Artist of the week

#78 Al Masson

Al Masson, born in Marseille, France, lives in Denmark since 1995 after many years in New York. He has studied at the School of the Beaux Arts Brussels and ArtStudent League, New York.
He has exhibited at Brandts, Odense with “Play Time” solo exhibition 2013-2014, “Die Liebe zu den Dingen” at the Kunsthalle Münster 2013-2014.
He has been invited to be part of the Critical Art Ensemble project “Winning Heartand Mind” at Documenta13 in Kassel, Germany, 2013- “Mermaid/Hamlet”, CAGE 83Hester, New-York, USA, 2012- “CBO” at Le Commisariat, Paris, France, 2011- The Danish Graphic House, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2009-Preview Berlin solo show with Knut Hartwich gallery, Berlin Germany, 2008- Ps1/MOMA, “Emergency Room” New York, USA, 2007-Centro Cultural Andraxt Kunsthalle (Asbæk), Mallorca, Spain-2006- Institute for Contemporary Art, Overgaden, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2002 EfterårsudstillingCharlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2003-Asbæk Gallery, ”Andy’s chocolate” Copenhagen, Denmark, 2001-”Ideal Atelier”, Traneudstillingen, Hellerup, Denmark.
Al Masson has had also a career in dance and theater, performing among others with Maurice Béjart’s the Ballet Du XXieme Siècle.

Masson 1A
”Et Tusind År Gammelt Træ finder Vi Smukt, Ikke Et Gammelt Menneske” i samarbejde med Nakskov Campus, 2015, diverse materials, Bestilt/Købt af Statens Kunstfond.

Hvilke temaer og hvilke spørgsmål er du optaget af i din kunstneriske praksis?
Going back to childhood and the sense or “innocence”, playing with signs and forms, humor even cliché, patterns/color and all this linked with existential drama of life and sex. It is to go back into a fragment of time in the past where discovering something of yourself that make sense, and that your try to reenact it in the creative process.

Hvilke nulevende og afdøde kunstnere føler du, at du går i dialog med?
I pick up few things from my contemporaries but they are too close to interest me totally. Paul Klee is certainly someone I revere, for his diverse strata and his constant ” innocence” also in dealing with other issues, (theory, design, musicality) Gerhard Richter I admire for his concentrate versatility. Then it is mostly in literature, I find writer more interesting than artists, I like ” the pariah” type people for their boldness for their refusal of format like Genet, Louis Ferdinand Celine, or someone like Pasolini.

As a nostalgic approach with my past life in New York City; Peter Hüjar, Felix Gonzales Torrés, Louise Bourgois, Mapplehorpe, Basquiat, Keith Harring. They seem to have an urge to say things.

Masson 2A
”Et Tusind År Gammelt Træ finder Vi Smukt, Ikke Et Gammelt Menneske” i samarbejde med Nakskov Campus, 2015, diverse materials, Bestilt/Købt af Statens Kunstfond.

Hvad gør du for at trække din kunstneriske praksis nye steder hen?
I like to read about philosophy, it is really small things that appear in a texts that is appealing to me (Barthes, Benjamin are absolute favorite for their poetic aspects as well as their ways in openings doors in thoughts) I use also the time where things seems to have stopped… in the night (not sleeping a lot) it is an empty space, the night is propitious for exploration. I love association of words when reading like for instance last night: Hêtre (oak tree) être /being, étang  (a pond) étant (Heideger/Lacan) which could bring to étant donné…but brings to a drawing with trees. I find it fun so the process is in playing and contemplative. I am also a news addict. I am fascinated how people are manipulated including myself.

Hvad kendetegner de seneste nye opdagelser i din praksis? Hvad har det tilføjet dit kunstneriske udtryk?
Perhaps realizing that some patterns are constantly recurring, for instances in images realizing over time some subjects are coming always back, like curtains, folding, fabrics, pattern. I investigate more these days why these images are recurrent. Lately I might have discovered a specific moment in my early childhood via a drawing. I guess having been a dancer, the body, so many bodies I draw. Body is the closest and concrete image of our life span; the “deliverance” in birth is equal in the “deliverance” in death. It should be a joy the ending of a body. My body is slowly disintegrating interesting to observe.

Masson B3 Brandt
“Play Time”, installation, “ The Child Room” ,  drawing and collage, performance with Kay Walhgreen Egeberg, Brandts, Odense, Denmark, 2013-2015

Hvad er de konkrete rammer for din arbejdsgang? Hvordan udfolder din proces sig rent praktisk?
Having been a dancer I have a good discipline. So I work every day if I can. When working, I concentrate ten minutes, I get tired…so I lie down a lot, and dreams, eating chocolate is important in my life to sustain the day. I can travel hours without doing anything, and my mind is just floating, (cannot understand people having headphone with music, I love any noises) I whish one could record the mind floating. I think of course that it is also working to be in that state of mind.

Hvad betyder inspiration for dig? Hvor opsøger du den?
I feel I have enough imagination, fantasy and stories in my head. I am feeding myself, as I would dig in a mine. I pride myself though to have eyes as a camera some details don’t escape me, especially small ones. I don’t have problems with poetic, beautiful, sensitivity.

Hvad stiller du op, når din proces går i stå?
I never stop it is like if someone believe in a god or has a vocation to be a nun, or a monk. Art is always there in the house on the walls, even in my garden… my garden is an art project, and if I work in the garden it is still a creative process.

Al Masson Brandt 4B
“Play Time”, installation,  “The factory”, diverse objects and photos, Brandts, Odense, Denmark, 2013-2014

Hvad har for nyligt begejstret dig kunstnerisk?
It is rare that I get amazed by something, now getting older, just some angles of the works of an artist inspire me, in a postmodernism time everything is possible, also on a critical perspective. I am more interested in the “weirdness/instability” of some artist’s works. For the moment I am amazed in animal’s video in different situation (tenderness between animals for example) they are acting as what we say “human”, but more in an organic way without words. Last year being in residency at the Danish Institute under the Acropolis in Athens was a sentiment of wonder. I felt sometimes that I was walking in the city and eventually would meet people from that time. I could see them walking in the Agora. I like ruins.

Hvordan ville du beskrive den danske kunstscene og hvordan befinder du dig personligt med den?
The scene is small that is banal to say, everyone “know” each other. Some people have power some not it is the same everywhere, so some people plays games. It is too small unlike Berlin or London so it is more incestuous in Denmark. I have an advantage and sense of humor about it having lived in New York City many years, is that there you don’t get impressed easily. As a foreigner I cannot complain because of the great possibilities that are available in Denmark, I know what is not to have support, I could critize things, (I am critical) but if I am in France there are many things I hate, if in the USA the same. People/nation built their culture and way of life so if you are foreign just accept the “package”. Denmark is overall a decent society and generations of Danish have created it. I respect it. I used to get irritated though on Friday afternoon when colleague artists wished me good Week End…I thought it was strange from artists.

Masson 5B
“Play Time”, installation,  “The factory”, diverse objects and photos, Brandts, Odense, Denmark, 2013-2014

Jeg har tænkt meget på din titel: Et tusind år gammelt træ finder vi smukt, men ikke et gammelt menneske. Vil du fortælle lidt om den – og om projektet i Nakskov, som jeg aldrig så? Din udstilling på Brandts hed Play Time, hvilket fik mig til at tænke på filmen af Jacques Tati, som jeg holder meget af. Hvis du føler det er relevant, må du også gerne sige noget om ham/den. (Spørgsmål fra #74 Christian Yde Frostholm)
-I like tree and the skin of trees. I always loved to be with old people only to look at them teach us a lot and we should not run from the fear of getting old, and respect the fact that they are still there and some having had hard life.

A society where people are “used and disregarded” after a while when not useful makes me upset. It was a good opportunity in Naskskov to involve young and older, (it was an extension of a performance at Brandt with a man of ninety two, he was hugging people dressed in pajama like a child) What I thought was touching in Nakskov is that there is still a social network with the community/family interacting with old and young. I see this projects with older people a relation in using my “trash” objects via performance/installation/photos, it is dealing as well about consumerism. Consumerism change people.

-I love of course Tati, and would have loved to play tennis with him (never played tennis) we would have done great choreography during “Les Vacances”. I separated the title of his film Playtime so it became two words for the exhibition; it became Play Time. I proposed the idea of playing in the five different installations and the situations I wanted the audience to be confronted with. (For instance in the “Factorie” you could build your own objects. You play with time, you play with your lifetime, with the time of your life, in your time, the time you are given, with “games” you play with sex, work, love, the time of ones life.

Most people loose or waste their time in their lives…all of sudden the time of playing is finished. So it would be good to play all the time. In the “ private salon” it was of course a reference to Tati’s Playtime, sleekness and modernity/design, work of art very streamlined presented in the white box of art space.