bit 'ARTISTIC'! And everyone's sensible had that dream. But I think it's important to reintegrate the 'natural' violence somehow: the violence of sexuality, the violence of death, the relationship to the dead, the relationship to sex... all of which must be present into my art, and that's, maybe, what makes its strength!


- NB: One of the difficulties for anthropology, at least in its history, is to escape this colonial relationship. Let me give you an example: Museums, in any case Anthropology Museums, or other Museums for that matter, are sometimes full of masks. And in the history of these objects, we realize that the Western gaze has focused mainly on the geometric organization of these masks and then, for example, when they arrived in the West; what anthropologists or museographers did; was, for example, to remove all the feathers they had on them, which had a ritual meaning for those who used them. By removing all those feathers, in fact, that were on the masks, so as to access a purer, stripped-down geometric and aesthetical form that interested them more. And doing so, for me, has remained a kind of black mark, somehow, and at the same time, you have to face it... It's a black mark on the history of anthropology in the relationship it has built up with the World and with other Worlds. In other words, it has sometimes behaved like an extractivist discipline. In other words, it effectively extracts things from a World in which they had a meaning, with the paradox that we're also trying to understand that previous meaning. And at the same time, we bring them back into the Western World, stripping them of the attributes, that gave them their true meanings. So there's a kind of contradiction there, I think, in this relationship with other worlds that the West constructs, and from which it's hard to escape. And so the violence is also there, somewhere, in this relationship, to those 'First Worlds'... Which, sometimes, we make say, as in the case of masks... we make them say things; in any case, we grasp them under a reading grid that is not the reading grid that corresponded to the profound meaning they previously had in 'primitive' societies.


- JPS: Of course, yes, that's obvious! But in order to understand these 'Tribal Art works', such as the Yupik masks from the West Coast of the US; they are often articulated masks and they open like this, uncovering successive layers (with interlocking human and animal figures); and you can't understand them without having personally experienced some shamanic trance or being initiated. Because in the masks, there is for example: the Man, behind him, there's the Fish, there's the Whale and there's the Eagle in the end (the animal spirit guides)! It's all build as a shamanic interlocking and well, for Africa it must be about the same thing, maybe we call it something different. But of course, you can't understand a mask without talking to the 'spirits'. And of course, feathers are undoubtedly antennae for communicating with those 'spirits'. And we can't grasp that, because we are only talking about aesthetics, this stupid Western aesthetic has reduced and diminished Art for centuries; it has removed all the power out of these ritual objects! And it's a bit the same for my work somehow. People only look at it from a purely aesthetic point of view, thinking of a painting by I don't know who? Let's say a Fragonard painting's, for example, but there's absolutely no connection at all! As, in other words, I'm in the KARMA-FORCE, I'm in an energy flow and, inevitably, there's a dissociation between aesthetics and energy (because it doesn't depend solely on human aesthetic's), there's something that doesn't fit and that's exactly where there's the hiatus between the public and my work... I'm going to take the liberty of presenting a few visuals of violent works of Art, not just only from 'Tribal Art', just randomly, so we can talk about it together; because the first scene I think of, when we talk about violence, is the Well Scene from Lascaux. You see... There's a Bison with a Shaman who's ithyphallic, and there's also a Bird on a pole. And this scene is very famous. Georges Bataille described it well in his book Lascaux, the Birth of Art. And what does it mean? Personally, I think it's a Shaman in a state of trance, but also, the Bison is badly damaged, it's losing its guts and it's going to die. Of course: "LIFE ALWAYS FEEDS ON LIFE!" It's an inescapable reality and we can't take it out of our world. I also had a painting by Caravaggio of Judith beheading Holofernes. This is the violence of mythology, of male-female vengeance; it's also the violence, perhaps, of society, the violence of social conflict. This painting is magnificent, but it still makes us feel a little uncomfortable. And of course, there's Matthias Grünewald's Christ of the Resurrection, which I haven't seen, but which I must go and see soon. It has to be said that almost all Western art is based on the violence of the scene of the crucified Christ on the cross... And all that suffering for that... For almost nothing ? it's terrible, it's even very inadequate and inappropriate, somewhere. It's frightening to think that death will save us from life, give us life again. I think it's a total error, a misunderstanding of Life. Here we have Goya's Disasters of War etching. It's the same thing: we can watch this, because we're not the ones who are killed or raped, we're the outside spectators and we're ALIVE. And we're watching these scenes of rape which are, in a way, eroticized, since we're not involved (which makes us more alive than the dead). And maybe what's disturbing about my work is that people are obliged to be part of it, that's all... I'm going to show some drawings by Egon Schiele, too. In Schiele's work, there's always this mortifying anguish in front of the body, and at the same time, this raw, unrefined sexuality, just as it is in real life… One can't talk about overflowing, pleasurable sexuality, because one can almost feel an uneasiness, a shame in the body and in its necessary, vital sexuality. Things you wouldn't feel in other 'pagan' or 'animist' cultures...


- NB: And then, perhaps to go back to Lascaux, because indeed, the question that arises around this scene, which could be a hunting scene... I find it quite telling too. So, if we imagine, for example, that we're between this Shaman and this Buffalo, if it's a hunting scene?


- JPS: Or both!


- NB: Yes, so are we really in a violent situation? If we consider, if we say to ourselves that, in this scene, the Bison isn't taken, as we can take Animals today, it's taken in another way... With another ontology, to put it like that. In the end, if we make the connection between this Scene of the Well in Lascaux and what I was saying about the masks… and what we can say about your painting, if we make a quick line like that, isn't the violence, in the end, is of being taken for what we're not? If we say to ourselves that the Bison is not an animal in the sense we understand it today, but an Animal Spirit, and that there is an exchange, somewhere, that takes place between the Shaman and the Bison. In other words, there's a kind of reciprocity there. The fact that you say that your painting isn't necessarily understood means that you're taken for what you're not, in some way... Because the violence is there too, of course?


- JPS: It's absolutely true, yes, you're talking about the violence of the viewer who rejects my art work to some extent. Yes, it's true, it's violence, but maybe it's just stupidity and ignorance, or maybe it's fear too? Because I talk about things that perhaps disturb and frighten people (Pleasure, Death and Sexuality). All Art that interests me, could disturb, like here for example, I've chosen a few works of Mexican Art: I find this statue magnificent, because you can see the organs hanging out of it. It's a Priest, a Shaman, who goes beyond Death. It's a bit pretentious to say that, but I really hope that my work is also too! And all these cultures went beyond Death. And here we see Aztecs piercing their tongues. Contrary to what one might think, Mesoamerican societies practiced a great deal of self-sacrifice (and not only human sacrifices), as you can read in Bernardino de Sahagun's General History of Things in New Spain, book's were he recounts the lives, the countless feasts, the rituals and the self-sacrifices that the Aztec priests and elite imposed upon themselves. They were in their monasteries or on their pyramids and during the night, perhaps every two or three hours, they would wake up (just like the monks in the Cistercian abbeys) and pierce their tongues for the women or their penises for the men, to regenerate the Worlds and feed the Gods. In this particular moments, they could recreate links with the Worlds (the underworld, the infra-worlds, the world of ancestors and spirits, etc.). One could call it sacred, or say that they were just poor, enlightened morons...  But somehow, de facto, they belonged to the World and the Cosmos, and it's this belonging that I want to talk about too. Here, we see accurately a priest piercing his penis in order to enter into a trance and meet with the Cosmic Snake Quetzalcóatl, the Feathered Serpent. The pain allowing him to switch reality, at a certain point in time and to some extent, to speak to the spirits, quite simply... And there you have it.


- NB: It's a kind of expansion of the Worlds and new relationships with other Beings.


- JPS: Yes, even an expansion of Nature, because Nature is much more than what we can see of it, at least for Shamans and Shepherds! (ref. the book Serpent of stars by Jean Giono) 


- NB: For Shamans, yes. And in your work too?


- JPS: Yes, I do hope so, but do I succeed or not? The question remains? 


- NB: The question remains because, once again, I'm discovering your work as we talk together. So, it seems to me that what you're doing, the way you talk about it, the way you write about your work, is that we're less in the register of the 'image', or at any rate in the representation of something, of the image of an absent prototype that would come to evoke it, that would come to summon it, but rather in something that comes to equip lines of escape in relation to our World and say that it comes to reintroduce other possible relationships to the World, other forms of attention to the World; that could allow us; you mentioned capitalism at the start of our interview, which might enable us to escape, or in any case, to step aside from what's coming down on us so violently, in real life!


- JPS: Yes, absolutely, that's true. Yes, I'm anti-capitalist by nature. Yes, of course, I'm an anarcho-communist. It's true, as Jean Malaurie so aptly put it. In fact, that when you look at all these ancient peoples who have survived with such difficulty... because they lived, for some of them, at the end of the known world (for the West) and in places that were not always liveable and often hostile, like the Indians of Tierra del Fuego: the Selknams, the Yámanas and the Alacalufes etc., who lived in boats and they took their fire into their canoe and they were able to survive for millennia, a good ten thousand years. And then we, the Westerners arrived, including English hunters who killed them like rabbits. With this lack of respect for diversity and, above all, thanks to its technology, as the West always thinks he is right no matter what. And actually nowadays, we have reached a certain tipping point, that is to say, inevitably, when everything and the economy was running well, you know like in the 60s and 70s etc., when everything seemed to be going well... Although some Americans, including certain artists, writers like Ginsberg, Burroughs or Kerouac had already understood that the World had entered its declining period, that's all. But maybe they understood long before we did, because in France, what did we have? The 'nouveau roman' and that was it! You hear what I mean: we had absolutely no awareness of the real state of the World, despite the Cold War? And maybe by living in the United States, I became fully aware that this World was deteriorating at breakneck speed and that I wanted, not to save it, but to talk about it and bear witness to it...


- NB: But, when you say that everything was going well?


- JPS: Yes, for some, that was the case, for Western countries in particular, to explain and clarify, that's all.


- NB: And then, no doubt, for some of the Western countries, for some members or some components of the Western countries, because we had this sort of illusion, effectively, that everything was going well, was also achieved at the cost of the lives of human beings whom we despised.


- JPS: Yes, with colonialism, of course. But today, the 'King is naked', in other words, everything is coming to the surface... And we're surprised. We shouldn't be, but we are a little surprised of the terrible state of degradation of the World and our Planet!


- NB: That's another reason why your work is violent. 


- JPS: Yes, it's a bit of a revealing mirror.


- NB: Yes, it is a bit revealing. It also says that, it seems to me; a state of the World, which is not very delightful, to tell the truth. A state of the World that we know will undoubtedly end badly and violently. When we talk about violence, violence has already begun, it's always there...


- JPS: Yes, but the World is not comfortable. The World is not something comfortable. And I always remember that I was in New York in 2001, at the time of the terrorist attack, and the year after I had an exhibition at Taller Boricua, which is a Puerto Rican Art Space. I was in the car with the director, Fernando Salicrup, because we'd gone to buy some lamps, and I told him: "It's really shocking what had happened!" Then, he replied: "But Jean-Pierre, the World has always been like that!" You see... So, it's true that in Europe, some of us survived the two World Wars, but we had soon forgot all about it. And it's almost normal, somewhere, for human beings, for the living, to forget... Because, otherwise, the weight of History would be terrible. Would it? But then what?


- NB: Perhaps, yes, the weight of history is always there, somewhere, or in any case, the past is always summoned, differently, depending on who summons it. But the World is not a comfortable place, we agree on that, the World is not comfortable!


- JPS: Well, that will be the end of this part on violence, thank you. 





- JPS: Dear Noël, we wanted to do a short section on Art, so we'll be talking about Art and a little about Contemporary Art too, and the state of the Art Market, which are big topics, but we're not going to bog down the whole video on that neither, because we could do a 24 hours interview on that specific matters. But I wanted to start with a little phrase that I really like. It's from Mankiewicz's famous 1963 Cleopatra movie, starring Lyz Taylor and Richard Burton, where Caesar says: "Why are the eyes of statues always lifeless?" And this sentence really fundamentally poses the question of Art: is Art an ersatz for Life? Or does Art manage, at some point, to reintegrate Life and develop energies that are 'healing', that can heal us, that can enchant us? It's a big question, and it's clear that today, as we've often talked about together, we've reached a Culture that's a levelling down, like an anti-life space. There's no longer any more ethics in Contemporary Art, which functions only with and thanks to its more or less transgressive and provocative function, or with a profoundly insipid Art... (we'll be quoting Jeff Koons in a moment, of course), but almost like everything else around us. Because, somewhere along the line, everything becomes tasteless; it's just mashed potatoes: only for old people with money and without any judgment, nor culture, it's terrible and horrible as well… Everything is  politically correct and purchasable by the most ordinary of people, standing out from the other quidams because those very rich people, who are buying Art; just stand out because they can buy in Auction Houses, works at a million, two million or three million dollars or euros, etc....


- NB: Indeed, we could mention Jeff Koons, which could be an extension of what you've just said! On Koons, there's this 'superb' sentence, I think, obviously at the second degree: "My work is fighting the need for a critical function of Art and seeks to abolish judgment so that one can look at the World as it is and accept it." So, perhaps this quote shouldn't be taken to mean more than what it does: that we're dealing with a quote of circumstance, imbued with pure cynicism in relationship to his work, in relation to the World. In my opinion, two things are at stake here: the question of distance from the World, that we can look at the World, that we do look at it...


- JPS: Yes, we don't really live in it anymore, we just watch it and remain only spectators of it!


- NB: We are not active, we are just looking at it, we are subjected to it, you're facing its image, kind of, somewhere... it's a perfect illustration of Guy Debord's (Society of the spectacle); in other words, instead of being in the World, you're looking at this World as an image. That's what Koons is saying. And then, there's also the question of acceptance; that is, roughly speaking, Art no longer has a critical function, in any case; his art is what he says: "my art has no critical function".  accept the world and be happy, just as it is!  


- JPS: So does capitalism! 


- NB: That's what we were talking about earlier, the state of the World. And at the same time, there's a kind of double thing going on; there's both, effectively, a will to separate, as it were, Art and the World, and 'at the same time', if I may say so, to use a Macronian (French president) sentence that I love...! And 'at the same time', it gives to Art a role within the World. It's this paradoxical side that Art plays a role; at the same time; the aim of which would be to enable us to detach ourselves from the World itself, to look at Art only insofar as it is detached from this World. A sort of thing like that, which pile up, which articulate, which are there, present. And I find that, in the end, what's at stake in relation to what you were talking about... In relation to Koons, I had images of his famous series of bags, created with Vuitton (2017), on which he reproduces, copy, borrows, summons up... images of ultra-recognised painters like Van Gogh... And he even made another one with Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and so on. The whole collection was inaugurated at a huge and prestigious banquet in the Louvre. One might well also ask what is the role of Museums is in this respect too... Inaugurated at the Louvre, with some rather wealthy people, who actually belong to the World of Great Fortunes! And so, what's at stake here, finally, this sort of fusion, in a way, or this articulation between what is, let's say, Koons or Contemporary Art; whatever you name it and the luxury industry, raises questions. In other words, Art's ultimate aim is to do branding; to build a strong and universally recognisable image of products, to participate in their distribution... It's maybe the first thing? And then, this idea, which we've mentioned several times earlier: 'the damned part' (of Georges Bataille)


- JPS : Yes, it's true.


- NB: Which would means that this sort of accointance between Art and Luxury, that would leads us to something on the side of the superfluous. In other words, there would be... de facto, luxury is already defined by this: it's a superficiality... That's where we're at, and somewhere along the line, it assigns or summons and pulls Art to that side, to the side of the superfluous and the useless, so to speak... And in all this, Koons stands out, even if he's not the only one at the same time… But in the end, there's a kind of Koons paradigm like that, both of summoning the image of a painting reduced to an image on a bag, with the double signature: Louis Vuitton and Koons, and then a reproduction of the rabbit, to open and close the bags...


- JPS: Yes, the brand name, yes, yes!


- NB: In the end, we're into something that speaks for itself. So, the question that arises at this point, I think, in relation to the question of Art, is, in which side are we on? Are we on the side of the victors or the vanquished? Are we on the side of Art as seen by Koons, Pinault and Arnault, or are we on the side, for example, of Art as it can be reworked in other ways in some protest movements, which escape, so to speak, the systems of the Art that are, the International Art Market with, in fact, galleries, museums, big exhibitions, with big names as curators, who also, in one way or another, can question us a lot?


- JPS: Of course, and to continue, I'm going to quote a little passage from an article, but before I do, I'll start with a small quote from Andy Warhol: 

"Being good at business is the most fascinating kind of Art. Making money is Art and working is Art and good business is the best of Art."

So it's the real truth that buying Art today is the simplest and most profitable way to make a lot of money, easily and in a very short time period - for the very rich, of course! Here's what's explained in an article I read last year, in La Gazette des Arts, on June 22, 2022, just after the start of the Ukrainian War. It talks about the selling price of some really young artists' artworks into auctions, because there's also a site called Artprice that lists every time one artist sells a work in an Auction House, it's listed there, in Artprice. They know exactly who's selling, what and for how much? This article was written by: 


"When even five years ago, a young artist was taking his first steps in the auction house at around $10,000..."

Ten thousand euros, is about the price at which I sell my own Plexiglas paintings.

"Today, it's not uncommon to see starting selling prices at around $300,000 - $500,000."

Today! So, that is to say that within less than ten years, it's multiplied by about hundred times, so to speak!

"However, we believe that inflation will work in the Art Market's favour, in the same way as for fine watches, jewellery, yachts and luxury cars; this one is more secure than the financial markets, shaken by the war in Ukraine."

So, Art escapes every bad news and so people invest and speculate in it; well, that's not a bad thing in itself and somewhere, it also creates wealth! I'm not shouting about it; I'm just saying that, we artists, who aren't part of this Market can hardly exhibit nor sell our works, because it has no price value into the Art Market. And so, if you're not quoted in Auction Houses like, for example, my paintings. I can put their price at five thousand, I can put them at a thousand, I can put them at forty thousand, in fact, nobody really buys them. Price doesn't really matter and doesn't have any sense anymore! Because, as long as you haven't entered this fucking Market, this financial system, you have no existence as an artist. And that's the reason why I absolutely have to show and exhibit my work. That's why I showed it at the Besançon Fine Arts & Archeology Museum. It didn't really help me, but hey! that's really and truly what's going on for art and artists nowadays!


- NB: To echo your quote, I have another one, by Aude de Kerros:


"The work and its value are the result of the holy arbitrary declaration of the network that makes it, which constitutes a chain of production and distribution. The extraordinary virtues of contemporary art are those of secure financial derivatives, reserved for the very high end of the market, of cross-border liquidity unencumbered by the constraints of the state, the law or the bank, of a disembodied, global currency. Contemporary art is both an institutional and a financial utopia...".


- JPS: Yes, it is absolutely true!


- NB: In this question that you were also asking, I think, last time, in relation to this quote then, you have to believe in the 'magical' value of Art (The Golden Calf) somewhere, in any case, for those who circulate a form of belief, effectively, in the value of Art; that we can discuss, anyway, what we call 'works', we can make the connections between this belief or we can call it something else... This idea that a work of art has a value, and that you're ready to put a lot of money into it; speculating on it, but not only, sometimes... But in a way, we can also say that the relationship with money is in the same kind. In order for a currency to work, one have altogether to believe in the value of that currency, so I thought this connection was also quite significant in terms of our relationship with things.


- JPS: Yes, this relationship is equal, absolutely, yes! But I'm ready also to show part of the relationship between Art and politicians, also because we haven't talked about it enough. I've been thinking about it... because today, there's also one thing that has forced and implied, de facto, the total disengagement of Art from the public sphere; it's that nobody, or at least politicians, need artists anymore, as they did in the days of Popes, Princes and Kings! The most striking counterexample is Napoleon, the David's Coronation of Napoleon painting. And in those days, photography didn't exist of course; painters were essential to power! So, only writers, other than painters, could have described Napoleon, self-consecrating himself. So, to tell you the truth, I don't even understand why there are still Art Schools today, because it's not at all profitable for societies! It's really superfluous, as we've already talked about, and this ambiguous relationship... As for religion, because religion has provided a living for so many artists... But well, religion is disappearing now, so there's no need for artists, only rich people need artists today. But now I'd like to show a few artists who have created Worlds that have to do with the imaginary and dreams. Here, we have The Dream from Douanier Rousseau, a magnificent painting of a woman lying naked on a sofa and paradoxically in the middle of a jungle! It's completely anachronistic and out of place, it's also completely... I don't really like the term "surrealist", but maybe the term "magical", although I don't really like it neither, but there's something of that in this painting! And then there are the wild, bewildered and curious looks of the animals: their desires towards the naked woman... Also with those big flowers, depicted like that... And they're not lost paradises, they're paradises he had recreated and reinvented. We artists are a kind of 'paradise creators'. This is The Tree of Paradise by Séraphine de Senlis also, with her magnificent paintings, in which she mixed blood and I don't know what else into, to create her 'secret magic formula' of paint, and it's equally magnificent. These are other over-augmented Universes... And here, I wanted to talk about Mark Rothko, for showing the dimension of its canvases and those of other American painters... Because, in my work, it's often hard to understand why it's so big and monumental! But when I arrived in Montreal, I realized that there was another dimension. Space had a different scale in America, and you can see that Americans painted monumental pictures, over three meters high and so on. Like this one, by Barnett Newman, which measures 5.40 m and is at the MOMA in New York. It's a magnificent canvas, too, in which you can enter and melt into the color bodily. And I really want the viewer to reintegrate color and the image into my work and have an intimate, bodily experience, as we've already talked about, just as within Pollock drippings, it's a photo you suggested. And this is The Deep, a painting at Beaubourg Museum where you can see that it's a representation of a woman's sex (a vulva) and Pollock ejaculates on this woman's sex (spermic painting), it's magnificent! I don't know if everyone will see it that way? But it's rightly titled The Deep... And I also wanted to mention Caspar Friedrich, a German Romantic painter whom I didn't like that much. A friend of mine had given me a book about this painter long time ago. I thought it was a bit mawkish, but in the end, on closer inspection, there's a notion of extreme loneliness and infinity in his work (Chalk cliffs on the island of Rügen)... and perhaps of nostalgia, of a World that's disappearing? But at the same time, Nature is there, comforting and present, some how, in these paintings. So that's what I wanted to show you!


- NB: Are you a nostalgic person? 


- JPS: I've been extremely lucky in my life to experience some very, very intense moments! So, inevitably, I think about them from time to time… So, obviously, yes, I'm a bit nostalgic... Because, between us, of course, this video will be broadcast... As it's true that living in Besançon compared to New York it is not the same scale! At the same time, I love the City and Life here! But there's absolutely no feedbacks on the art you are doing. It's like living with the walking dead, the zombified...! Yes, because there's definitely no interactions between you and the public, and that's what really deeply shocked me and even when I came back, every time, coming from New York, landing in Geneva, in London a little less so, but also in Vienna, you arrive and PFOUHHHH... The energy is gone, lost, disappeared. I once discussed about this matter at length with a friend, Gabriela Eigensatz, who was cultural attaché Swiss in NY, in her beautiful office near Parc Avenue, and she told me: "But Jean-Pierre, the whole of Europe is extremely sad!" And it's true that I had felt it, but had never put it into words. And in New York, we're not sad. I kind of miss that joie de vivre, yes! And I really hope one can feel the joy and vibrations of Life into all my artworks!


- NB: Earlier, you mentioned Napoleon and the painting of his coronation. Finally, you mentioned one of the functions that Art has had at a given moment, namely: Court's Art… to put it very quickly. Let's just say that the idea that those with power or some power also needed to be represented as Men of Power, and that this perhaps also helped to reinforce their power, no doubt about that!


- JPS: Yes, it was essential! The Church wouldn't exist without all the religious images. You can't go and colonize, Christianize and change people's religion, if there isn't a whole panoply, a corpus of images of Christ on the cross, the Virgin Mary, and tutti quanti... So this iconography was eminently essential because without it; because these were people who couldn't read 'our language' so, that was the sine qua non condition of the very existence of the Church, to have and distribute images.


- NB: But then, aren't we trapped by the very meaning of the word 'Art'?


- JPS: Perhaps, yes, no doubt, but I don't have another word for it, and it encompasses many things, of course. But for me, Art implies a kind of grandiosity and also... a kind of spiritual greatness and then also, some generosity. I like generous people, I like people who go beyond the conventional framework, yes, that's it!


- NB: The relationship with Art is and has also been hateful, or at least among those who, as we've mentioned in part, have only a commercial relationship or a political and appropriative relationship to it. But what I want to say is: isn't the word Art is a trap somewhere and somehow?


- JPS: Yes, but 'So what!' You need words to talk about and define things... Well, then... 


- NB: Yes, you need words, but Descola, for example, talk about 'figuration' instead of Art?


- JPS: So, if you've got time to waste and want to think for twenty hours to find out and redefine another word, then, afterwards, we just "try to fuck the flies"… I think that when one talks about Art, everyone understand what it means. As well as you can talk about Aboriginal Art, Japanese Art or Egyptian Art, and so on… It's an all-encompassing term. It's like when you talk about Life, you can't dissociate anything from it. I don't know, maybe?


- NB: Yes, but what about Art, if we could have talked about it to the people who painted the walls of prehistoric caves?


- JPS: But none of that was dissociated at that time, because then, maybe, professions had not yet been separated yet, it came much more later with the political organisation of the big structures of societies.


- NB: What I mean is that the word Art, in fact, introduces dissociation as an autonomous part...


- JPS: Yes, but like any language, every language and definition is partial and fragmentary... And the word Art, in Germany, will probably not have the quite same meaning, as here, in France. You see, it's a never-ending debate! We have to communicate, and I wouldn't waste too much time thinking about it... Pursuing my thought, I'd like to quote a Nietzsche's sentence on this subject: "We hear only those questions to which we are able to provide an answer." 
That's exactly it, and that's why people don't really understand my work, because they don't have the deciphering skills to understand what I'm saying, what I'm painting. And likewise, you say, Art! So, each time and for each person and each artist, we'd have to reinvent a different, personal definition! So we're not out of the woods yet!


- NB: No, it's a way of saying that the word "Art" comes from a particular historical configuration: It belongs to the Western World, for the most part, and so this word, too, has been transported to other Worlds, or has been transported into our way of looking at things, or trying to understand things... Which comes back to what Nietzsche says that, roughly speaking, we look at things insofar in the way we are able of responding to what they're telling us!


- JPS: Absolutely, yes. That's it, we're prisoners of the definition of a word, that's all; we're prisoners of it!


- NB: And, in my opinion, it's not just a case of "fucking the flies", it's about thinking that, by grasping the World with other words, maybe we could understand it differently?


- JPS: Yes, that's obvious! But as long as one don't have the intimate experience of Death or Sexuality etc... we don't really understand anything about the World! Yes, I think it's the intimate experience, it's the body that makes its experiences there, with Art too! Why do I feel good in Pollock's paintings? Or why do I feel good in Aztec Art? Because my body feels good in it. Art, it's a bodily and intimate experience too! So; indefinable with words, we forget about it; because it's not just an aesthetic or intellectual experience. I wanted to end this section by quoting Thomas Bernhard; it's a book that everyone should absolutely read, called: Old Masters; you'd have to read the whole book, but he says this: 

"Painters did not paint what they should have painted, but only what they were commissioned to paint, or what brought them money or fame." 

Or both at the same time! In other words, that's what Art History and that's what Western Art are all about. If you go to Museums, the works have been painted for Churches, princes and the powerful (today, bankers and collectors!) and so on. But on the other hand, there's Caravaggio, for example, who has come out on top. There's Rembrandt, too, because there was a great and beautiful spiritual presence in his paintings, or Vermeer of course! But most of the others painted essentially for the bourgeoisie or the kings, and that was it! And to paint for these people is interesting, it makes you eat, of course... So you can pay your rent, you can have wives, buying houses, having children and mistresses etc… But where's the part of freedom left? And is this really the way of the artist? I don't know... Are there true and essential artists? Are there fake artists? Who cares anyhow? We do what we want to do, that's it! Yes, thank you!





- JPS: Let's start this part that you wanted to talk about, that you suggested me and what you wanted to name: "THE END OF THE WORLDS", on which we've already talked about a little, so we'll be discussing everything that's happening to us collectively nowadays. But firstly, I was thinking: what are the World and Society offering us today? We've already said it, but it is: Money, Pornography and the destruction of Nature (pollution)! On the other hand, paradoxically, a kind of sacred persists only thanks to 'money' and the 'golden calf' we've been talking about with Contemporary Art being one of the most striking example. But the SOUL has totally disappeared... And I wanted to quote two texts talking about this, because there's a very nice text by Maurice Maetterlinck titled The awakening of the Soul, the treasure of the humble, in which he says the following: 


"There really are centuries when the soul goes back to sleep and no one worries about it anymore. [...] On the other hand, there are perfect centuries where intelligence and beauty reign very purely, but where the soul does not show itself at all. Thus, it is very far from Greece and Rome and the French 17th and 18th centuries."

This is absolutely true and I totally share that sentiment.

"We don't know why, but something isn't there; secret communications are cut off, and beauty turns a blind eye. It's very difficult to put this into words and say why the atmosphere of divinity and fatality that surrounds Greek dramas doesn't resemble the true atmosphere of the soul." 

And I have this very, very strong feeling, although unfortunately I've never had the opportunity to travel to Greece, a little to Italy; but it is true, that the soul has totally disappeared nowadays, whereas this soul, I felt it in Egypt, I felt it in Mexico or among the Mayas of Guatemala, where there was something that was present, as he says: we don't know why, but among us in the West: "secret communications have disappeared". And, that's what I'm trying to recreate in my work, these 'secret communications', like rhizomes, a bit like the mycelia of mushrooms, which communicate with each other... And, in a way, this could be the primary,  absolute and ultimate role of Art, somewhere.

- NB: Listening to you and thinking back to what we've exchanged on the question of the End of Worlds, we could come back to this expression, perhaps? Personally, I'd say that Jean-Pierre Sergent is the artist or the painter who, in a way, intends to rebuilt Worlds. In any case, to make up for the absence you've just mentioned, there's something missing today, and so this question of making up for absence, I think you raise it in your work and in what you say about it. Finally, as we were saying, there's a kind of ontological desire in your work; that is, the idea of remaking, even I don't know if we can, really, remake things, but to fully create a World (redistributing the cards) where relations to other Beings, Beings being understood in a very broad sense, to other Beings, in a way, that would be different from us, from this World, in which we are. For me, this is what your work is all about too: it is rebuilding, constructing, building another ontology of the relationship to Beings. I'd like to dwell on a few things that may surprise you, I don't know? I wanted to come back to the question of pornography, because it's a question that arises through your work; pornography, with this word that is ultimately a polysemic word too, it's also a word that is sometimes attributed to your work?

- JPS: Yes, that's true!

- NB: People sometimes say that your work is pornographic. I don't think that's quite the same sense in which you use it, but if we follow this idea, ultimately, of pornography, it also seems to me that we fall in a way on this question of absence or separation. In a way that pornography would be the representation of genitalia, of sexual scenes, without contexts in which they could make sense, is a kind of reduction, in a way, to something that would be of the order of, I don't know how to qualify it.... But a reduction, effectively to a single idea, existing, out of context as it were. And I'm thinking that when you use the word pornography to characterize the Contemporary World, it's not just in the sexual meaning of the term, it's in a more general way, can you elaborate a little on that? 

- JPS: Well, yes, pornography has many facets, as does Violence, but I think we explored on that a little earlier. Yes, the destruction of the World (with all the images of wars and climatic disasters) is pornographic and of an infinite violence. But I don't want to go into it with too much details, because I'd like to come back to the 'End of the Worlds'. As today we're the 'Last of the Mohicans', so to speak! And it's true. You know, when we were young, we used to dream about Native Americans people and so on… But practically all those numerous Tribes have disappeared. I didn't answer your question at all and I must apologize... But I'm going to quote a suitable text by Leconte de Lisle, which he wrote in 1872, were he describes the exact situation we're stuck in now, already written in his time period: 


"You live cowardly, dreamless, purposeless lives, 
Older, more decrepit than the infertile earth, 
Castrated from the cradle by the murderous century
Of every deep and vigorous passion."

He said that : Castrated and from any deep and vigorous passion.

"Your brains are as empty as your breasts, 
And you have stained this wretched World 
With blood so corrupted, with breath so unhealthy, 
That death alone germinates in this foul mud.
Men, killers of Gods, the times are not far off 
When, on a great heap of gold wallowing in some corner,
Having gnawed the nourishing soil down to the rocks,
Knowing nothing of day or night, 
Drowned in the nothingness of supreme troubles, 
You will die foolishly filling money in your pockets." 

Period! It's the right catastrophic situation in which we find ourselves now. It's the current bourgeoisie, it's the exact description of the bourgeoisie, or whatever the social class ultimately is (…nouveau riches etc.) It's the world we're in. People go out and buy Vuitton bags, Basquiat paintings or Hermes scarves, or whatever, maybe to escape their SIDERAL EMPTINESS of their 'deep being'. Personally, I don't meet any more deep beings anymore... There are no more people with a soul, as Maetterlinck used to say and even kindness had disappeared! I may be a bit harsh in my judgement, but for me, the soul has really disappeared, it's hidden away, somewhere; Will it reappear one day? Will we ever find it again? For me, that's the most important question, because the soul is the flame of the Human Being, and where is it hiding? Perhaps it can be found anew in Art? And I'd like to end this part with Black Elk, who is a great Sioux wise man, a medicine man, a Shaman, in an interview with John Neihardt in 1930 where he says:


"The hope of the Nation was broken and there was no center for the sacred tree to blossom again."

And my job is to present a few images of the sacred tree, because it's the Axis Mundi, where one can talk to the spirits. So, do I succeed or not? Are the spirits there? I don't know, but that's what I'm trying to do. This is a Large Paper, which is also present in a painting behind us, and this is an Axis Mundi, with aztec Sacred Trees, Butterflies and Dragonflies. The importance of insects in our World! And insects are the vectors of the souls of the dead. So, if we kill insects, where do the souls of the deads can go? It's a problem that seems absolutely ridiculous, but it's one we can ask ourselves all the same? Can the human soul survive in a completely sterilized, sanitized World? It may seem a silly question to ask. But the Tibetans believe that the soul is reincarnated... So if there are no more insects or animals, even though the little earthworms are disappearing, we're in trouble! Today, We are facing the problem of humanity's immortality, collectively surviving as a whole entity. No one gives a damn, no doubt, but it's a pertinent question, and one that comes from the very dawn of Humanity. Since prehistoric times, the dead were already buried with flowers, jewelries and weapons, so that they could survive in some other Worlds. And if the other Worlds no longer exist, we're castrated, we no longer have a spiritual existence... And even so, we can't even talk about spiritual existence anymore, but simply human material existence. And that's why, I use so many energy images, like the Mayan God of Lightning who recreates and regenerates the world. My work has to be lightning-fast, it has to strike and create a spark and regenerate the World, of course... And I'm fighting against the End of the World, the announced End of the Worlds. Can I do it or not? That's my artist's challenge, sort of!

- NB: Could we say there's a Jean-Pierre Sergent philosophy? An anthropology in the sense of a conception of the World and the conception of Human, of what Man fundamentally is?


- JPS: Well, Ginsberg had it too, Kerouac too, Rothko too. I think... some artists have this humanist vision and others don't have it at all, because they don't give a damn about the actual state of the World!


- NB: You didn't answer, really my question somehow.


- JPS: No, because I talk mainly about things that touch me and give me hope.


- NB: Yes, but you, as an artist, you have a conception of the World and Humanity, you talk about the 'Soul'… You also have a certain conception of Time which is different...


- JPS: Exactly, yes, about the long and deep Time …infinity and eternity.


- NB: Long Time, deep Time, but at the same time, with you, there are times of rupture too. For example in your artist's career, there are changing periods; between one part of your life to another (France, Montreal, New York etc.). The place, for you, in your discourse on energy too, which is there, which is extremely present. And so, it builds a kind of global conception, which we can see, maybe you wouldn't defend it or you don't recognize yourself in it, but it's a kind of global conception, a philosophy, your philosophy effectively, I think, which is there, present.


- JPS: Yes, you're right, yes, I am present in my work. Yes, I'm the one who does this work, quite modestly. But then, yes, that's what I am, that's what I do. I love being an artist. I think it's... That is exactly as in this book… you know, in C. G. Young's book, Man and His Symbols, where he said; it's a bit simplistic and cliché; but he described the four stages of Man's evolution: first there's the athlete, you know, there are several stages from the politician, and then, at the very end of the four stages, is Gandy, the wise man. In fact, I did a whole series of paintings in Montreal on this kind of spiritual evolution. I don't think one should stay in the same box all its life. And we can talk about spiritual progress and the awakening of the consciousness. I hope I'm more advanced today than I was before, or maybe I'm still the same person, but maybe also my artwork has enabled me to widen my circle of influence!


- NB: Agreed, but anyhow, I think it's a deeply philosophical painting!


- JPS: Ah, perhaps, yes!






- JPS: Dear Noël, I believe you had a stupid question for me? So I'm waiting for your question in my retrenchment and I'm ready to answer it!


- NB: No, I don't think you have to be that entrenched to tell the truth, because it is indeed a question that may seem silly. I'd like to ask you: what has happened to your seventeen horses?


- JPS: Oh yes, well listen, that's a very kind question and one that really touches me. It's a bit like talking about my family. It's true that, to put things in perspective, I raised goats and horses on a farm in Charquemont, in the Haut-Doubs region (Jura Mountains), for over ten years. I'd gone to Montreal to visit my brother Alain in Ottawa, and an important gallery in Toronto wanted to work with me. The gallery owner, Jerry, had told me: "Jean-Pierre, I really want to work with you, but you have to come here and live in Canada!" I thought to myself, what the hell, that's quite a change, quite a big move... And then I thought to myself, maybe this was my chance. So I did sent out letters to all my customers, because I'd been in this business for about ten years. I had quite a few customers, and back then we didn't have the Internet… I put a 25% discount on my entire herd, and customers came from all over France to buy my horses... They were truly beautiful American horses, Appaloosas and Quarter Horses, directly imported from the US, horses for American riding, and of course, when I saw the last horse going away… It was very, very hard and terrible. And what's quite strange is that they come back often, more before, in New York than here; but they come back often in my dreams. Because when you spend 24 hours a day with living beings, you develop a kind of love somehow. And rightly, our bodies interact with each other and, somehow, their spirits and presence are interacting also with you too. Even if sometimes it was also some big fights, like with my stallion, often it's a battle. And it's a very physical relationship. And I think that this very physical relationship that I had when I was breeding horses, because I was all alone to look after seventeen horses, so inevitably I had to take responsibility, because if you don't take responsibility, things go to hell: the mares aren't covered, the stallion breaks everything, etc... You have to be in charge. So, my body was present within this herd, I went to feed them once or twice a day and I learned to be responsible, precisely, for other living beings. You know about the Tibetans, when people die, they cut up the corpse into pieces and feed them to the vultures... Well, somehow I didn't do that, but I was there every day with my horses. And I miss them dearly. So they were sold and I found out, much later that there were descendants of my breeding.


- NB: Okay, and in your artist's career, you mention it, which is why, apart from the obvious interest, I wanted to know what had become of your horses? It's perhaps not a completely trivial question, to tell the truth, but it's this idea you've just developed, that this relationship with your herd of horses, I don't know if that's the right word, but had introduced you to, in any case, makes you capable of other forms of attention towards Life and Vitality. And then, this contact with animal, of course, with such special beings. And; this issue also reappeared, at some point, into your painting, because you mention it somewhere: that there's a kind of deep connection between what you're painting in the material itself and what actually results from the birth of a foal, namely the placenta (the delivery), which remains, as it were!


- JPS: Absolutely, yes, in the patterns, precisely in the patterns I use, they're repetitive motifs and are de facto a web of Life. It's true that it was always me who delivered the mares, in fact, they delivered themselves perfectly well, and thereafter, I gave the placenta to my dogs to eat. And by touching this placenta, which is somehow, warm, viscous and full of blood, you're touching Life itself. And by analogy, we can go back for example to the sacrifices of the Mayas... I could say that I touched Life, like all obstetricians or midwives, I touched Life with my fingers and I've never forgotten it. That is a true experience, and maybe that's why my sexuality or my relationship with sex are a little more open minded, because when you've touched Life so closely, yes, you're no longer a virgin to what's happening to you physically speaking. It's a kind of physical, corporal and metaphysical depucellation. Of the same spiritual level, no doubt, that just as when people have touched death or other similar experiences. Yes, that is a very deep lived experience.


- NB: Perfect! So, that was my stupid question!


- JPS: Yes, so let's move on to the last part of our interview, because what we're going to do later on, is to present a dozen art-prints I completed last year, and I've called this part "CUNTS, COCKS, ASSHOLES & EJACULATIONS" It's an introduction to my current erotic and tantric work; the: "Karma-Kali, Sexual Dreams & Paradoxes" series from 2022... Because my work is somehow governed by both, chaos and freedom, and I was thinking about this the day before yesterday, because I absolutely refuse to be domesticated and I really want to remain wild and savage. As a reference, I quote John Huston's film The Misfits with Marylin Monroe and Clark Gable, in which they go out to find and capture the last wild mustangs to sell them just for meat, and Marilyn is so shocked by this, she begs the two men to set them free at the end. It's all this macho type, Clark Gable, trying to catch the last free stallion with his lasso and so on… And it's all that struggle between Wild and Domesticated Life; between: are we going to be turned into corned beef? Or will we be able to live and survive freely, and remain wild and untouched? And that is a legitimate question!  To support this view, yesterday, I came across a passage from a book called Asia Phantom by Ferdinand Ossendowsky, who travelled in Siberia, and he stats, about captured animals who want to be free again, precisely the following things:


"It's impossible to tame partridges or capercaillies. They live in captivity, but always think of freedom." 

I think it's also part of the artist's role to always be thinking about freedom! 

"A puff of wind from the forest or meadow, a cry from a free bird, and immediately it finds a way to escape, even at the risk of its life. Freedom, sir, is a great thing, and only man can fail to understand it."

So, that's a bit of that. I have to find my freedom through and thanks to my art work.


- NB: But aren't we already domesticated?


- JPS: Yes, but of course, we live in a society, so we're not going to kill each other, obviously. Yes, of course, social manner is important too… Yes, but I think that, deep down, the artist is always looking for that true oversized (absolute, uncompromising freedom) a bit like Bukowski, you know? Things that go beyond limits. I think it's important to try and find that. Yes, yes, beyond the limits... And then afterwards, when these people die; they're praised for having done that (opened ways) but when they're alive, one can't say they're very accepted or supported. That's a true thing to say too. But there's also a question about the 'DIRTINESS OF THE WORLD'. I don't want to make too many citations, but there was a quote from a Jean-Luc Godard's movie, in which, Jacques Bonnaffé, the actor, who puts his hand into the bushy sex of Maruschka Detmers, in Godard's film First name Carmen, he says, "Oh, that's disgustingly dirty!" And she responds appropriately and in an innocent way; it's a Godard line, of course: "It's not us who are dirty, it's the World!" You see, I think I totally disassociate myself from some moral thinking, because an artist shouldn't have a moral, but an ethics, yes of course. And morality, or at least this bourgeois morality, should not interfere with my Art!


- NB: But no one should have morals, should they? There's this relationship between ethics and morality, which can be partly distinguished from their points of emission (religion, bourgeoisie, propriety etc.).


- JPS: Yes, absolutely, yes.


- NB: So, this is what's really at stake and the question you raise is also about transgression. Roughly speaking, how, because we live in society, do we play with the rules and, while playing with the rules, we can manage to go way beyond them? 


- JPS: Yes, of course, it's transgression, of course, you have to be transgressive. But one can't be too provocative either. We don't know, we don't really know what scale to play on and at what level? I don't know? In a way, I'm not too provocative, but I do like to show things that seem important to me. Yes, I also wanted to talk about Tantrism, because we're going to be presenting some of my work, and what I wanted to say about Tantrism is that I wrote about it: 

"There is in Tantrism and in certain artists works like Tarkovsky, Pasolini and Sade or Antonin Artaud, as well, as quite modestly in my work, moreover; this inflexible will to put the body back in its rightful place… In its true human greatness, with and thanks to it and its own regenerative, seminal and intrinsically intelligent energies…"

In other words, people are often sick and with a lot of illness, but you have to trust the body, because it's an INFINITE INTELLIGENCE, much more of what we think, it's incredible what goes on in the body's machine, and you have to trust him blindly!

It's really incredible what goes on in the body's machine, and you have to trust it completely! 

"To set the record straight, no longer in certain religious, moral, aesthetic (even artistic) and dogmatic spaces that are several thousand years old; but in a truly immediate, present and corporeal dimension of the machine for shitting and fucking; to also, in this way, reintegrate a kind of fury for living that is so essential, so forgotten and so reviled these days... But so vital and so enjoyable nonetheless!" JPS, Notes from Besançon 2023

I think it's thrilling and ecstatic to be well in sexuality and in Art and in color. It's an enjoyment of the World, yes, that's it!


- NB: Okay.


- JPS: All right, so let's present you a few art prints now...





- JPS: Yes, I wanted to show you some of the works we chose together the last time you came to the studio. This is my latest series of "Karma-Kali, Sexual Dreams & Paradoxes" and here we are, showing them one by one, like this... So, I work mainly by superimposition, if you like, and I stop when it seems to me that something is happening, and then afterwards, I sometimes put a layer of coloured Indian ink on top, and here we see a deer with energy lines.


- NB: Can you say a few words about the choice of color here?


- JPS: Yes, it's quite a bloody color, it's blood, it's Life! Yes, yes, of course. But we were talking earlier about the deliverance of horses, and that's what it's all about. We feel we're really in... we're not really in the womb, but we're in the World Matrix, somewhere… with the animals. It's a bit of a distant reference to prehistoric caves.


- NB: With the choice of the deer... And with the different layers of paint you accumulate, is this also a way of working that you have?


- JPS: Yes, yes, that I found; you know, last time we talked about the millennia-old finger tracings layering in the Pech Merle Cave. So I wanted to use the same layering technique, to get rid of the idea altogether of an individual (uninteresting) image and go into something more collective, precisely. For example, there's Isis, the Egyptian goddess behind it, and I like this confrontation of worlds and images… I think you really liked this blue print?


- NB: This blue, absolutely yes!


- JPS: This one is an erotic image too... 


- NB: Can you say a few words about the choice of blue, which is also quite an impressive blue?


- JPS: Yes, you know, I'd have to say that my references to blues are mainly to Egyptian tombs (as well as the superb Mayan blues), because almost all the ceilings are painted with this kind of star pattern, which repeats itself ad infinitum. And of course, this is the place where the unconscious can develop, in the infinite and in the night. Because we find it hard to... the unconscious and ultimate consciousness, we find it hard to be conscious in a daytime World, with the Sun. Only the Aztecs and the Sioux, etc., are capable of being conscious under the Sun, but that's to access the unfathomable depth of intimacy. Of course, you could also say that this work is an erotic dream, yes. It's something to do with dreaming... And also with the fascination of the erotic scene! And, of course, also with transgression...


- NB: And transgression, meaning that we're not anymore into the idea of representation?


- JPS: Yes, absolutely! And as you see, I sometimes add texts like that, which are a little obscene. Precisely, to shake up the audience a bit and maybe make them laugh or not. It's difficult, because people don't react at all, no matter what you do (they're anaesthetised, brain-dead), you're trying!


- NB: And what reaction would you really expect from the spectator or viewer?


- JPS: I'd like them to smile and say: "Well, that's funny, that's interesting!" Or you know: "Yes! It's beautiful! the colors, the light, it's superb... Yes, it speaks to me, it moves me, it nourishes me in some way!" But that's a bit of a vain hope. I think my work doesn't 'fit', it doesn't correspond at all to French mentality, neither to the French Cartesian spirit. Perhaps in other countries, it would be better appreciated as people here, are self-cryogenically frozen by their own stupidity! This one's a little less obvious under this light, but the tones are rusty, like this. They're always women with big phalluses, and ejaculations, there's always, anyhow, I always try to integrate the image into what's called the 'pattern' (repetitive motif), almost every time. Because I pick these up from Japanese manga comics, I take all these drawings that aren't very important but that fill up the space, to create, as we said earlier, the idea of this deliverance (tangle of nourishing blood vessels), this pattern of life somewhere.


- NB: But on an image like that, on a work like that, the viewer's reaction can be extremely negative?


- JPS: Oh yes, absolutely! For example, I had a small exhibition at the Besançon Fine-Arts Museum titled "Eros Unlimited", and quite a few people working at the museum said I was doing pornographic work. We all have different relationships toward sexuality, of course. After that, you can't hold it against people. It's a fact of life in the art world and it's the reality of the artist's tough job, that people don't necessarily like their work, yes! As long as they don't burn it. And to tell you an anecdote, I had an exhibition in Basel in Switzerland, in the Jewish quarter, and the gallery owner put blankets in front of his  shop window so as not to shock passers-by and not alert the police...


- NB: Yes, that reminds me of something. I think we had the same problem, not with the painting of The Origin of the World (Gustave Courbet, 1866); we know that it was indeed, sometimes, invisibilized, but with a book on this painting of The Origin of the World which, I believe, suffered the same fate as what you've just mentioned, effectively...


- JPS: But those who ask such moral questions don't understand that I'm talking, above all, about women's sexual freedom. You understand, it's absolutely not a humiliation, not at all. Incidentally, I'm in contact with an Iranian artist friend who really likes and respects my work. And when, here or elsewhere, people make remarks like this: why don't you go and live in Iran, where you won't see any erotic images and you'll have to cover your hair... I think I'm doing work that is more fundamentally liberating, I hope; after that, you never know how a piece of work might be received or really perceived? And here, too, it's an image of bondage.


- NB: Yes.


- JPS: Which is perhaps a bit like a vestal virgin, a bit Greco-Roman. I have to admit that, having a good knowledge of Art, occasionally, certain images make me think of Greek or Egyptian or other statues... So, of course, sometimes, there are references to the classical History of Art.


- NB: Yes


- JPS: Here, one can think of caryatids, it's a reference and after what I do with it, it's a caryatid that's alive. Caryatids died in and within Antiquity... I strongly believe that pleasure and sexuality need to be shown in Art much more than they are now, otherwise we're cutting ourselves off from part of our humanity.


- NB: With regard to what you've just said about the need to show eroticism... What do you attribute the fact that this part of life, roughly speaking, is disappearing or not present and exhibited? You think it's a kind of censorship? Self-censorship on the part of the artists?


- JPS: No, it's religions and morals that get in the way. (despite the difficulties of selling erotic art). And no, it's not self-censorship. A lot of artists, like Rubens, painted their "Leda and the Swan" version, because they couldn't paint the male or even neither the female sex organs. So they always used ersatz are intended to show IT, but it's not really THAT (SEX)! It's like Magritte's "Ceci n'est pas une pipe". There's always this ambiguity in and with the erotic image, which is always truncated into Western Art and paintings. We sometimes want to show sensuality or sexuality, but we can't really, and we never go all the way with sensuality into orgasm (except religious: spiritual ecstasy, so it's: coitus interruptus!). And my work is really about going to the deep meaning of things. Yes, in a way, I feel close to painters who went to to the bottom of things like Soutine, de Dekooning or we come back to Pollock, although he didn't do much figuration but he created 'ejaculatory spaces' in the same way. Here, one can feel a kind of cosmic harmony in my print, somehow.


- NB: Yes, yes.


- JPS: And what do we have here? We've just got a vulva with patterns. I can't remember what culture they're from, maybe Brazil? I always like to find drawings made on pottery or basketry, because it's mainly some works completed by women and often, women have a precise idea of the organization of the World and the Cosmos that, unlike, men don't have. It's quite strange, and so I want to show the organization of the World with a vulva that's also like a matrix.


- NB: Which, I think, is rather interesting to say, because it's a work that could be, roughly speaking, judged; I don't know how to put it? Which, in any case, would not respect the feminine condition, to put it like that; while at the same time, there's the fact of having, effectively, put motifs that come from works made by women and with what you're talking about, on the question of women's mastery of a cosmic vision of the World. The question that undoubtedly arises, that is to say, we may be coming back to a discussion we've already had, but it's this: what would viewers need in order for deeply and fully understand your work, so to speak?


- JPS: They'd have to have had all my experiences, as we've already discussed... I think; or they'd have to have  themselves some interest in Art! Or, let's say that, for example, someone who'd been to live among the Pygmies, would probably have no trouble seeing and understanding it. I think, but maybe I'm wrong, I imagine, I allow myself to imagine, maybe that's it? One have obviously to get out of its moral and cultural prison confinement, in order to be able to apprehend completely my work. Because if you look at it as Courbet's vulva, you've understood absolutely nothing about my work: it's something totally different and almost conceptually at the opposite extreme!


- NB: In other words, we were talking about the end of the Worlds. But this work is between several worlds?


- JPS: Absolutely, yes, that's true! Reactivating, reinitializing several Worlds, reacting things. And then there's this last painting we chose together.


- NB: Yes.


- JPS: And here, it's the same thing, it's a pattern. There's this geometric pattern and this other one that comes from, I can't remember, but maybe Oceania? Like this... It's important to understand that all these gathered drawings, which we don't understand and which we think are purely decorative, had a meaning at a time, no doubt genetical. Perhaps they represented ancestral lineages, I don't know, but I'm taking the freedom of reusing them in this way. Firstly, it's aesthetically beautiful, it speaks to me and I've re-drawn it myself by hand with black Indian ink on the film, just like that. It's a way of reappropriating the mood, or spiritual state of the person (artist or shaman) in which he or she drew it. It can be a woman or a man, it doesn't matter. And there was a very interesting book by Ismaël Kadaré: The File on H, in which he recounted how certain scientists had been able, it was his hypothesis, to record the songs that potters sang in Homeric times. So, these scientists thought that the traces left when the pots were made were like microgrooves on a record, and that they could listen again to the Homeric songs by "reading" these archaic potteries? So, it's a beautiful book. And I'm kind of doing the same thing myself... I want to sing Homeric songs again, or even others epics…


- NB: Yes, there too, when it comes to working with colors, as you add colors, yes: we're on blue, red, we're on black and brown. Finally, how do you order your choice of color, what are your processes?


- JPS: When I'm printing (silk-screening), as I said, I feel centered, I'm there and I think of this color and I use it. On the other hand, I never use a pure color, I always making it dirty. People often say that colors have to be pure! No, no, not at all... My colors are always to be off, they had their lives. You see, on my shelf, there are paint pots, some of which date back to my New York years, so that's over 20 years ago. It's a bit like a sourdough, if you like, that bakers keep. There are, for example, sourdoughs that are over hundred years old! So it's the same with my colors. Each time, I add another blue, for example, and then I mix it. These pigments have a history. I don't take it straight from the jar, and it's always very nuanced. But the shade has to be exact. There's just one little problem, because I work with acrylic paint; it's a little technical problem, which is that fresh acrylic is lighter and darkens as it dries by at least two shades, compared with oil, but that's not really important. So, would you like to add or mention anything else?


- NB: No, I think we've got covered a lot about your Art, it seems. I can't think of anything else.


- JPS: Well then, I'll end with two quotes and recommend everyone to read the wonderful book: The Mirror of Simple Souls by Marguerite Porete, who was a thirteenth-century mystic and who was burnt because she had written this very book, which we could have talked about for hours. But I just want to quote one of her sentences. She says, in chapter 134: "Perfect freedom knows no 'why'." In other words, it's THERE. That's what's going on in my work too. And then, going back to Artaud, since we were talking about Artaud: "Those who say there is no God have forgotten the heart." It's a beautiful sentence. I'm not at all religious, but I do think there's a spiritual dimension that we need to develop, honor and respect. Here we are, dear Noël... Thank you very much for this wonderful interview, thank you to Lionel who was behind the cameras and see you next time, as we say in New York! See you soon and goodbye...


Filmed at Claudie Floutier studio-apartment's on June 9, 2023. Cameras: Lionel Georges. Thanks to Millie Floutier & Guillaume Chilemme for helping with transcriptions and Christine Dubois for proofreading.


Jean-Pierre Sergent: Hello, everybody, today is June 9, 2023, and I have the great good fortune and honor of interviewing my friend Claudie Floutier, who is an artist and was also my teacher at the Besançon School of Fine Arts. We're here in her studio-apartment, and we're going to show some of the work you've done throughout your career. So, to begin with, you often talk about your childhood with your grandfather. It was in Provence. And you lived a bit like a wild woman, a tomboy, a bit in the wild, picking aromatic and medicinal herbs with him.

Claudie Floutier: With my grandfather!

JPS: Yes, well, if you'd like please, to tell us about your childhood.

CF: Well, I was born after the war, just after the war, and we weren't rich at home, not at all. My parents were really poor. When I was born, my parents thought it would be more interesting for me to go to live with my grandfather, who had two gardens and as so I could be fed more easily, whereas my father didn't have not enough financial means to support me, in fact. So I went to live for five years, until I went to school, because at the time, we didn't have kindergarten, with my grandfather, in a farmhouse in Apt, at the foot of the Luberon Mountains! At the time, my grandfather was a retired railway worker, and he had a friend who was a herbalist and therefore his second occupation, after his gardens was to herborize. So he used to take me along with him. And then I was extremely happy living with my grandfather and grandmother in Apt during all those years. I really enjoyed this life, which was also very humble, very simple, secluded, because I was living in a farmhouse. Perhaps I've never felt as happy as I did then. Because there were no disturbances, just smells of nature and magnificent landscapes… My grandfather was a quiet man, fairly silent, but he was an extremely tender with me, that's how he gave me a lot of love and attention. And then I felt comforted. So it was a very, very beautiful early childhood.

JPS: Yes, you were lucky enough to live completely in nature.

CF: Yes, to the fullest. We lived in a farmhouse that didn't belong to him. He wasn't rich either, so he had this Provencal farmhouse with chickens and rabbits to feed us, of course. But he rented this farmhouse, half of it… Because the second part was occupied by an Italian family, named Carboni, who were poor as well because it was at the end of the World War II. Mr. Carboni was a bricklayer, and they each rented this small farm that suited them... It was in the countryside and it was magnificent. In fact, I went to see this farmhouse again some time ago with Millie. It was extraordinary to see it again! It really was!

JPS: Millie, it's your daughter you've raised all alone?

CF: Yes, she's my daughter, whom I raised all by myself.

JPS: Yes, so maybe you could tell us more about your career as an Art teacher at the School of Fine Arts of Besançon?

CF: If you like, after all the traveling I have done… et cætera, et cætera.

JPS: So, maybe, tell us about all your journeys, if you like to?

CF: My travels! In other words, I started my childhood at my grandfather's house, where people were really simple… My grandfather was very curious, even if we didn't really have many books. We just did have: the Almanach Vermot (famous French Yearbook including calendars : agricultural, religious and recipes etc.) and the Life on the rail magazine (talking about railways all around the World), because he was a railwayman... Yes, and that's what finally enabled me to travel to Peru, because I had read about it, them when I was around five. At that time then, I went back to his house for every vacation. So I read this "Life of the railways" where I realized that there was the longuest cogwheel railroad  that crossed Peru and climbed the mountains. And I thought, this is great! And also after having read Tintin: "I've really got to get on that train one day!" So off I went on my journey to Peru. After my childhood with my grandfather, I lived in another small village. Then there was boarding school, where I wasn't a very bright student because all I did was to read and draw. So it was all the same. But anyhow, I managed to pass the the baccalaureate and I also passed the Open Competition of Drawing for High schools. My parents were very modest and had never ever seen an exhibition in their lives. But the fact that I succeeded in my studies was a great help. And to have earned this diploma, meant that they had confidence in me to go to the School of Fine Arts in Montpellier. So I also studied Italian for a while, because with parents who'd never seen an exhibition, I had to be a guarantor of something! I could have been as well an Italian teacher.... But that was soon sorted out. I went to the School of Fine Arts, where I had an extraordinary painting teacher called Monsieur Dezeuze. Thanks to him, I went to McGill University in Montreal, and afterwards he found me a job at Lefranc Bourgeois... After a trip to Paris, where I also went to the Beaux-Arts de Paris, thanks to a providential meeting at this school, and after seeing that finally, I wouldn't be able to get by financially, I passed a competitive examination to become a teacher at the School of Fine Arts in Metz. But I'd already done a lot of researches on color, in relation to Lefranc Bourgeois (French company selling artist's paints), and I was able to pass the exam without any problems, thanks to the experience I'd already had. Then, after four years, I took a competitive examination to teach at the School of Fine Arts in Besançon, to be closer to my ex-husband. I've been here ever since and I actually love being in Besançon. 

JPS: So you taught at the School of Fine Arts in Besançon for almost forty years?

CF: Yes... But I taught in Metz first, and then in Besançon. I was teaching the color in the first cycle of art. And in fact, I was immediately fascinated, because I already had this relationship with color, but I was already drawing as a child, I drew, I drew so much, so I had this relationship with color because I had introduced the Liquitex artist's paints colors in France in the 70s. I worked with only the three primaries colors and since that time, I've never stopped working with primaries. What's more, I realized during the working process, that I could, apart from absolute black and white, still provide the exact colors I needed. (Because if you mix the complementary primaries, you end up with almost black). So I worked on these complements and, at the same time, I was doing yoga. Indeed, the fact of going infinitely deeper into color made me realize that, in the end, this complementarity of colors came back to the unity of the World. Because with the red and green pair and the other two complementary pairs, you have the whole World, in reduction. So I was totally passionate about it. I taught this notion of the three primaries in my color classes.... A long time later, I saw an exhibition by Charlotte Salomon at the Jewish Art Museum in Paris. This woman died in a concentration camp. She was pregnant, she was young and she was denounced and deported. And it was this beautiful exhibition about her work, this woman had really an incredible charm! She was both a musician and a great painter, who worked also with all three primaries colours. So, when I realized that, between the music that was played during the exhibition, and the quality of her work... Because she was telling us her story, just as I'm telling mine, with these three primaries! Then, I said to myself: "Wow, these affinities come from very far away, from very deep!". It wasn't her who showed me the way, but I found myself in complete compassion and harmony with this woman and having a great tenderness for her, even though she'd been dead for a long time... And, yes, I really enjoyed my job teaching at the School of Fine Arts. At the same time, when I stopped, I continued to love what I was doing with my life. Like my grandfather, who was a railway worker, when he retired, well, he became an herbalist. I just continued to do my little things, my little bits and pieces, I continued my life. I didn't miss teaching at all, even though I really enjoyed it very much. I filled my life in some other ways anyway.

JPS: Yes, of course, but as a student, I'd like to thank you very much, because it's true that you opened our minds to other worlds. It's very important for an artist to have a master (or mistress) in quotation marks... because Art need to be learned too.

CF: Well, yes, I too learned from my teachers at the Art School. My teachers weren't very complicated, they weren't great intellectuals, but that was fine. They knew the trade and, above all, we were out in nature. We weren't yet into the concept of art as nowadays, so it wasn't complicated. I learned from them and then, since I was working at Lefranc Bourgeois, I was able to learn on the job. Then I did all the training courses I could in understanding color, yoga and so on. I'm constantly deepening my knowledge. And at the same time, I'm always curious.

JPS: Yes, that's it, we often talk about the books we read!

CF: Of course, I read and I'm always enthusiastic towards life. And then I find that Art is nevertheless an extraordinary tool to enter into a world that is both strange and marvellous and to enter even more
deeply into Life! 

JPS: I wanted to quote something I found yesterday on Twitter. It's a phrase by Hermann Hesse, who did a lot of work on Hindu philosophies and spirituality. He's an important person for all us artists. He says this: "There aren't so many things from which you can expect help, things that reassure you and help you to live; it's important to know them". We were talking a bit earlier about knowledge, and it's very important that you, as a teacher, have had a culture open to the World. Because we often talk about Mexico together, we often talk about other cultures, including Hindu cultures. That's what you've passed on to us, and that's what emerges also through your work. Perhaps you'd like to show us some examples of your work or quote some texts?

CF: Yes, so I could quote a few texts and in answer to your question: "Have you done any large formats?" Yes, I've done large formats... And in particular, I had undertaken, after reading the Rubaiyats, to do a series on the Rubaiyats, in my own way. These were large-scale formats, which I'll show you later...

JPS: Rubaiyat, in other words? What reference are the Rubaiyat?

CF: Yes, Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat. I was so caught up in this reading and, at the same time, the Gulf War was starting... And I was against the first Gulf War, I demonstrated in the City shouting: "NO TO WAR! NO TO WAR! NO TO WAR!" But then, the stupidity of all the world's leaders is such! That, in any case, there's nothing you can do. So reading the Rubaiyat was really healing for me, now, I'm going to read some short extracts of it, because it has a deep connection with my work. 

JPS: Oh yes, Very good! 

CF: - "# 110. On the day when this celestial steed of golden stars was saddled, when the planet of Jupiter where the Pleiades were created, from that day on, the divan of the feast fixed our fate. In what then are we guilty, since such is the portion we have been given."" # 129. In the midst of this whirlwind of the world, hasten to pick some fruit. Sit on the throne of gaiety and bring the cup to your lips. God is heedless of worship and sin. So enjoy here below what pleases you."
- "# 232. You asked me what this phantasmagoria of things here below is all about. It would take too long to tell you the whole truth. It's a fantastic image that emerges from a vast sea and then enters that same vast sea back again."

JPS: So this is by Omar Khayyam?

CF: Yes, these are quatrains # 110, 129, 232 of the Rubaiyat. At another point, he says: "This handful of donkeys placed between two oxen". That is exactly what we are! I was really extremely touched by these texts. I read them anew recently because of what's going on in all these countries around the World, stirred up by all these wars, by all this fury against women... I heard this morning on the radio that little girls in Afghanistan, young women who were going to school, were poisoned, simply because they were going to school! That's really despairing! Omar Khayyam, after all, is a man of the East. 
- "# 348. This wheel of heaven chases my death and yours, friend, it conspires against my soul and yours. Come, come and sit on the grass, for we have very little time left before other grass sprouts from my dust and yours."



JPS: So Claudie, you wanted to present us some of your drawings. Which series are you showing us now?

CF: Yes, somehow, my work is in a constant state of metamorphosis, in other words, I don't have a straight line, I draw a lot, then I paint, then I write, so they're all very different series. You asked me about the Rembrandt's series? A few years ago, I went to Amsterdam and was completely fascinated in front of this really tiny drypoint etching by Rembrandt, which really showed me how Rembrandt was deeply aware, at his end, of his nakedness and his solidarity with the World.  But above all... I don't really understand, it remains mysterious… I love so much this small etching so much. He is there present, he looks at us and says: "Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me...". Or, also, I'm trying to tell you how much I am not only this great painter, but also this man full, full, of contradictions and fears, anxieties... of loneliness, but also of inner strength. Because he is both, at the same time, very sad and very strong. As a result, I became so attached to him, that I drew some out, I did draw… I draw so much! I spend two years on this project and then afterwards, I also find texts that comfort me. Who also knows with what strangeness of my fellows, this face opposite confronts itself in me groping and trying to be understood". Henri Michaux in Passage: seeks to be understood... it's done... Voilà... And then, Pierre Reverdy, in Plupart du temps, collection 1915-1922, Autre face: "Black eyes! But they're pince-nez. A shadow slides over the cheeks. Two tears run down the cheeks. Is it for me or because of the sun? No one dares ask who they're looking at, and everyone takes the glance for themselves. I'm afraid that I am too small and too far away. I'm certainly too far away and the one in front of me is getting closer. To reassure myself, I tell myself that the eyes can't see everything, and there's nothing left in the heart but what it can hold." Voilà! "There's nothing left in the heart but what it can hold." That's it, and it's extraordinary!

JPS: So, you want to talk a little about the existential void and getting out of it through Art, somewhere?

CF: With Rembrandt it's Art that saved him… 

JPS: Yes, but isn't that a question we can ask? We all feel this sense of finitude, and Rembrandt expressed it beautifully!

CF: Yes, yes, yes, as far as I'm concerned, there are writers whom I love deeply, who also say essential things... I read a very beautiful book by Salman Rushdie, which I used to introduce this series: "Life comes (how shall I put it) near to its end. You realize that you don't own anything, that you haven't found your place, that you're just using things for a while. The inanimate world laughs at you, you'll leave one day, but it'll stay here. What I'm saying isn't very deep, Sally, it's Winnie-the-Pooh philosophy (and that's exactly what I am : Winnie-the-Pooh), I know, but it's still heartbreaking." So, I'm not much of a philosopher, I am doing my Winnie-the-Pooh's philosophy, I'm someone who is always seeking for things, and I can also find some in reading, which I love enormously. And here's a passage from Michel Houellebecq: "In the midst of complete physical collapse...". Because Rembrandt himself, all his life, spoke of nothing but this, because he speaks only of his own time, when he makes his self-portraits. You see, Rembrandt himself became aware that "vanity of vanities, all is vanity". And for me, this is the essential basis, I believe, of my work: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity"... Everything is collapsing... "In the midst of widespread physical collapse, which is what old age is all about, the voice and the gaze bear irrefutable witness to the persistence of character, aspirations, desires, everything that constitutes a human personality". In The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq.

JPS: By the way, he was talking about an artist in this book, about Contemporary Art and an artist, yes!

CF: Yes, I am quoting him because : "At the end of the day, there's nothing left but loneliness, cold and silence". He says: "Then you stop laughing... You always end up with a broken heart... You stop laughing..." When you die, you don't know how much you're laughing... And so it is for me, given that I've spent my life... Fortunately, I was a single mother and I was lucky enough to have a daughter, whom I raised... But somehow, loneliness is important, when you're a single mother, so when I wasn't looking after Millie or teaching art,I enthusiastically fell back on drawing, painting and writing… As so, you can break the solitude when you're in that creative state, you're in your world and that world, despite the fact that you don't always do happy things, it's a wonder to be into a creative mind! 

JPS: Of course, yes! Maybe you'd like to present us a few pages like that, in silence, so that people can have a look at your work. And then I'll scan them and put them in the video. There, you've put all the papers you wanted to show us today, or do you want to show others?

CF: Small, very small formats. This is a slightly sad note, but I'm a multi-faceted character: John who cries, John who laughs. So, John who cries and then John who laughs ! And then, as I like to draw a lot, for a while, I drew little objects from my house. Some small objects, so this is a completely different way of drawing, because I don't use shadows at all, I just work with the line…

JPS: Like in the Middle Ages.

CF: Well, obviously, I like a lot Middle Ages art works. This is a little drawing of objects I have at home, that I bought in Mykonos or on the Greek islands. So I did this little drawing and I added that: "plus the seagulls" because the sea was missing, after all, in this drawing. So I wrote: "plus the seagulls". These are also objects I have at home. This is an object I brought back from Peru, well, these are statuettes I brought back from my travels. I like stones... I've made this connection between objects. Here, too, is a statuette I've brought back, and here again, I'd put this phrase that obsesses me a little: "Polishes its weapons, its jades, its gods, its songs, its grelots from a few decades ago, a troop emerges from the water, then everything cascades and returns to the blur". Quote from Norge, a poet I like very much… That is, from one day to the next, I stop something and I do the exact opposite, because I feel that if I do a lot, a lot, then, I'll get saturated. And when I've finished saturating, I say to myself, "Oh, I've got to enjoy myself anyway, what am I going to do to enjoy myself?" So I start again, but at the exact opposite, it's a complete pirouette. I say to myself: "Am I going to write? Will I paint? Am I going to draw?" But I don't really ask myself this question like that, it's because I'm like that, that I do the opposite, because it pleases me to seek all-around, to turn things upside-down. So, at the same time, I'm a very attentive person, but I do Philosophy and Art, a bit like Winnie the Pooh. In other words, for me, Art is something that's both extremely important, but at the same time such a pleasure that I'll also seek pleasure in anything, i.e. in any form of work, even things that are a little crude, a little vulgar... But if I'm going for this slightly crude, slightly vulgar side, it's because all of a sudden, II want to state, quote: "Stop the Art, good taste is tiring like good company!" Said Picabia. So let's go and do something that's different from what you are expecting from me! I'm different and that's that!

JPS: Yes, you're not locked into any mind framework, you are a free spirit!

CF: No framework at all!, in the sense that I'm a nobody... I don't have a gallery, I'm not famous, etc. So, let's have fun... Well, let's have fun and please, let me have fun already! Let's have fun! I'm having fun! But I'm doing it in a very serious matter… 


JPS: We're now at Part 3 and I I'd like to ask you a question, as you often are talking about your double, your alter ego, your "Trobéïrice" character. Trobairitz is a feminine form of troubadour, in the langue d'Oc, the language of your native region. Occitan-speaking poetesses and composers, they lived in the south of France in the 12th and 13th centuries. We're back to the Middle Ages somehow. So, did you create this character to escape a nowadays life that was too difficult, a reality that was too flat, too absurd, too disappointing? Do you want to restore joy and re-enchant the world? And does art somehow reinitialize life? In a way, it's our role as artists to enchant the world once more?

CF: I think Trobéïrice came about as a form of resistance, a protective force in this warlike world, in relation to wars all over and so on. And then, above all, in relation to the fact that I really wanted, me, to be protected? Well, I don't really know, because it came out of nowhere... By this enchanting little character as a lot of power. When Trobéïrice is with me, I feel as if she's my grigri. And it's helping me to resist, sort of, this decay of the World, this form of World that is endlessly dominated by the same powers... And Trobéïrice, she's a poetess after all, and she's also a form of feminine resistance. So that's what she is, it's all about the feminine. And of course, I'd also worked a lot on this notion of the troubadour. Firstly: because I'm from there; secondly: because I'm very fond of Jacques Roubaud writings, who, regarding to me, is a great poet, philosopher and mathematician and member of L'Oulipo (L'Ouvroir de littérature potentielle).

JPS: Can you tell us who he is?

CF: Jacques Roubaud is a poet and philosopher.

JPS: From what period?

CF: From the 20th century and who worked a lot on the troubadours and who wrote an essential book, which is called: "The inverted flower, The art of troubadours". It's a very serious, well-documented book, with a lot of informations, and I had read it a lot. And I said to myself: Trobéïrice, she's also born from this knowledge and interest, I am have for the troubadours histories. So I named this character Trobéïrice because I've incorporated myself into this Medieval Art; because after all, as far as I'm concerned, all my sources aren't necessarily in Contemporary Art! It's everything I've encountered during my numerous travels and so on. Also in my visits to museums, both the Musée du Quai Branly (Ethnical Museum) and the Folk Arts and Traditions Museums. In other words, my sources are a bit like Picasso's: elsewhere than in what I see as very contemporary. I go to Contemporary Art exhibitions, but I don't feed on contemporary artists works, I feed on everything that has deeply fascinated me, that has interested me, whether it's the Quai Branly, which I love, or the Cluny Museum (Medieval Museum), where I go very often, now that it's been renovated with all the work on medieval sculpture and so on. I'm passionate about it and really inspired by it! But on the other hand, I've spelled Trobairitz differently, since I'm also that Winnie-the-Pooh character. It's not Trobairitz, it's TROBEIRICE! I run the end of the word, spelling it, not in a noble way, but more popularly, underlining it with this spelling, thanks to the strong hindsight my southern accent gives me, because I keep my accent of which I am proud, because I'm from a certain part of France and above all, because I've also read Pierre Bourdieu in his book: The Distinction, he says: "Accents ensure that the Provinces are discredited by the political Parisian power etc.", So, I'm a citizen of the World with an accent, because I consider myself to be from somewhere, even though I adore Franche-Comté, were I live now. So, Trobéïrice, she did come at a certain time... She came at the same time, as I noted in this notebook, thus: she doesn't show up, one don't see her, she's very rarely represented. She's a shadow puppet with a kind of magician's hat and a childlike's plait. She has a lot of knowledge, but she remains always the child she once was. "It was at this point that Trobéïrice appeared as a shadow puppet, ageless, with only a long nose, a little girl's braid held back by a bow and a big learned man's hat. In my drift, my hopelessness, she always comme back to show me the way."
It was also at this point that I met, here in Besançon, someone who introduced me to Chaos Theory: Michel Planat, a CNRS researcher at the Laboratory of Oscillator Physics and Meteorology in Besançon. We had organized meetings with physicists at the Fine Arts School. I didn't understand a word of it... I really didn't! Nothing at all! But, we were curious about each other worlds. Michel Planat is a very, very great man, who dealt with these chaos theories. And finally, we all ended up eating together and drinking glasses of rosé, one after the other, which may have made us a little drunk! I'm interested in Chaos Theory, but I don't understand it. I can't start being a physicist either. So that's how Trobéïrice was born, and she's with me now all the time… And, given the versatility of my work, Trobéïrice is like a metamorphosis character, allowing me to metamorphose myself into whatever and whoever I want. She goes from one Universe to another and is the unfailing link that binds all my Universes together. 



JPS: Now it's the fourth and final part. The two of us are lucky enough to be participating in a major exhibition at the Popular Arts and Traditions Museum in Champlitte. The exhibition is entitled "Witches! Women's spells…" and your work is perfectly suited to this subject matter, because you've been working on the female body and the women condition during all your life. I will present a large silkscreen print on paper : The Goddess Ixchel, she is the Mayan goddess, associated with Water and Death and I think it's going to be a very important and landmark exhibition... So maybe you'd like to show us some of your witch-related or magical works? Or do you want to talk about witchcraft? And how women bodies have been persecuted throughout all of mankind history? There have been a few matriarchal societies in Europe before, as we know, but they're pretty rare. So, as a woman, perhaps you could say something about that. We've already talked earlier about the situation of women and specially little girls in Afghanistan, where it's terrible! But these stories of witches who were persecuted, like Marguerite Porete who was burned alive for writing her her great and passionate book in the XIIIᵉ century: The Mirror of Simple Souls, that's terrible too!

CF: As early as at the School of Fine Arts, I had read Michelet's The Sorceress, and I was terrified by the fate meted out to these women. In fact, I tried to read it again  for this exhibition, but I stopped, because I felt much more down emotionally than when I was 18. I mean, when I read this book, it was for my general culture. And there are descriptions that are so atrocious, that I stopped reading Michelet's book, which is an essential book to read. So I've always been interested and tormented by these stories about women condition, women burned alive etc. A while ago, in the 70s, before becoming a professor at the Fine Art School de Metz (1973 - 1977), I was at the Fine Art School of Paris (1971 - 1972) and I was somewhat involved in the the art scene. There were certain women who had emerged after 1968, who were very, very powerful at that time, and they had initiated a magazine called "Sorcières". They were very, very kind and attentive to me, very kind, but I felt out of place with these women. As it was a very elitist Parisian feminist milieu. They invited me to take part to their Art Magazine. I know they had invited me because they sensed in me this telluric force within my work in fact... So I was part of this adventure. After that, I became a teacher in Metz and I didn't go back to that milieu. Then, as I'm always interested by this subject matter, a few years ago, I saw a very big exhibition on witchcraft at the Musée des Archives Nationales in Paris, as I go to Paris a lot because I also live in Paris. There were some incredible documents, and I found myself in this kind of very strong emotional state, about the fate that had been reserved for all those poor women. There were a lot of documents from Haute-Saône... which were on loan from the department for this exhibition. That's when I realized just how many women were burned in this specific area of France. And when I spoke to Caroline about it...

JPS : Caroline Dreux, which is the Museum Director?

CF: Yes, Caroline Dreux, who's going to curate this exhibition. She told me: "Yes, we've lent some documents to the Nationales Archives". And one thing led to another: Caroline knows my work for a long time. I showed her the magazine "Sorcières", which is currently at the museum, and in which I have two documents photographed. There's also an other document that will be in the exhibition. And when she asked me if I wanted to take part in the exhibition, I said yes, on condition that you didn't think of me as a witch. I'm a woman who wonders about witchcraft, but I'll never do evil spells or black magic. I am white magic. I can also testify, finally, to all the pain I feel, because most of these women were not great villains, they were poor women who had been denounced by their neighbours…

JPS : They were herbalists! Healers!

CF : They were bonesetters, herbalists, women who were certainly of great quality. The same as nowadays, it's unbearable that little girls are being poisoned in Iran and Afghanistan at this precise moment, just because they're going to learn at school! As soon as they felt they had a lot of knowledge, they tied them up, chained them up and burned them! That's unacceptable for me. So I said yes, I'm coming. That's why I'm taking part in this exhibition.

JPS: Thank you Claudie, we'll be waiting for you at the exhibition. Ans as we've known each other for a long time, you told me about your somewhat mystical experiences in Israel and Peru. Would you say a few words about that, please?

CF: That is to say that I'm a convinced atheist, I have no religion, but I'm always looking and seeking for... something meaningful. I've had a great knowledge of the Bible since I was a little girl. And I have always said to myself: one day, I'm going to go to Israel. And I was pregnant at that time, carrying my daughter, but I didn't know if I was going to keep her or not... You have to look at it like that! So I went to Israel, and since I knew the Bible inside out, I followed Jesus' itinerary. At one point, I was staying at a youth hostel in Capernaum, on the shores of Tiberias Lake. And I said to myself, I'm going to walk up to the Mount of Beatitudes, even though I was pregnant, but at the very beginning, and I'm going to look out over at the Tiberias Lake from up there. It was almost sunset, and it's true that I was in a kind of state of ecstasy... Despite the fact that I'm completely atheist!

JPS: Yes, you're not a monotheist, but you are animist in some way? Yes but things need to be precised!

CF: Yes, absolutely, I'm a pantheist, I believe in all the little gods and so on. I believe in nature, I believe in streams, I believe in little things. This Jesus character, he's a character who certainly existed but, I was going to say, he's a bit like Che Guevara, the fool in the joke. And so, when I was up there, the landscape was so beautiful... The scenery was really gorgeous and impressive… And the silence... And then in my head, I thought: down there, that's Tiberias all the same. So in my head, I told myself some kind of story, and I was in a state of ecstasy... It was almost sunset, and it's true that I was in a state, in a kind of ecstasy...

JPS: A cosmic connection?

CF: I don't know what it was, but it felt good. And then, the funny thing - we always finally see the dark side of the story - was that when I went down, I walked to the lake shore, I crossed the border… And at that period of time, we could do that, it was long time ago, when Israel, was in peace. And on the way down, I came across a black dog that chased me. I climbed on a tree, and guess who called him back? It was some Palestinians who had tents and were camping there. So I was in this state where I said to myself, at the same time, there's this ecstatic state and then suddenly, out of nowhere the black gushes and bring you back to reality! Between the heavenly spiritual experience, flying, flying spiritually and there's always the terrestrial and purely material realities that bring you back to earth, reality always catches up with you. But at the same time, these Palestinians were very kind, they made me eat and they took me all the way back to Capernaum... So I experienced both this extremely mystical side and then, this furious dog that had come along to try to bite me.

JPS: Yes, the devil, some kind of?

CF: The devil... Or at least Reality. Reality arriving with the dog, you see? So all I had to do was take refuge and climb on a tree to save myself.

JPS: Claudie, thank you very much for this interview. Thank you for having us in your studio. And good luck with everything, have a great show! We'll see each other soon. A big thank to Lionel, who was filming behind the cameras, and good luck to all of you! Goodbye and see you soon.

CF: Thank you Jean-Pierre and thank to you Lionel, for being so patient!


Jean-Pierre Sergent & Karine Bertrand (sexologist in Besançon), exchange about the erotic works of JPS. Filmed at the Besançon artist's studio. Cameras: Lionel Georges and Christine Chatelet. 


Karine Bertrand: Hello Jean-Pierre.

Jean-Pierre Sergent: Hello Karine.

KB: I am delighted to be here and thank you for your invitation.

JPS: You're more than welcome! 

KB: So, we're going to share this little moment together, so you invited me for my skills as a sexologist?

JPS: Yes, but not only that, I think you really appreciate my work... And so it was an idea to have a little exchange like that, a little informal, to discuss a little bit about my work and about life in general.

KB: So I'm delighted to be able to talk about your work and to give you my opinion as a sexologist, but also on the intimate (personal) view, your work really appealed to me; as you know, I really like your work. I was very touched by this work the first time I saw it. I am even more delighted to exchange with you. So, why was I touched by this work? 

JPS: Yes, why that?

KB: For what reasons I was touched, my dear Jean-Pierre, it was already this play game of light; for me, there was a play of light in which I was invited completely into a dynamic, into the living. So already, there is a first glance, for me, who is not an Art specialist. And I speak from what I am. There was a dynamic of the living, something which invited us into some play of lights.That was the first invitation and then, when I got to the second level of reading (as we had talked about). Your work is made up of several layers of reading and at the second reading that I was able to make by looking at it a little more closely, I saw all the erotic suggestions, which obviously challenged me a lot. And then this third reading: there can be many! This third reading, which comes to invite us in the erotic suggestions but also at a given moment, pornographic... And I think that we will develop it. That's what touched me in your work. All this set of suggestions, invitations. Ultimately, one can very well pass by and not see anything at all! And depending on the person, the moment. And the viewer, must also stop right in front of your work to discover it fully. I think it is very important in order to discover your work! People can pass by; but in fact, if one don't sit down, and stare at the work, one don't see, where you invite us, in a phantasmagorical introspection at the end. I would say it like that.

JPS: Yes, you are talking in particular about my current exhibition at the Besançon Fine Arts Museum? 

KB: Yes, I am indeed talking about this exhibition and then after, about your invitation and my visit to your studio where I was able to take pleasure again in seeing this great magnificent wall that is exhibited behind us.

JPS: Well yes, there are many things that I try to develop in my work because of course, I am looking for the multiplicity of things and the successiveness and chain of events (karma); we will talk about it a little more in detail later. But as an artist, I have to spread informations. That is to say that I gather informations; I am a bit of a gleaner of informations that I diffuse, throughout my art, to the public. And as you said very rightly, most people don't get it because this artistic process, is maybe a bit too complicated or too simple? We don't really know why people don't get into the work? It's really questioning, especially nowaday; where I think that, as I often say: we have entered a post-cultural era, that is to say that we no longer have access to a deep culture. Somehow, we have access to a somewhat superficial culture. But my work is very deep because it speaks, of course, about sexuality, death, continuity, the collective unconscious... All these things, which we will be able to develop a little later.

KB: It's true that in order to bounce back, Jean-Pierre, it's quite surprising, because it's also very societal, this way of looking at Art where we must already see immediately something. Except if they are already famous painters like Picasso or others… where we will wonder about them because it is good to wonder about them. But for the time being, it's as if we had to be invited immediately, that's interesting too...

JPS: But what people don't really understand deeply, is that Art requires an initiation. It's a little difficult to say, because an initiation requires a certain culture, it takes a certain time... So, here it is...

KB: And you know what it makes me bounce back to? It makes me bounce back to the question of the erotic preliminary?

JPS: Yes, eventually. 

KB: Because foreplay, in the end, is also an initiation. We don't go there right away, we invite and we take the time to look at each other, to taste, to discover, to invite ourselves into something that will invite us into deeper intimate desire. And basically, does your artwork, it comes to me like this: but basically, isn't your artwork foreplay? It's a great compliment for me to tell you that.

JPS: Yes, but one can say a preliminary Art; But at the end, it has nevertheless an existential and metaphysical deepness. Art must touch the deep and intimate energy of the human being.

KB: But isn't sex exactly that? Ultimately, Jean-Pierre? 

JPS: Of course! But it all depends also on the culture in which one have been raised and educated! 

JPS: We are now approaching this second part and as you have noted very well and people also see it in an obvious way, I reuse a lot of pornographic images in my work. And this is what our society diffuses the most since about 50% of people are viewing pornographic images on the Internet. So this plethora of pornographic images are somehow nourishing our collective unconscious... It's obviously a business on the other hand and above all. But what do these images give off? And, can we find in these images, somewhere, a trace of sacredness, as one could say. Because what interests me is the sacred in sexuality. It is not sexuality as a monstration, it is the other dimension... It is not the intelligent dimension but the cosmic dimension. Henri Michaux said in his book "A Barbarian in Asia" that the Indians made love to their women as if they were communicating with God. And I deeply think that in sexuality, we forget, of course today, our cosmic communication. And all my work is really based on that. So I start from porn, I use a lot of genitals, images of orgasms too, to talk about this elsewhere. In bondage as well, the body is bound but it can enter another dimension. It is the force of the brain and the imagination. We have the same nervous impulses in pain that we have in the pleasure; they are exactly the same impulses; it is our free will to switch the pain in pleasure... And it is what interests me, it is this mutation, this transformation, this metamorphosis of the pain in pleasure or of the pleasure in pain or conversely and maybe the transcendence of the body also to pass beyond the body, that is it.

KB: Yes, I hear the question of the sacred, of the sublimation of pleasure and of a very transversal jouissance. I hear the question of pleasure-pain. So there, the sexologist will say: always if it is framed, desired and played. Because sex must always be played. But in the meantime, I hear well indeed. 

JPS: But Art is a game! 

KB: Indeed and in the end, we are always a little in limit games, of invitation; and it is true that, after the transcendence in the climax, it is for me a gift that one can make through the desire and the sexual pleasure. It is a real fundamental question. And what about in your work…? Because, what also appealed to me, for sure, when you talk about pornography there is this paradoxical side to it, I think?

JPS: Absolutely, yes, you are right! 

KB: Because pornography is what is visible! That's what makes pornography, otherwise it's eroticism: eroticism is suggestion and pornography is what we see! We see the organs and it is there where it is interesting, the different readings, it is that you propose us the 'not seen' in the 'seen', that is to say a paradox between, if I go to look for your images, I will see that there is pornography but otherwise, if I do not go to look for it, I do not see it!

JPS: Yes, it's obvious.

KB: Yes, but it's all this multi-layered reading at the bottom because it's true that porn, it is by definition, what we can see. 

JPS: Yes, it's what we see. But I forgot, earlier, to talk about rituals, because that's what interests me, as we are living in a totally de-ritualized society; there are no more rituals except for the soccer World Cup or the Tour de France. There are no more rituals, somewhere, that connect us to Nature with a capital N; we redefine it a little differently today but it is all this reconnection that I want to integrate and provoke through my work, with the patterns etc... And you are right, yes, yes.


JPS: Would you like to talk about the different levels of reading? 

KB: Yes, the different levels of reading... What did you mean by the dance, to enter the erotic dance? 

JPS: Yes, my work is an invitation: that's it! To enter into the dance, of course, the artist's true role is to play a game with the spectator, of course, because nobody really paint for oneself alone; it's not interesting. And then... you have to find partners who want to dance the same dance as you and with you. It's not that easy, of course.

KB: It's not so obvious, because for you, you paint? Because painting can be also sublimatory in itself, that is to say therapeutic, introspective, expulsive and one can keep, in the end, one's creation to oneself? 

JPS: Yes? but no! 

KB: Are you inviting us for a dance? Are you looking for a dancer? 

JPS: It's the whole public that I am inviting, it's a shared and fusional dance, of course. No, I'm not looking for a dancer. I always remember going to see a beautiful exhibition of artist Yves Klein at Pompidou Center, with his big blue monochromes and when you are in front of his works, your brain changes its vibration. And that's exactly what I'm trying to do: that the body changes its vibration, changes its energy. Because nowadays, most people have totally lost their cosmic energies and connections; we spoke about it earlier. My Art, is, perhaps, a real invitation to enter, yes, in the true cosmic dance (Life-Sex-Death). In something else, in other cultures, because we are of course the full amount, of all that preceded us. And there are so many cultures are disappearing before our eyes nowadays. So, I have a little bit this will to say that at that time period, for example in precolombian times, there were the Mayas who communicated with their Gods by making self-sacrifices... We do no longer sacrifice anything for the World today, to regenerate the World. We are fiercely selfish and destructive. And we are somehow 'vaccinated' towards Life. We no longer enter into Life, in any ways. Antonin Artaud said a very beautiful sentence: "You are outside of Life!" And I think that my work invites us to enter back to Life again. 

KB: Yes, by the way, it makes me bounce back to the painting I offered myself for my Christmas last year, it's one of your silkscreen works that I'm very happy to have with at home. And there are all these different levels of readings, and the first one that caught my eye was the: Pachamama!

JPS: Oh yes, Mother Earth!

KB: It is Mother Earth, there is something of this kind of energy, that invites us also in eroticism etc. But first there was this invitation to Mother Earth. 

JPS: Yes, yes, it is a fusional, maternal dance, yes, you are right. It is the Regressus ad Uterum: the re-entry into the womb, of course.  It is the place of creation. Artists often invite people into their place of creation. 

KB: And it's amazing, because when friends come over, they have a glance… and every one… obviously, I don't say anything; and they all have totally different interpretations. So, it's quite funny because it also allows you to see how everyone is formatted, basically, in their questioning. 

JPS: But one can only understand what one already knows, and that's where the problem stay for ages! People don't understand my work, because they don't really know what I'm talking about. Of course, we all have our reading grids, we all had an artistic education, we know all that and therefore, we do only with what we have, we can't go into the unknown. It is very, very difficult to go into the unknown... For example, if you read the Upanishads today, you will not understand anything at all; but if you read the Upanishads when are sixty years old, well, you may find it fabulous! So It is therefore a whole level of awareness and knowledge that must be acquired and Art is somewhere there, to awaken the level of consciousness. 

KB: Yes, I think that we can talk about Art which could awaken the levels of consciousness but I also think that, as you said earlier, it needs also a time of discovering it. That is to say that people do not take the time to observe, because there are numerous things to be seen, which are also readable and which one interprets, each one in its way and that there will be various levels of readings. So it's accessible, somehow, but my feeling is just that, deep down, we no longer take the time to look curiously and with interest? That's a real question!

JPS: No, we don't really take the time anymore, that's true, yes!

KB: To take the time… I was yesterday morning at the Besançon Museum and I saw your work again. As you can see, people don't stop or they don't stop very often. They don't stop but not necessarily only in front of your work and I was surprised to see how people visit a Museum... like a supermarket. So not all, obviously, I don't want to generalize; but it says something about a society too, it says something about an era! You have to take the time to be touched and overwhelmed. We are consuming, we are consume non stop!

JPS: Yes, one should read Krishnamurti, he talks about attention. The only time we are fully present to the World, is when we are attentive. And it's the same thing for knowing "God", in quotes, or the cosmic forces or even Art, yes. You have to pay attention to things and people don't pay attention anymore, as they are, as you said, they are in linear time; but I am in the multiplicity of all times, so it is very difficult. And in order to access that, you must have lived, at some point, some deep spiritual experiences; you have to fall on your head and get up again and say: well, that does exists and this, that doesn't exist anymore, why? Why did we destroy the whole World? Why have we destroyed so many indigenous cultures? And is our culture, our selfish way of living, worth more than any other cultures that have been destroyed? Of course, we have to ask ourselves this question. That's it.


JPS: So, let's have a little extra-bonus dear Karine...

KB: Yes, with pleasure.

JPS: I worked, not during all this Summer, because it was too hot to work and screen printing uses a lot of water; so I worked only on films during Summer and printed in the fall this new batch of a series titled: "Karma-Kali, Erotic Dreams & Paradoxes".  We talked earlier about paradox! we are right in the subject of our interview and so I printed probably more than 200 (232) and all of them are unique prints. I really worked a lot! And just finished the job a couple of days ago and took pictures of all the prints. I had chosen five silkscreens to present you. In this one, you can see exactly what we talked about, which is eroticism. It's a woman dressed all in lingerie with fishnet stockings, garter belt and bustier: it's the 'hidden-unveiled' that we talked about earlier... As well as the pattern that I drew by hand on the film, like this and... yes?

KS: Well, it makes me think of the Orient, you know those windows where...

JPS: Exactly, the moucharabiehs, yes. 

KB: Yes, where you are hidden and revealed, in the background, right? The suggestion is that behind this window you see parts of body. For me, it is a very oriental representation of the feminine behind this window which is often very charged very intricate an entanglement were we often see, as there, snatches of the eroticised body. 

JPS: Yes, that is to say, necessarily and to thruly enter sexual orgasm, it is necessary to avoid all the cultural structures, since our cultures do not teach us to have orgasms. The revealed religion (or religions) (which is anti orgasmic by essence) has repressed the female orgasm (throughout its history). As we can unfortunately witness with what is happening right know in Iran: women are not allowed to show their hair in order not to 'excite' men's desires. Or they can only excite them at home. The body is something very political, the female body in particular has always been very repressed by many cultures (almost all of them!) throughout the World and throughout human history. 

KS: So, us, as sex therapists, we make a difference between orgasm and pleasure...

JPS: Maybe so, but that's not the point to discuss right now!

KS: In any case, it is the true question of enjoying one's body freely.

JPS: In its fullness!

KS: And to be able to express oneself and experience it. 

JPS: Yes, it's like excising women, these are terrible and inhuman practices... And so, there is here the geometrical structure that eventually prevents the body from dissolve itself, from ejaculating somehow, from reaching its plenitude (confinement versus liberation and fragmentation); we can see and interpreted that way too.

KS: That's amazingly interesting! 

JPS: You had a bit of a crush on that silkscreen and I thought that this image of bondage was almost virginal in a way. What interests me is to find ecstasy into this woman's face. Since we all know very well, more or less, the photo of the statue of Saint Teresa of Avila who is in ecstasy. She falls into ecstasy by communicating with God. But one can also communicate with one's own body and enter into ecstasy. Truly, the ecstasy is perfect, it's good, it's subtle, it's amazing! 

KS: I really love it a lot because it is very obvious with its strong and vivid colors... Bang! It's challenging us and finally, there are absolutely no suggestions and we are directly immersed in it!

JPS: It's true!

KB: That is to say that, perhaps, compared to the work which is behind us (the big mural installation), it is a work which comes to catch us! We directly go to the point! With the colors and by the readability. So there is no suggestion or invitation, or... 

JPS: Yes, it is direct!

KB: We are taken somewhere and we are perhaps also a little bonded; in any case, it is an invitation, that's what I can feel...

JPS: Absolutely yes, it creates indeed a direct link, precisely, with the spectator, since it challenges...

KS: Right away!

JPS: For good or bad, because for example, there are people working at the Museum of Fine Arts in Besançon who criticized my work by saying that it was pornographic! So, afterwards, as we said before, everyone has their own culture, everyone has their own open-mindedness, more or less... But yes! 

KS: It is surprising in regard of this society which is rather very open and even a bit too much, on the dynamics of pornography...

JPS: Absolutely!

KB: So that's what you were challenged on, at the Museum?

JPS: But we do live in a society where there are hardly any works showing sexual penetration in any Museum in France for example. (except the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, which is a metaphor for the transublimated sexual act). And that, when you think about it, is as if we had been amputated of the body and its creative functions and of our two arms. It is the man or the woman always lowered, incomplete, asexualized and subjected to moral and aesthetic dictates. You spoke a little about it during your conference yesterday: the female pubis has practically never been shown complete, in Western art, well, from Greece onwards, very little. 

KB: Yes, very little, yes!

JPS: Very few in fact, and so, other cultures showed it because it was the first place of life and joy!

KB: So I'm discovering your work as we go along!

JPS: Yes, that's the rules of the game!

KS: Because it's an important moment, so I let myself get caught up by emotions and I would say, that the pattern makes sense in its relationship to ritual, it's the question about the ritual that I am seeing here. What did you put in it? What is your message, your messages?

JPS: No, but I don't really have any messages, anyhow we have been talking about rhythm earlier.

KB: Yes, the ritual and the rhythm, yes.

JPS: It's true that when I draw this , I find a rhythm, a scansion. For exemple, it's an image that I found, most of the images are images that I have recovered. Which were created by artists thousand years ago, or ten thousand years ago, or three thousand years ago, or two hundred years ago, or I really don't know when? And the patterns they created appeal to me and so I redesign and reuse them. But I don't really know the state of mind in which these artists were neither the true spiritual meaning of these drawings. But during the transformation and reinterpretation that I do (by hand drawing the drawing of an artist who made it!); I can renter again in its energy and in something spiritual. Here, you can also see flowers like that. It probably from Mexico but I don't remember. And you can also find this in some of the Middle Ages manuscripts where people enter in their prayer to speak to God. So, making Art is a way to talk, not really to an entity but to something that transcends us. A stillness... a state of non-thinking; a zen state like.

KB: Yes, the state of floating, of suspension in the ritual.

JPS: Yes, that's it, a zen state, of awakening. It's almost a satori state, if you will... There, that's the Stag (or an Elk?). That's one the last images I printed. I had this image for a very long time and I didn't like it very much (I thought it was too simple), it's a prehistoric drawing that I picked up, I don't remember in which culture? I didn't like it and so, before printing this image, I drew some arrows on the film. They are arrows of energy. That is to say that the animal releases its energy towards the outside. It is not towards the inside. It is Life Forces that comes out and radiates by essence! 

KS: Yes, the life force of the Stag, yes, right! The power beyond, basically and that's what's interesting... It's the idea of the beyond, we go beyond our own body! 

JPS: Yes but we are present into the body; the body is present, it is not abandoned, dead already!

KB: Absolutely, but when I say in the beyond, it means it doesn't stop at our carnal envelope? The energy? 

JPS: That's up for discussion; it's really a metaphysical problem. But here, the Deer is alive! Because the energy of the dead, it is difficult to speak about it. I don't really know, I don't know, but whatever! And here, it's a very erotic serigraphy too, I thought it was very appropriate! You talked about dance, rhythm and scansion and well, it's really the rhythm of en erotical dance and ejaculation...

KB: We are way beyond eroticism in this print?

JPS: Why?

KB: There, sex is suggested very obviously!

JPS: Yes, but it is erotic because it is not pornographic: it is ART! 

KB: Yes, definitely!

JPS: But well, that's for sure! 

KB: In any case it's interesting, beyond the erotic graphics, it's also the idea (the sexologist is talking) of two women who play and climaxing together on a potential penetration, even a penetration de facto. 

JPS: And of an ejaculation also! 

KB: And an ejaculation, yes!

JPS: It's a game, as we said earlier! Art is a game!

KB: Yes, that's right, it's a game, yes! It's really interesting because you also play about the question of the genres, in the question of the games of meeting: man-man, woman-woman, you would be more into woman-woman?

JPS: No, I almost never paint images of men, except for shamans in ecstasy and ithyphallic. Because I am a man, I know it, it does not interest me more than that. I prefer the strange, the foreign and the elsewhere... Besides my whole life is based on that. I can't say that I have traveled a lot... But I like the ELSEWHERE! Thank you very much dear Karine.

KB: Thanks to you!


KB: And now, let's talk about the patterns?

JPS: Yes, we use that word in English!

KB: Well, to each his own, but on the question of the repetitive pattern, when I naively asked you, I admit it, what was the pattern or the repetitive pattern; and in repetitive, you see, right away, it makes me think of dance.

JPS: Yes, dance or sexuality... 

KB: Sexual dance and the repetition of something or not always... But yes, on the question of the repetitive pattern, on this erotic dance, on this suggestive dance? Which is, at the end, a ritual and an erotic and suggestive dance of the bodies.

JPS: Yes, you have to think about voodoo dances, trance dances and ecstatic dance dances, of course, because what interests me is also to talk about trance. We haven't talked about it yet. But this binary repetition, we can also feel it with the aborigines of Australia when they play their didjeridoos. And so, they enter in trance by chanting some repetitive words and then with this sound and this rhythm, like that, which make them enter in trance and precisely, enter in another geographical dimension of the cosmos and dreams (Dreamtime Stories). And I had the chance to experience some shamanic trances in New York. We always did it under the shamanic drum beat repetition, to enter into these trances. And that is exactly what I want to talk about. I want to talk about that rhythm, the rhythm of the body. The body is so important in my work, it is an essential subject of course... Because without the body, there is absolutely nothing. 

KB: Indeed that is the question of repetition but also of corporality and emotionality that I find very interesting into your work. Deeply, your art speak to me through my guts. And that really interests me. Today, we intellectualize things so much; your art is obvious. And we have this possibility to listen better, deep down: an emotion, a sensation, coming from the belly, something that takes you deep down... And the shamanic dance, it's that! There is no reflection! There is no methodology of dance steps. We are on pure sex, pure emotion, elsewhere and beyond... And indeed, sex is also this invitation. 

JPS: Yes, we are elsewhere and beyond but we are inside! 

KB: We are indeed inside of course! 

JPS: Yes, that is the humongous paradox of course! I would like to talk about this paradox: we are inside. 

 KB: But there is some paradox! 

JPS: Yes, but it is our body that can generate these images of cosmic travels, of course, and of course sexuality is very rhythmical; inevitably, without rhythm in sexuality, sexuality does not exist, period, and then it is silence and death!

KS: Indeed, on the question of dance and erotic encounter, we need this rhythm. If we do not speak the same body language, we may have difficulties to connect ourselves in an intimate moment in any case. 

JPS: Talking about dance, I was long ago, at a party in New York and there was a Brazilian friend who was dancing the samba. There was a live samba band playing there and it was a really fascinating moment! And it's true that it also brings us into the Joy. I would also like to talk about the joy. This scansion of the repetitive beats like that; and the meetings man-woman, woman-woman or man-man, make us enter in a common and fusional space. It is a sharing and exchange moment… And the Art is also a sharing, obviously. It is very important, yes! 

KS: Yes, and it is true that on the question of the presence of the bodies in your work, I just wanted to repeat that the bodies: they are sublimated, fantasized, desired, suggested... In short, we are constantly invited like that, in discovering your artwork, if only we take the time for it. So, I am really inviting the listeners to go to the Museum of Fine Arts of Besançon and to sit on the stairs! And to take this precious time, to have a glance at what happens in your huge mural paintings. Because this invitation of mosaic and colors and dynamics of life, if we don't stop there, if we don't look deeply at it, we are loosing the meaning (it doesn't mean that it's not nice by itself this mosaic of life!); but if we don't look profoundly at it, we missed more than three quarters of your work; and that's a shame. 

JPS: One could say ninety-nine percent of my work! 

KB: Well, yes, indeed I didn't dare say it!

JPS: Yes, yes, but it's true. Karine, thank you very much for this beautiful interview, thank you to the friends who are behind the cameras: Lionel and Christine. It was really a great pleasure to exchange with you, thank you all and see you soon, goodbye.



Jean-Pierre Sergent talks with Nicolas Surlapierre, the Museum director, about his mural installation: "The Four Pillars Of The Sky" (80 m2) at the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology of Besançon. Filmed on June 30, 2022, cameras Lionel Georges and Christine Chatelet.


Nicolas Surlapierre: Jean-Pierre, I'm quite happy that we're doing a new interview again, we did the last one, I would say almost two years ago. We were in the Conference Room of the Museum where we had presented a series of small, beautiful and erotic serigraphs "Eros Unlimited". We had a discussion that lasted an hour and a half or two hours, I don't remember. And some time later, I had watched the videos and had found, how many elements that were told to me, directly, had escaped me. So, I found it extremely interesting to be able to go back to an interview, even if this evening, it is at your initiative. So, an interview is one of the most difficult exercises with artists, why? Because what is important is not so much the person who is going to ask the questions; but it is to be able to listen to you. To hear you on this work, on this great installation at the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology, on which we will come back, this monumental work: "The Four Pillars Of The Sky" that, I think, one sees well, I hope, behind me!
First of all, what I would like to do is to try to start this conversation, because it is also a conversation and that is how we conceived it, through quotations, quotations that you transmitted to me in a very framed, very structured way, and I find it quite fascinating to enter your artistic universe. The first question I'm going to ask you, that I chose among the quotations in the example you gave me; I chose the first quotation I'm going to read. It's an Apache proverb, it's a very short one and I'm going to ask you to react to this Apache proverb, which touched me tremendously and this proverb says : "I'm not here to fit into your world, I'm here to protect mine." I'd like you to respond to either part of that Apache proverb, that aphorism, if you will, maybe explain what you mean to protect in your creation and how you do it? And by what images, by what references, perhaps, you install this protection and what is this type of protection?

Jean-Pierre Sergent : Yes, well, Art is necessarily a fight. I think that all the artists feel it. It is a fight against the stupidity of the World, against the destruction of the World! We try to regenerate the World, we make in some way, rituals of regeneration. We are really like the shamans n the old times and we are also fighting into guerrilla warfare since, necessarily, the materialistic world tries to destroy all creation. Especially nowadays! It is true that we are in a state of resistance (as one could say!) And this Apache proverb is very interesting and absolutely correct, since we are every day into a fight to try to defend the humanistic values, the values of beauty, the values of color, the values of life too! You see, I am not 'Pro-Life', in quotes, but I am for Life. I think one can feel it very strongly in my paintings because I use a lot of colors, I use a lot of energies and it is really this particular struggle that I wanted to name and present to the public. So whether people can feel it or not is another problem and I think it will probably take some time before people feel the strength or the power of my artwork. But anyhow, it is inherent and consubstantial to Art, it always takes some time for it to be understood...

NS: So, I was interested by this quote, this Apache proverb, because I think that this is one of the functions of Museums, because Museums are not only there to protect collections, to protect people but to accompany, in any case the staff and the visitors but we are also there to protect meanings and that's why I liked this quote, as I really believe, sometimes we don't really know, how the message that will be given, how we will be able to diffuse it... So much the worse if it is lost but sometimes there are things that come back in a strange way; but not necessarily, if I understand what you say, not necessarily at the moment when we expect it the most. That's why I think that this idea of protection of meanings is, I think with you, a little different. Because it is a protection of a universe or even universes, and you used this theme of shaman, which would pass, in a aesthetic way, obviously but also in an almost ritual way, in a ritualistic way, throughout you. So we are in front of this great composition of the "The Four Pillars Of The Sky" I will not ask you a very complex question. I will come back later on what I feel about this large painting, can you explain us a little bit the genesis and then how you conceived this great wall installation and how and why? What is the shape that it took, why always these 105 cm by 105 cm modular units, why the square? All these elements and of course, the motifs; all these elements that are constitutive of the "The Four Pillars Of The Sky"?

JPS: Yes, I started developing this kind of work on Plexiglas in a very organic way in New York where I started by putting together a few small panels on the wall and then finally, in my Brooklyn studio's, I wanted to cover the whole wall. It's these wall installations that fill me up and soothe me somehow. Because it's not that I want to do large scale formats for the sake of doing large formats; as it's always small units added together, that I do on a daily basis. They are always small units that I make on a daily basis, which come together and form what we can call this big mural painting, an artist's universe. And what also interests me is that it is completely heterogeneous. Sometimes there are links because, as I reproduce the images with the medium of screen-printing, I can repeat an image several times but otherwise there are images that have absolutely nothing to do with each other and that creates for me, like that: a dynamic, a chaos, in which I can live. My first references are really the tombs of the ancient Egyptians, because finally, it was the place where the dead could survive for eternity. So it's a bit of a quest for the eternal, somehow, in all modesty and on a daily basis. It's always a work in progress. It's the work itself which is inscribed in the duration, that's it.

NS: By the way, in your Notes, because you wrote in several Notes and particularly in Beauty is Energy where you also evoke this great composition "The Four Pillars Of The Sky". You said that you attacked, in a certain way, rationality. There is something that you attack! Can you be more specific? Because I thought it was a beautiful idea, on this question of rationality? Why I ask you this question, because when the visitors pass in front of the composition, as we have this square format, which is repeated... There is a great stability, we have also the symmetry of the staircases… The layout looks on the contrary, extremely rational. One feels that it is very mastered plastically and aesthetically, I was going to say. It is also very mastered at the level of the device; and yet, you speak at a given moment of wanting to attack rationality. What do you mean by this: attacking the rationality?

JPS: The structure of my painting is rational and organized (like an organic body), of course, since it has to be shown, it's architected; in order to present it in this architecture, of course, but in this sense of attacking rationality, I mean that we live in a very rational world where it is money that dominates us and enslave us! It's a Franc plus a Franc, an Euro plus an Euro or a Dollar plus a Dollar... That is to say that everything is added all the time and endlessly, like that, and the whole spiritual world has disappeared (the free of charge & generosity). I wanted to quote Andreï Tarkovski who says in this very beautiful book that I am reading Sculpting in Time:

"Since the WW2 war, culture has collapsed. In the whole World. And the spiritual world too. [...] Today, more than ever, we must safeguard everything that has a link, however tenuous, with the spiritual." Sculpting in Time, Andreï Tarkovski

That is to say, the 'rational' (materialistic) world is always in combat with the spiritual world. Except that now all the churches are closing, it's becoming ruins. So where to find the place of the spiritual? That's kind of our approach as artists; not to save all that, but maybe to try to save the last pieces (the last snippets) of what has lasted for millennia... Because, I feel a certain responsibility to oppose this rational and technological world, which locks us in a crazy speed all the time, which eats up our time to live and to love. And you see, in my work, I speak about immemorial things, I speak about Egyptian rituals, I speak about sexuality which exists since the dawn of time and for everybody; for the animals and for ourselves! I am talking about the wisdom of the Buddha, since the Buddha exists, this wisdom exists. You see, I want to talk about this collective memory; that we can call the collective unconscious. And I think, for example, that if ever the artists disappeared; it is the sentence of the famous German artist who says: "If Art disappeared, the human brain would also disappear", dixit Joseph Beuys. 

"Art education is a problem all over the world. Deep down, everyone knows that man cannot live without art. Without art education man would probably wither away after 2000 years without art he would probably lose his brain. We are talking here about an art that gives back life to man directly from an unknown space, but which I try to designate with the term "counter-space" and by asking the question of man's entire existence: How does man come into the world? What are the forces that nourish him?
Art is food for man, January 27 1970, Joseph Beuys

JPS : And I think there we have a true role to play, somewhere, so that the brain does not disappear. 

NS: Or that Art does not disappear!

JPS: Yes, but Art is less important than Life, somewhere, yes maybe?

NS: So, it's interesting what you say because I had never asked myself the question, we feel this part of spirituality in your work, or some interest, for what I could call the spiritual knowledge or or The spiritual in Art (Kandinsky) to quote the title of a famous book. But I didn't necessarily associate it with a place, be it a church or a temple. I thought that it could be as well in a sacred hill and finally, I say to myself: how do you consider yourself in relation to a landscape, outside? Because I see you from time to time at the Courbet Museum in Ornans where one can discover the painter Courbet, who is also a great landscape painter and perhaps one of the great landscape painters of the 19th century. What is your relationship with Nature? And is it possible to explain to us this relationship between spirituality and finally observation, I was going to say of the pattern, of the landscape... Because, that's what's interesting in an interview. There are things that we have swept away and then, suddenly, there is an idea that arises... And according to me, this idea that arises is precisely the difference between the interior and the exterior. And I'm really talking very architecturally about the term. You spoke of churches, so here we are in a Museum. But because for me, the spiritual can be in a valley, in a grandiose landscape or even not… where the spiritual can express itself very, very strongly, sometimes one does not know so much, not well; the way in which the spiritual can express itself. Does the exterior have an importance, do the landscapes, the atmospheres, do they have an importance for you? Or is your interest more through vestiges, traces, or through your knowledge of contemporary art of course? Some Vestiges, traces and finally something rather patrimonial in your images stock?

JPS: That's a very good question. What fascinates me is Art, of course, because that's where the sacred remains and endures... And I didn't have any Buddhist training; but when I go canoeing into Nature, I can feel... Firstly, I feel an absolutely neutral space. That is to say that Nature doesn't give a damn about us and somewhere you can bang your head on a rock for hours; and the rock won't talk to you more in any way, if you want! And it's very important, this neutrality... Because we are very pretentious (Men) and we think that we have an importance. But we don't have much importance. Our only importance is to define something sacred and to define it together, and of course, now that Art is selling at exorbitant prices, if a painting sells for 2 or 3 million Euros, it becomes a sacred object in a way. And it is money that makes things sacred. But before, the works or the people had their own sacredness and were integrated into a community through common rituals. And, I have the deep and real impression that our rituals have, for the most part, disappeared. And we're kind of on our own. So, we go back to the point that maybe, nowadays, it's, maybe, artists responsibility to bring everyone together and create the connection between each of us. But it's a bit pretentious, but maybe in front of a Pollock's canvas we can feel this cosmic energy or this sexual energy that he wanted to depict? What is important is that the public can feel an energy. Spirituality it's that! It's to feel an energy that is beyond us, that is transcendental somewhere.

NS: And so, I would like to hear you, not to conclude; but when I am in front of "The Four Pillars Of The Sky", I see something quite well organised, quite structured, a quite stable composition and yet there is something that in spite of the mandalas, in spite of some lotus motifs, in spite of certain motifs that we find often in your Pantheon and that we are beginning to know well and that are almost formal attributes; one may have the feeling that there is absolutely no center? And this is what disturbs me, but in the good sense of the word; in the sense that interests me! I say disturbed not to say interested, the term is a little more common, which disturbs me. One has the impression that one does not know in these "Four Pillars of the Sky", whereas it should be structuring. It should be Four Pillars that, in a certain way, build our relationship to Art, or perhaps even create reference points? While there, on the contrary, one has the impression that one slips constantly, that one can never concentrate in the image; while being at the same time, and it is that which I appreciate... It is to say that there is this aspect, I do not want to say it is an: 'at the same time', but one cannot really completely concentrate in the image and yet: there is this effect! By a repetition of certain motifs that we could call the 'pattern', it is not, by erudition, it is more in the American meaning. I find that the term is more accurate than the 'decorative motif that repeats itself', like a psalmody, almost like in a hypnotic relationship. So there is something of the concentration. And I don't know if it's really a question but in any way; I really find some aspects, to summarize in a rough way, the mandala or the mandala form or the lotus form. That is to say, something that bring us towards a concentration and towards a very, very precise point... And precisely, I have the deep feeling that, in this installation, I find that it is rather marvellous, that we are almost in a world before the discovery that the Earth was round. That is to say, if there are no boundaries and we are in a world that is edgeless, precisely, as we are in a borderless world, one can be scare that if we approach too much the limit of the work; perhaps we can fall. And it is the motif, in a certain way, that we try to find back and sometimes the links too. That we find... The bodies, the straps that allow us to go back to the surface of the image or in any case, to remain on the edge of the world that you are giving us. Because you offer us indeed, I do not know if you propose a cosmogony but in any case, very certainly, you propose a world. That's how I talk about this installation, I'm particularly interested in the execution and staging of your art. this set up of your Art. And I had a very simple question: do you think it is immobile? Are your compositions immobiles or, at the opposite, do you see movement in it? Because I can't decide, that's why I ask you the question.

JPS: Yes, it's a very interesting question, I want to talk about infinity, of course (the perpetual motion)! That is to say that there is absolutely no center at all! You did perfectly understood that. There is no center, it is a coalition, a conglomerate of movements, images and informations; just as in shamanic trances. That is to say that everything slides, everything merges and the times mix, obviously. There is not only one time T; there are several T times! There are 'at the same time' and merged together: Africa, there is Siberia, the Tiger, the Snake, Death and Life… Everything really mixes, it is like what one could name like the New York melting pot. Everything mixes and I think it's very important because it creates another dynamic. You did have pointed that out very correctly: with my Art, I am getting out of the linear time, yes, that's exactly it.


NS: So perhaps now, to go further, beyond the "Four Pillars Of The Sky", we could now try to move forward and think on what you called in the Notes you gave me: "liberator Art and rescuer Art". With also the part of saving and liberating for the artist and also for the public, because the public does not put the liberation or the salvation, in the same place. You had several quotations, you had proposed a quotation from James Joyce, there is a beautiful quotation from À rebours, from Huysmans and then, you had put some notes, notably from your New York Diary's, from your Notes of New York and then, I like it because it is very short but in my opinion it would deserve to be developed and it is perhaps the object of this interview. So, you say in these Notes from NY: "beauty is born out of confusion." I would like you to come back to this theme of confusion, or in any case, its relation to beauty?

JPS: Yes, we talked last time about stumbling, I don't know if you remember that, in our last interview?

NS: Yes, I had forgotten the world but it is very beautiful indeed! One day we'll have to stop stumbling, but in that case, we'll be dead! 

JPS: Yes, it's certain that Life is always a matter of chance, of coincidences and stumbles. I wrote this little sentence in New York because there is always so much informations and things that happen in this World-City. And also, today, we are constantly overwhelmed by and in information and in this confusion. It is as if there was a kind of iceberg of beauty lost and floating somewhere. Well, maybe beauty exists beyond all these horrors; and Life is still of incredible power and beauty. When we go into Nature and it is untouched, it moves us every time. And when we are in front of animals, it is the same, they do have this vital energy, once again, when it is not damaged. And it is this beauty that I also feel within all the first peoples, before they were exterminated like dogs. So this beauty there... And this confusion, because unfortunately we cannot name beauty, it is true. And then, it is so infinite, I spoke about it before, it is way beyond us. It is something that moves us, that moves the infant to the old man who hears a bird song and smiles!

NS: Yes, what can be retained: it is the multitude of information and that perhaps, the beauty quotes or leaves this multitude; where one does not see anything any more, what one calls besides on Internet: the 'noise' in fact. This brouhaha even insane. It comes out a little bit of freeze-frame almost and to get out of this confusion, of these hundreds, tens, thousands, billions of information that, in a certain way, prevent us perhaps from having a true gaze, prevents us from stopping and understanding, it is a little bit trite, they are clichés but nevertheless; I am struck by the fact that we finally confuse... Communication, information and finally real knowledge, not scholarly knowledge but spiritual knowledge, which is not quite the same thing. So, what  is really interesting is that we can see in all this knowledges, because at the same time in your works there is a multitude of images, there is a multitude of references and references of our contemporary time or of the most distant times and maybe even parietal, to the Cave Art. And precisely, by a rather strange system of quotations, you manage to create a coherence and isolate images in order to break up and destroy this overall confusion. Even if, in my opinion, your confusion is not only a defect. It is not you who are confused.

JPS: Of course, yes.

NS: But confusion certainly brings energy, and from this confusion comes energy, because this is an aspect, for the moment, that we haven't mentioned yet, beyond the images and beyond the refinement of your pictures, through the technique of silk-screening, of the way it's very well painted. It is perfect in terms of realization, there is a great technicality. There is energy; there is a confusion but which is put back in order and well organised. It's like as if you wanted to try to put order into the chaos and how do I go about putting some order in the chaos? And so, that's why I like this quote, which puts in relation beauty and confusion; which, sometimes, oppose each other and sometimes, on the other hand, enhance each other as if; the designers sometimes say: "As if it dressed the form". Dressing the form because otherwise, it would not be nude, but it would be indistinct. Thus, we can get out of the indistinctness. And in the exemplary list that you gave me, I will quote, I have chosen two quotations. I told you I was going to talk about one, but in the end, I think I'll talk about two. The first one, I'm going to read it entirely and I'd like to hear you on this quote, it's taken from Manières d'être vivant by Baptiste Morizot who says this:

"Dancing in the ropes, to dodge the dualism of animality as inferior bestiality and superior purity. To open up a still unexplored space: that of the worlds to be invented once we have passed to the other side. To catch a glimpse of them, to give them to be seen, a great breath." Ways to be Alive, Baptiste Morizot

JPS: Yes! Well, that's exactly what I do in my work and you said it earlier. That is to say that by mixing all these energies with all this chaos; It's my artist statement and will of working in the chaos in order to reach, precisely, a higher energy. And here, I am going to speak a little bit about Tantrism, because it is not very well known... I am going to try to find the passage:

"Tantrism embraced the existence in its totality, was conscious of the whole universe located in the heart of the human person. All thoughts, all acts, including sexual energy, were channeled towards spiritual development..." The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen

As in Tantrism, they work with all the 'shit', in quotes, the body's waste products: they work with sex, death, corpses they work with all that... They are mixing, merging and assimilate all that in order to access spirituality. That's a bit what I do in my work: I work a lot with pornography, which is the ultimate shit of society because the pornographic business is as big as the arms business! It's a huge business worldwide! Here, in this exhibition, there are very few pornographic images but a big part of my work uses pornographic images and therefore it can question the public too; because sexuality and sexual acts were very little shown in Art, a little more in Contemporary Art but we spoke about it very little before. You see! And all that, it boosts from all sides, I have to go to the limits of the World, as we said earlier. To move things a bit. Because, it's true that I'm a little bored... In fact, Western Art bores me a deeply. I'm here to boost, to move things beyond the lines...                       

NS: Why? What bores you when you go to see an exhibition or in Western Art? What do you find boring? It's not a question of taste but finally, you don't vibrate or you don't feel much interest; even if it's well done, well produced because there are many great artists?

JPS: Well, precisely because it's still on the ropes. I like people who transgress. Pollock, had transgressed. Afterwards, you can also feel a transgression in Giotto or in Cave paintings. But I do not feel it or very little, in paintings... Except, for example in Vermeer, where he transgresses because he painted a space which is infinite (divine), That is to say that he gives us to see an infinite space; there is an infinite dimension. The colors are right... It's DING! It's something that exists like that! by itself! And through these paintings, you enter another World somewhere. It's the door to another World. Just like when you reach the satori awakening in Japan: BOOM! You didn't understand the World and suddenly you understand it! And so, if it's a painting that just describes me a landscape whatever... For me, it's not enough! It's just monkey's gestures! But fortunately we are each different in front of Art, of course!

NS: And in this quote? It is said as a dualism by Baptiste Morizot? This duality? Because that is present, not necessarily only in the "Four Pillars of the Sky" but in many of your serigraphs: this question of animality and bestiality. I like the fact that he makes, in a certain way, the difference between the animal and the bestiality. Do you feel it? Do you understand it? And do you know how to define it? 

JPS: No! I haven't really thought about it. Concerning the animals, I lived for ten years on a farm with horses so I know really what animal sexuality is! The energy, the vitality of the raw body, I know what it is. The insemination of mares, I know what it is. Zola spoke about it very well in his book The Earth. This sexual act releases an incredible energy but, to name and differentiate bestiality or animality? Well, these are a bit technical terms, somehow. No, I don't really see any difference. One should read Georges Bataille (Erotisism) on this subject matter, yes.

NS: Yes, I'm sure that, just by hearing you, for example, in order to answer the previous question or react to the quote: "Dancing in the ropes", I'm sure that bestiality, it's not that it's something superior but just that it's out of the ropes. Unlike... well, for me. Because, if I had to make a difference with animality, I would be rather in the extreme expression of animality, rather within a ritual, whereas bestiality, it is precisely to escape this ritual. Finally, I feel a difference and I feel that this difference is important. And in particular, it is important not so much to know what is the exact definition of the beast and the animal? What would be the fundamental difference? But more exactly, because we, it is our role, of Historian of Art, Curator of Museum, to try to understand, to protect the meanings and to protect them, it is necessary, at the first place, to find them. And thus in the motives and in particular in the motives of the animals... I remember that you had shown me and I had stopped quite a long time on a representation, however very simple: a serigraphy of a Stag!

JPS: Yes, that's it, the shamanic ithyphallic Stag!

NS: And this Deer, for me, when you showed me this silkscreen; besides, I had looked at several of them and I had constantly come back to this image...

JPS: That's right, yes!

NS: We were not in the representation of animality, as we can see in "L'Hallali du cerf", by Courbet, which is kept in the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology in Besançon; but we were really, in bestiality. Because the relationship to representation, according to me, is linked to a ritual. Perhaps even to a priapic or almost sexual ritual. And thus, it violates the simple representation of the animal. And therefore, through this ritual, it enters fully into bestiality. And I find that it is something which is beautiful, the bestiality; because it is a little bit like during antiques times, when Greek Gods and Goddesses sent spells on the mortals and the demigods or the demigoddesses. That is to say, we are out of control. And in my opinion, in bestiality, we escape control. This does not mean that, in animality, there is not an incredible force. And especially, as you underlined it, since you observed it in your personal life... There is not an incredible force in the animal, in itself and in particular in its sexuality or in what one can imagine of the animal sexuality. So, I think it's a beautiful nuance, which would deserve to be deepened, to be almost reflected, in a way. And then, I hope it's not by surprise, but I had forgotten that you were quoting a filmmaker who may seem to be at the antipodes of your aesthetic, it is Visconti. You quote Luchino Visconti in a sentence where he reflects, basically, on the aspect of decadence. What is decadence? And also, finally, in his cinema, it is a long reflection. And that's why he gets along so well, not as a friend but with Thomas Mann. That he feels so close to Thomas Mann and in a certain way to his book Death in Venice. It's because Thomas Mann understood what decadence was. And what I like, then, I hope that you can make a link with this quotation that you gave me and that you thought about it?

JPS: Yes, of course!

NS: What I like is what he says, about what decadence is, for him; what he's interested in anyway about decadence is maybe not the definition of decadence; he says: "It's the examination of a sick society":

"I have often been called decadent. I have a very favorable opinion of decadence, as did Thomas Mann, for example. I am imbued with this decadence. What has always interested me is the examination of a sick society." Luchino Visconti

Why you have chosen from dozens of quotes and that you are a very big reader. By the way, it's always a pleasure to come to the workshop because I love looking at your bookshelf. You really read a lot, and your books are annotated! There are bookmarks; the books have lived... Why have you, among these hundreds of quotations, retained, finally, one could say: the examination of this sick society?

JPS: Because I live it daily, of course. Everyone can feel that society is 100% sick; beyond the very beautiful films of Visconti, which are to die for, of course, his films are magnificent! But, I come back to the situation of the animal and then, I will come back to Visconti right away. In his book Lascaux or the birth of Art, Georges Bataille said that "The animal is like the human being, only holier." (Apache proverb). That means everything if you want! It means that he is in contact with God with Nature: HE IS IN CONTACT. I close the parenthesis and I come back to Visconti and then Thomas Mann... Of course, I don't know the true history of Visconti but they probably both lived through one or two World Wars... The people and the artists who lived through that; how and what to create after that? It's terrible! There are many artists who refused to create. They decided to speak about this bourgeoisie or aristocracy... And later on, Pasolini, whom I also adore, showed, very well, the disappearance of spirituality through the new ways of life of the bourgeoisie, of the industrialists, of the modes of production... And everything that destroyed the world, that destroyed the animals, that destroyed the wood, the forests, the rivers. And we really must be aware of that destruction. I think that there are filmmakers who have become aware of this and who were able to, perhaps more at a certain time period, in the seventies, eighties, when, I think that Art, was much more political than today. Except for Terrence Malick, who makes magnificent movies. Nowadays, we don't have any more the firepower of people like Godard or even Fellini, so it's a bit sad. It's true that the preoccupations of those creatives years, after the Second World War, are disappearing a bit. We also see it in the Contemporary Art market that doesn't seem having the same concerns. And in this world of entertainment, I get back to decadence, necessarily, if there is 50 % of people who are watching pornography on the Net, we can name that decadence; or not! But it seems anyway, that there is something that we are all missing globally. There is a huge lack. Is this lack spiritual? Is this lack emotional? Were this deep lack come from? I really don't know? But of course in the past, people were a little more grounded and connected. They went to church. The Mayans did their rituals to the Flowers, to the Salt and to the Sun. They didn't live in this great existential void that Sartre spoke about so well. So, this existential (and metaphysical) void, how to fill it again? I really think truly that Art is one of the possible answers and solutions.

NS: So we could think of a form of misery, like we talked about erotic misery? isn't that?

JPS: Absolutely, yes.

NS: Because it's not necessarily an economic misery, in fact, in Visconti's work, it's the very upper middle class; even, in Louis II, Ludwig, The Twilight of the Gods, the upper aristocracy! And we could talk about the difference between poverty and misery...

JPS: Yes, and you see in Pasolini's Theorem, the rich people are all miserable and indigent.

NS: Miserable, yes. 

JPS: Miserable, except for the 'maid' who goes up on her roof at the end of the movie and she meets Jesus. Pasolini said at the time, that it was only the poor people who can still spoke to God. But now, even the 'working class' vote for the National Far Right! So they don't talk to God so much anymore! We are really and deeply FUCKED UP! I don't know, unless we go and live in a convent, we're in deep trouble I think… Ultimately, the solution maybe not to go wandering in the desert and talk to God; but to respect something sacred: the LIVING, yes!


NS: So, in this part, we'll perhaps orient it and concentrate on some terms as well. It is always through terms that one understand very well; of course, when looking at your artwork and that one enters in a poetic way, almost in a reflective way; I was going to say almost meditative in your work. I would like to read this quotation, because in my opinion, there are terms on which it would be good to comment or to hear you. This quotation is taken from Moon in a Dewdrop by Master Dogen Zenji. I am going to read it and I will hear you, on which terms are the most important in this quotation for you. And I will tell you, according to me, which are the most important terms in the quotation but in my opinion, they may be the same. It's not choosing the terms to choose the themes, but it is choosing the terms, according to your work. Maybe, in another context, you wouldn't be an artist or you would be doing something else... We wouldn't of course, pick the same terms. So I quote: 

"But, to understand this clearly, you must have overcome the illusion of the past, present and future. Awakening is transcending Awakening; going to the bottom of the illusion is transcending the illusion and reaching the great Awakening. Either way, you are surrounded either by Awakening or by illusion." Polishing the moon, cultivating clouds, Master Dogen Zenji

JPS: Yes I chose this quote, because it speaks of paths of life! Anyway and whatever you do, you're screwed... Whether if you reach enlightenment or not. And often the great spiritual masters say that, whatever you do, it's the path that's important. I have the great luck, the great happiness and the privilege of being an artist. And I know how much I owe to my family, who allowed me to continue this work... And that's it; it doesn't matter what terminology you are using. And I wanted to talk more about this subject… I quote it, it's in my Besançon Notes 2021

The Hindu māyā in my paintings: "Am I painting a reality of things, an epic and Dionysian version of the human adventure or precisely the māyā: this great mystico-cosmic illusion? Either way, as it says in this sentence: you are surrounded... so maybe, it really doesn't matter what the deeper meaning of the realization is." 

Because I often ask myself, when I am alone in my studio looking at my large wall installations: what am I painting really? Do I paint? Yes? Am I a Hindu and painting the illusion? No, but is it possible? Yes... maybe, who knows? Because we, artists, we paint something that does not exist. We paint something fictional and why do I paint this fiction, me, while most other artists paint something totally different? They paint sunflowers or whatever… It's a choice to go into the imaginary realms, maybe? And maybe this imaginary has more strength than reality? That's what I hope anyway. 

NS: Yes, anyhow, what one can feel, also very well, when we look at your great compositions, your installations; it is precisely this way of abolishing the borders by largely using patterns, to abolish the borders between past, present and future. Perhaps this is also what irritates or doesn't matters for you in Contemporary Art? It is not always as simple as that!

JPS: Exactly, yes, it gets out of linear time!

NS: It goes out of time... Finally you don't say to yourself, I'm going to put such and such image; there are some images that are very dated historically, notably the pornographic images, we can see clearly from which aesthetic they come from and almost from which period. But in the end, it is hard to say in which chronological moment of the representation one finds oneself. It is this absence of chronological moment which is particularly intriguing, in my opinion, in your Art. So, if I were to come back to this quote, even if I am not here to talk about myself, I am here to talk about this quote in relation to your work. Of course, so you understood it: the past, the present, the future; this distinction is not a good one, truly. That's what we understand. It may even be the illusion so, I really like that idea! But I like also the idea of two things: I like the idea of enlightenment, I think it's a beautiful idea. Obviously, because awakening, I'm not going to teach you that; it's also spiritual awakening.

JPS: Of course!

NS: And it's the awakening too, it's a bit old-fashioned today, as an expression, but for my generation, it was the awakening to love, the awakening to sexuality, the awakening to desire... It's something that we learn in a strange way, moreover, that we don't completely understand, even if we had post-Sixties parents who took pleasure in explaining all that! But awakening is something that I like very much; precisely, because it can be written in different ways and then what I like very much in this quote and that I would have liked to understand; it is: "You are surrounded." So, there, it would mean, it's almost a term for guerrilla warfare or war or something that can be violent, that can be religious as well. One can be surrounded by magical powers, sometimes occult and that's what I find interesting and finally, when we read the words, one by one, of this quote, we have the keys to enter also in into your images. That is to say, we could very well imagine that, in this device without a real center, there are still targets, there are still indications. There are still things that are targeted, and I think that's absolutely new. I had not thought about it… I was convinced that it was something completely centripetal; and in reality, at certain times, there is a centrifugal power, because one cannot escape, in a certain way, I don't know what one cannot escape? But there's, in fact, something one can't escape. So, it's all these elements that, in a way, are organised, in these large wall installation the: "Four Pillars of the Sky".

JPS: So you think my painting surrounds, circles and encompasses people?

NS: Well, it all depends on the installation. When it's just installed only on a wall, a little less but anyhow, by the hypnotic process: it takes you somewhere else, so that's a first thing but, there especially in the Museum's staircases, a given moment: imagine if we had a fourth wall! We would really be completely surrounded; and it would be nice to try! We would really be caught in it, we would be surrounded too... I'm going to take an image that is rather silly and I apologize for that. It is a bit like when you are in a trap in the forest, for the game and it falls in. He then has no place to hang on. So, he has to find some places to hang on. We could very well imagine that the images that are behind us, we need to hyper-concentrate, at a point, one need to stop; to think and find the points of attachment. Of course, at the beginning, I look at the installation, in one piece, without trying to isolate the motifs, but at a given moment, in order to be able to circulate within it, to be able to move; I need to find these points of grip. It's this idea of being surrounded. So, the term is a bit violent; in a certain way and from the moment when we have found these reference points, in a certain way, we can reach what we could call, in different ways, the awakening! In the awakening, we are aware that what we see can bring us something, either a change of scenery or an interest for something to which we had never paid attention at, and finally, an interest for something. And it is always what works very well in your installations, in your paintings: it is to lose one's reference points but at a given moment, one is caught up by something, precisely, so as not to be completely lost. And it is also for that reason that it is not a desperate Art. One don't feel anything desperate!

JPS: It's true, yes!

NS: By the way, while preparing this interview, you talked to me about laughter; we don't talk enough about laughter in Contemporary Art and even in Art altogether. So, I don't know if there is humor, but there is certainly a form of laughter and there is also a form of distance in relation to the images that are given for us to see. And perhaps, in the subjects that we approached, there seems to be a lot of gravity but it has nevertheless, also perhaps also in Contemporary Art, this kind of humor or, I do not know if it is laughter but certainly, there is the presence of the humor. And this presence of the humor, it is, in a certain way, exemplified, for you, in the quotation that you chose by Octavio Paz. You chose a quote from him that I will read. So, Octavio Paz, precisely, who knew perfectly how to mix the great mythologies mainly, the pre-Columbian mythologies that he mixed in a form of texts either poetic, or of prose but with the everyday. With the gestures of the daily life, with the daily life, with the daily positions. And it is also quite singular how, the part of magic, the cosmogony; how the very heritage of a past, a bit mythologized as well, of the pre-Columbian Art, can continue to survive in the simplest gestures and in certain words that he used. But now, I would rather make you react to this quotation and to this question perhaps of the humor or in any case, what allows, the humor as path of access. So I quote: Octavio Paz in this title: Conjunctions and disjunctions, he says:

"Neither the phallus nor the ass has a sense of humor. [...]
But the violent ejaculations of the phallus, the convulsions of the vulva and the explosions of the ass erase the smile from our face. Our principles are shaken by the tremor of a psychic shaking as powerful as an earthquake. Shaken by the violence of our sensations and imaginations, we go from seriousness to burst of laughter." Conjunctions and disjunctions, Octavio Paz

JPS: Yeah, well, that's kind of what I do and would like to do in my paintings. I mean, a lot of times in New York people would laugh a lot while looking at my paintings because I use a lot of texts profoundly obscene, trashy texts: FUCK ME, FILL MY ASS!  All stuff like that... Bullshit, profane insanities in a way! But well, here at the Museum, we don't see much of it because we had filtered the images a bit...

NS: We were very cautious!

JPS: The informations… But it is to create surely, an aesthetic shock and a reaction of the public, so that people laugh and lose their certainties and preconceptions! It's precisely, what Octavio Paz said very well in this paragraph, is that, at the moment when we laugh, we lose control of everything and we enter another reality. Exactly as in sexuality, about which Bataille (in Eroticism) speaks very well. For example, when a really well-dressed rich bourgeois woman makes love, during the sexual act, she enters into animality and becomes like a bitch. It is the same connection to animality of which we spoke earlier! It is very true, that all my work claims and states an animality. In its greatest magnificence, in its almost, infinite and cosmic dimension, yes! That's it, to reintegrate the World and reintegrate Life, yes, yes! And Octavio Paz, I have read... I cannot say that I have read all his work, because he has written a lot, but I liked very much the book The Critique of the Pyramid where he talks about the cultures of Latin America and he also wrote a very beautiful book In light of India. So it should be reread and thought about. Here, he also speaks in the same book that we quoted, it is a small chapter that I will read, it is titled:

"Eve and prajnâpâramitâ
The oppositions between Tantrism and Protestantism are of the type light and shadow, heat and cold, white and black. Both grapple with the insoluble conflict between body and mind (emptiness for the Buddhist) and both resolve it through exaggeration." Conjunctions and disjunctions, Octavio Paz

(The same as in my painting.) Because my work is an exaggerated work, I go beyond what one can imagine. It is not in the grotesque like Félicien Rops, James Ensor or other artists of this kind... But I want, in a way, to exaggerate Life, of course! To pay homage to it!

NS: By the way, you're not, because I've never thought there was caricature in your work, even if sometimes you take images that are caricaturals, because they are extracts, in fact, of a kind of erotic misery or lack of imagination, on which you rework and on which you add filters; filters of images, filters of beliefs, filters of rituals, and it's true that when one look at your works, it's amazing what you're saying there: that in New York, we laugh in front of your works, while here; I don't say that we cry, we don't cry at all. But we see it with a lot of seriousness!

JPS: Yes, in fact, the relationship to Art is totally different.

NS: Completely different! And it's also interesting, what you say about how laughter would finally cause a loss of control: at the end ultimately, the superego would be swept away by laughter. 

JPS: Yes: BANG! Destroyed with a bazooka!

NS: Maybe that's why Freud was so interested in puns, of course in slips of the tongue and then often in the spoonerisms that can bring about laughter, and that's an aspect that I hadn't grasped in your work. This violence of laughter, this jolt, which finally prevents you from doing anything else but laughing. That is to say that in the place of laughter, you can only do that. You can only do laughter, because it is absolutely frightening to be seized by a giggle and often in situations that would require the greatest seriousness. So, that's what I think, but it's maybe because laughter is the last of what remains of sacred violence or of certain myths that would be reactivated in this way... Or of animality, as you said, more than bestiality; that would come back to the surface and show that finally and sometimes, it can be good, I don't know in what sense, but to be dissipated! To have a form of dissipation. And what we also find in Octavio Paz, it is this relation that he makes constantly between... Less the time besides, it is less the time that interests him, that the space. It is the question that the only way; and what we find, moreover in "The Four Pillars of the Sky" and in many of your compositions... The only way to overcome this temporal chain between: present, past and future, it is precisely the displacement in the space. not in the linear space or perhaps? But above all, a spatial conception of the image. The image,  does not have a background, it is that which is interesting because, almost all passes through the filters. There are some filters and through these few filters, it creates this space and this very fine understanding of the image, which leads to these beliefs, to these repertoires. To what we could name, a metaphysical aesthetics in a refreshed sense and not in a dramatic sense. That is to say that it is perhaps what is changing; it is that in your work, on the contrary, one would have a metaphysical aesthetic which finally would have humor! A form of humor and a form of distance.

JPS: Yes


JPS: So, in this last part, I wanted to present some children's drawings that I had found on Twitter, which are really beautiful; here, it's a little seven-year-old girl, the Twitter account is: Earthly Education, I'm going to read it in English since it's written in English:

"Dear 2045, I don't think we are going to survive. If you end up hearing this story, I just want to say I am sorry! I will try taking care of the Earth."

Well, you all get it and I'll do a subtitled translation. But you can feel that this little kid is ashamed of what is happening to our Mother Earth, as the Native Americans say so well. She feels responsible and she doesn't think that she will live until 2045, which is not that far away, because she is seven years old and she doesn't think that she will live until thirty. So I wanted to pay homage to her, because ultimately, Art does exist somehow; but, it is not necessarily the artists who make Art only, it is also the children of seven years. We created nowadays these structures: Museums, Galleries, Contemporary Arts Centers, Schools of Art, art Fairs, Art Market and so on. where only the artists can create and show Art; but today, there are many artists who do not create any more Art but who are making only business! And here is a drawing by Dasha, which is in the metro of Kharkiv. 

NS: In Ukraine.

JPS: Yes, in Ukraine and so she describes her situation in the subway, which we all saw on TV. They live in the metro; there are bombs falling over them... And there are these two Ukrainian flags and we see her here, very small, playing with her little brother?

NS: Yes, that's her brother because I think she's there; she's watching in the subway.

JPS: Yes, you're right, that's her brother and there's a tent with their sleeping bags... And what such a sad reality today, to be back once more into a war in Europe again. So congratulation to her and maybe, if she can survive (let's hope so!), she will become an important artist of 21st century, that's it.

NS: Then you chose this one too, which is very beautiful, yes, accurately! 

JPS: This photo that I'll show in the video of course, it shows us precisely what Art should be; that is to say, but we don't know for sure if it's a photo that was staged or not? So, it's a little street kid in India who left his little soaps out of the picture. And this represents the Sacred. In an other word, the person who created this drawing, with chalk, designed this enclosed, inclusive space where the kid feels good and Within which he can sleep peacefully and were he is protected. And it is this protective and wombish function of Art that we need to rediscover. This little drawing is magnificent, it's like a kind of Santa Claus or grandmother. It's a generous character that welcomes him and in which he can sleep peacefully without having nightmares… And then, you wanted to come to the last part?

NS: Yes, I wanted to come to the last part that you titled... already, I would like you to react to two things, first to the title of this part that you titled: "Overcoming death or paradoxical thinking." Why this title? What does it mean? Also to hear you; you had put three quotations, well two plus a Note and I had retained a quotation from Alexandra David-Néel who says this in Mystics and Magicians of Tibet:

"These monks here will never defeat death, because they believe in death."

What does that mean to you? What is the resonance that this quote produces? How can you relate it, because we are here to talk about your production of your Art, your artwork. How can you relate it to your creation?

JPS: Yes... Actually, in my work it is always: construction-destruction! And Life is also: construction-destruction, construction-destruction, endlessly! And way beyond that, Man has always needed to believe in something. It is precisely the monks who do not succeed in overcoming death; because they did believed in death! It is because they saw it too closely and for example; we have been talking about it before, in some tantric rituals, sometimes they even go as far as eating corpses, the flesh of the dead... To surpass themselves, to go beyond their mortal conditions. How to make this superhuman overcoming? To access this transcendence? I think that language and thought are barriers to entering the Elsewhere. Because in this Elsewhere there is no more nomination, obviously. Since some monks name Death, they can no longer go beyond it. And I add to the quote: "It is the same for Art: to overcome Art, one must never, yes, never, never again, believe in it!" Notes from Besançon 2022. Because it is true that we artists, when we are trained a bit into the Schools of Fine Arts etc., we believe in Art, we believe in Matisse and all those great countless artists… But somewhere, you have to fuck them, you have to get out of the established patterns of thinking, otherwise you can't do anything! It is for your survival! And anyway, it is something very violent to be an artist. It is really necessary to destroy all these frames established, because if not, one could only paint flowers and all bullshit like that! Other way you don't get out of the frame, once again. I impose this violence on myself and I think that, somewhere, people encounter this violence in my work and it is undoubtedly that which disturbs them. Because I push things a bit far... Yes, it's true that I have to push the barriers; of course! I do transgress, I MUST TRANSGRESS! 

NS: Well, I don't understand the quote in quite the same way, because for me, when Alexandra David-Néel says: "These monks will not defeat death, because they believe in death", I would add that in reality, these monks are no longer fighting, in my opinion. What she is also saying, and this is what can be very beautiful, is that there is no fight. From the moment you believe in death, in fact I hear acceptance.

JPS: Yes, maybe, yes!

NS: In this quote, there is a form of acceptance and precisely, that would be very close to what we called earlier: the enlightenment and to accept like that... The finitude, because, I don't know if they think that life ends with death, probably not, for the mystics and the magicians of Tibet but certainly, there is this idea of acceptance. It's amazing, because I don't read in this quote revolt but on the opposite, a very great wisdom of not wanting to fight...

JPS: Oh yes, to be submitted to Karma? 

NS: No, it is not a question of submission, it is on the contrary much stronger than that. Because there is no submission. It is not because you accept that you are submissive, on the contrary. It's like these great movements of Queens, because I think of Berenice: she knows that he doesn't love her enough, for Titus to simply give up all the Roman Empire. And simply knowing and telling the other person that you know; that's incredibly powerful!

JPS: Yes, I understand, yes! 

NS: From the moment that the other person knows, that we know, if I may say so, without playing endless games with words... That's what's strong! And so, one can accept everything because we have the conscience, we do it in conscience. And that's it, that is to say that they accept death. Also because perhaps they believe in reincarnation; in the Tibetan, Hindu and Buddhist religions... So, these are those Life-Death cycles and I find it rather haughty as an idea, to be able to defy death in a certain way, precisely by impassibility. It is this impassivity that I feel, in the quote of Alexandra David-Néel. And, are you interested in representations of death, which is not quite the same thing as being interested in Death? As you are interested by the Cosmic, by the Sacred, by representations of sexuality etc. I was going to say from Cave Art almost to the images diffused nowadays on the Internet... Does this question of death, represented by the image, interest you? Do you think about it? When you choose this work of Gustave Doré, which could be a representation of the afterlife. What can you tell us about it because, I believe that you, in your personal life, have come close to the afterlife and that you have had this experience?

JPS: Yes, absolutely, I came across this beautiful engraving by Gustave Doré that represents exactly what one live when we have a near-death experience. That is to say that they are concentric circles (a vortex of energy sucks us in) with which we enter the Tunnel of Light and then we arrive at the center of the Light. Thus, we dissolve into Light. Gustave Doré illustrated this very well in this print, he says that they are angels (who are carrying the soul of the dead in the otherworld); and I also have seen the souls of the dead leaving the Earth and entering like that; in this energy Vortex. And I must say that it is quite impressive. Well, that's debatable. Some scientists say that it is the brain that sends these images in order to remove the fear of a person at the moment of death (with chemical molecules such as DMT dimethyltryptamine). I think this scenario really exists. Since I had experienced it, I think it does exist. Then is there something in the light or not? Where do we dissolve? What is the journey of the soul after that? Does the soul travel? Does it disappear completely? Jean-Claude Carrière, whom I appreciated very much, said that he thought there was nothing after death. But anyhow,  perhaps this particular moment when you enter the Light is, anyway, a fantastic moment! I have often used this spiritual experience and made drawings from it that I sometimes use in my work. And of course I am also very interested in mysticism, but it requires a discipline that I don't have. But I do have the discipline to be an artist and I create every day that I can!

NS: Thank you!

JPS: Thank you very much Nicolas, it was very nice talking to you, thank you very much to all of you.