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28.09.2016 INTERVIEW
Pierre-Alexandre Mateos, Charles Teyssou

Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou

Candy fascism – An interview with Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou

In 2014, the two young Paris-based curators, Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou, made their first collaborative show at Weekends, an exhibition platform hosted by Rasmus Myrup in his former apartment in Copenhagen. Since then, the curatorial duo has continued making odd domestic exhibitions such as Hollywood Hills House with artists ranging from Yves Klein to Puppies Puppies and the night show Apartment in their own former apartment with the collective sstmrt. More recently they have launched a one-week biennial in the French village Saint-Cirq Lapopie that counts 25 inhabitants during winter and additional 400.000 guests during summer.

After the opening of their new show at Vermilion Sands at Nørrebro in Copenhagen, curator Toke Lykkeberg has spoken with the curatorial duo about their exhibition and practice in general.

AF Toke Lykkeberg

VERMILION SANDS
Tagensvej 85, 2200 København N W: vermilionsands.net
The King & The Mockingbird
Kasper Bosmans, Than Hussein Clark, Cali Thornhill Dewitt, Louisa Gagliardi, Goodiepal, Henrik Plenge Jakobsen, Hampus Lindwall, Sophia Al Maria, Ingo Niermann, Liu Shiyuan
28.08.2016 - 01.10.2016

What's up with the title THE KING & THE MOCKINGBIRD?
Pierre-Alexandre Mateos / Charles Teyssou: The title The King and the Mockingbird comes from this animation movie realized by cartoonist Paul Grimault and poet Jacques Prévert. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep, it narrates the journey of two lovers who escape Takicardia, a megalopolis that is governed by a tyrannical monarch. At the time of its release the movie was praised for its highly inventive and poetical world that took its inspiration from literature and artistic avant-garde figures such as Raymond Roussel, Giorgio de Chirico and Baron Mollet. The city itself is a kaleidoscope of architectural styles from Greek architecture to Mies van der Rohe International Style whose beauty comes into sharp contrast with the violence that it exerts on its inhabitants.

I think you told me at the opening that there was a kind of "candy fascism" at play in this show. Could you either say a few words about that or correct me if I'm wrong?
You are right. As we said previously, The King and the Mockingbird takes place in a vertical kingdom in the middle of a desert that could be described as the conflation between a dictatorship and a resort destination. That’s why most of the artworks of the show oscillate between a eye candy aspect and a more hidden layer often referencing an autocratic regime. In the movie, architecture is complicit with political violence: while altitude is synonymous with highly sophisticated pleasures, security and abundance, the ground level is where poverty proliferates. We wanted to explore how places heavily centralized and restrictive in matter of freedom of speech use fantasy as ideological tools, from Disneyland to the palatial and sugary aesthetic of UAE. We thought of the exhibition as a paranoiac scenario in which everything shuttles between a dubious candidness and rampant coerciveness like the propaganda music of Hampus Lindwall or the lethal kindergarten of Henrik Plenge Jakobsen.

Yes, that piece by Henrik Plenge is rather astonishing take on this theme of yours. There’s this small toy house for kids that is further dwarfed by the addition of a disproportionately big gas container. Could you just say a few words about how this work works?
Laughing Gas House for Children was realized in 1998, a period where Henrik Plenge Jakobsen was perceived as the enfant terrible of the art world, experimenting with slapstick and theatrical artworks which often included violence, destruction or threat. On a functional level, there are two masks within the house that are directly connected to a 50 liter laughing gas bottle. It’s a tool that offers drug addled happiness but without dreams, illusions or hope. The deadly potentiality of the piece is also crucial, because we believe a good exhibition, as a good film or novel, often engage with a macabre quotient. 

You’re French curators doing a show in Denmark. Though the setting is one of these white cubes that you find anywhere in the world, you seem to insist on this Danish context. At the same time, your show and way of working also seem to play around with what is understood by such a thing as a Danish context. The French animation is based on a Danish fairy tale. Henrik Plenge’s various ways of dealing with the topic of the Danish welfare state you presumably know through his exposure in France. The artist Liu Shiyuan is Chinese and has a solid international reputation, but lives in Denmark and is little known here. And then, you got some artists showing posters in the new Metro in Copenhagen, which is a well-known setting for Parisians, but still a rather new urban environment for most Danes. Could one say that you’ve striven to make a show that also deals with the familiar in the unfamiliar and vice versa – or what?
The question of cultural slippage is fundamental in the show. As a curatorial duo we are very much interested in engaging with different cultural contexts and to work within specific frames of ideas, tales and myths. In that regard, Denmark is rich with globetrotting figures such as Hans Christian Andersen who was a tireless traveler all his life. He was also first recognized outside of Denmark before being canonized as a national icon. His tales have been translated in many languages during his lifetime and afterward have been the object of several adaptations. Andersen also provided the tension we wanted to explore between fantasy and something more pessimistic. He was pretty cruel in his fairy tales, think about The Little mermaid and her sacrifices, the tragic end of The Little match girl or the sad resignation of The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep. He never sacrificed reason on the altar of sentimentalism, a dimension that has been voluntarily ignored by the Disney Studio throughout their adaptations.

Regarding the invitation by the Copenhagen Art Week to extend our exhibition within the metro, we thought of it in consideration of the major precedent like Chris Burden’s TV advertisement, Paul McCarthy’s radio or Felix Gonzales Torres’s several billboard projects. Another influence has been the appropriation of such disruptive/agit prop strategies by the Hollywoodian studios. The Cloverfield or Prometheus campaigns were major examples in that regard. They have generated desire throughout elusive although massive marketing campaigns: Posters in disinfected metro stations, trailers presented as found footage, phantom websites that were part of the movie diegetic and so on.

I’ve been following your activities since the beginning – well, not that long ago - and I’m wondering whether there’s a curatorial program or agenda underpinning your shows, apart from the specific theme of the current exhibition. Curatorially speaking, is there something that you wish to avoid or something you want to push? 
We are very attracted by the experiments of the early 20th century which were radical but still appealed to the many. The Constructivist theater of the early 1920s by Vsevolod Meyerhold and Alexander Tairov, for example, have been the crucible of the modern spectacle developed later by animation parks or the Hollywood cinema industry. The Pavilions of El Lissitzky, the Roxy’s production for New York’s Radio City Hall or Herbert Bayer’s exhibition design are a few examples of collaborations between the pioneers of metropolitan entertainment and avant-garde which led to the development of phantasmagorias that embraced technological curiosities, performances, and exhibition design sometimes all together. Ideally, we think that an exhibition should provoke an altered state of mind and assume responsibility for both pleasure and knowledge, dream and horror.

Thank you

Goodiepal: Mechanical Bird, 2002-16. Filmed and edited: Karolina Bengtsson. Courtesy the artist/The National Gallery of Denmark.

Hampus Lindwall: Untitled (composition 1), 2016. Foto: Kevin Malcolm. Courtesy the artist.

Hampus Lindwall: Untitled (composition 2), 2016. Foto: Kevin Malcolm. Courtesy the artist.

Hampus Lindwall: Untitled (composition 3), 2016. Foto: Kevin Malcolm. Courtesy the artist.

Hampus Lindwall: Untitled (composition 4), 2016. Foto: Kevin Malcolm. Courtesy the artist.

The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

The King and the Mockingbird (installation views), 2016. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands.

The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

The King and the Mockingbird (installation view), 2016. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands.

The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

The King and the Mockingbird (installation views), 2016. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands.

The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

The King and the Mockingbird (installation view), 2016. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands.

Louisa Gagliardi, The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

Louisa Gagliardi: On a day like this, 2016, Archival print on wallpaper. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands.

Louisa Gagliardi, The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

Louisa Gagliardi: On a day like this (detail), 2016, Archival print on wallpaper. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands.

Henrik Plenge Jakobsen, The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

Henrik Plenge Jakobsen: Laughing Gas House for Children, 1998, Playhouse, nitrous oxide. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands.

Goodiepal, The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

Goodiepal: Mechanical Bird, 2002-16. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands. Courtesy: Statens Museum for Kunst.

Kasper Bosmans, The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

Kasper Bosmans: Hermès in Exile (High), 2016, Plaster, wood, plexiglass. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands. Courtesy: Marc Foxx, Los Angeles.

Sophia Al Maria, The King and the Mockingbird

Sophia Al Maria: Between Distant Bodies, 2013, Video installation. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands. Courtesy: The Thirdline Gallery, Dubai.

Than Hussein Clark, The King and the Mockingbird

Than Hussein Clark: Cancellation - Curtain Wall, 2016, Aqua metal, ink, gouache, perspex, steel, chain, brass, spray enamel, First Edition of Cecil Beaton’s ‘Japanese.’. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands. Courtesy: VI, VII, Oslo.

Than Hussein Clark, The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

Than Hussein Clark: Cancellation - Curtain Wall, 2016, Aqua metal, ink, gouache, perspex, steel, chain, brass, spray enamel, First Edition of Cecil Beaton’s ‘Japanese.’. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands. Courtesy: Courtesy VI, VII, Oslo.

Walt Disney Studios, The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

Walt Disney Studios: Pastoral Symphony from Fantasia, 1940, Animated film. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands.

Cali Thornhill DeWitt. The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

Cali Thornhill Dewitt: Coming Soon, Installed at Frederiksberg Metro Station. Foto: Philipp Loeken. Courtesy: V1 Gallery, Copenhagen.

Ingo Niermann, The King and the Mockingbird, Vermilion Sands

Ingo Niermann: Army of Love, Installed at Island Brygge Metro Station. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands.

Liu Shiyuan, The King and the Mockingbirds, Vermilion Sands

Liu Shiyuan: Untitled, Installed at Nørreport Metro Station. Foto: Kevin Malcolm/Vermilion Sands. Courtesy: Andersen’s Contemporary, Copenhagen.

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