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Godsend #19 - Todd Zachrist

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I was first exposed to the collages of Paris-based artist Françoise Duvivier through her magazine, METRO RIQUET (now defunct). Since that time, I've witnessed her work used as cover art for a number of musical releases (ND's 'Fragment 4' Cassette, several releases by Dive, etc.). As always, she continues with various projects, including the creation/sculpture of dolls, which are, much like her collages, very powerful and haunting pieces of work. All of her art takes on a life of its own, as you can see, and the meticulous care she takes in their creation is amazing. Since this interview, she's become a valuable friend and must be thanked graciously for her generosity and help in presenting this interview.

-Godsend:
Describe how you became interested/involved in the experimental arts...

-Françoise Duvivier:
     It's a long story. As I was a child I needed to create; I think it was the best time/or a real and authentic experimental art. Later, I think we need to become involved in this experimental art if we become aware of this false mainstream culture, of everything false and conditioned in our society. It is a need to find what has been lost...our curiosity and our attraction to everything new, our will to change the mind which has been conditioned...it is a need for freedom, a need to say 'no', to say 'noart', no to our mainstream culture which offers us a stupid history of self-centered artists, I never had an artistic culture; I never had studies in this branch, so I admit I've been complexed by my ignorance for a time. When I was 18 or 19 years old, I read a lot of books on art, but I felt something wrong and insane thru all that. Surely I felt the lie, but also this strong will to show a kind of art and another side. Art has always been dominated by a dictatorship, I think of the Christian religion for example, but don't find more freedom in democratic systems or others, think of every politic that knows that art is dangerous, if it is free that it's necessary to kill it, to dominate it. So, I say that our whole culture features a dead art, only the shadows of a sinister cadaver, but not life, not you, everything is far away from our sensitivity, our 'primitive' sensitivity, the more hated by our mainstream culture. Experimental arts mean to me a need to turn the page, to discover what has never been written and said, so return to our 'primitive' state. And even the state before your birth, or the state after your life. Indeed, what is invisible in this society, why it must stay 'invisible' because it's 'forbidden' by the society. I admit it is difficult. It may appear pretentious, too, and if you have chosen to do that, be prepared for the loneliness, but you can hope more exciting feelings in your life, and see an open door to the invisible, to the world of dreams. You may discover the most primitive images of a forbidden world, and I try to be involved in this experimental way. I know my life is not long enough, but fortunately I believe in others lives. I am attracted by Death, for example, because it stays unknown, and because it makes people afraid. Death stays a virgin planet, the various ethnic groups, Christian cultures, etc... have tried to create rituals, but these rituals mean more fear than a need to discover Death. I know there is nothing now to discover in this concrete world, no one island which has not been spoilt or invaded by Human society. The animals are becoming citizens, closed in parks, and I think of our minds, and I believe it's possible to hide in our 'primitive sensibility'...and the more you experiment with this sensibility, the more you feel that something else, invisible & of course frightful (because it's unknown to you); therefore, it is hard because this experience makes you feel alone. It is necessary to be strong enough to be able to come back to our false and normal reality. So, it's my experience. I think people, and more especially musicians who make experimental music may know what I am trying to express.

-Godsend:
How does one of your collages normally come about?

-Françoise Duvivier:
    It's impossible to know how you will wake up. It's impossible to know what your dreams will be when you go to sleep, and so it is like a collage. It is only after you discover your dream, how your day has been, etc. I am in front of plenty of visual documents in paper and I begin to give life to an image, a picture, a mystery. It is often dark and disturbing when it is finished, but I didn't know what kind of image was going to appear beforehand. I don't make collages everyday, because I am involved with dollmaking, too. I consider it an extension of my collage works, but it is a more physical work as you must carve and have a direct contact with the material. It's more physical than the collage work which looks like a writing activity because you only need paper and pencils. I can make a collage anywhere if I have my materials (which are not too big), this collage work comes when I need to be surprised and filled with wonder "quickly" although this work needs a lot of patience and demands several hours. Although the images are generally small, the dollmaking is longer because one must wait for the material to dry, etc. It's often too long to me. But these two activities have a common point, the dolls like the collages always know who they are before you do. -GS: What mediums do you use and what inspires your art? -FD: The mediums are technically very simple, not sophisticated, as I've told above it looks like a writing activity, except that I need a lot of xerox images in black and white. I create often a picture with only small bits of paper in grey, black and white, which stimulate imagination and make me create an image, something visual, figurative & often disturbing. It demands a lot of patience and sensitivity, a lot of intuition, too. And more especially, it is necessary to reject the easy and common feelings which can create stereotyped images. That's why I've told you about a primitive sensitivity, unknown to yourself, either because it has been killed by current culture or something else.You may think this kind of art helps to (re)discover myself and gets others shocked by subversive feelings which they often reject in life. This is what I hope, too, and I look for that which is disturbing to myself and to others. I think it's not so easy and it happens sometimes that I'm not happy with easy images. The goal is: to recover something killed because it's forbidden. A lot of events inspire my art, I think (for example) of the dreams and the nightmares. They are the best times in your life to relocate this 'primitive' sensitivity. The dream is not only to me good for the mind, it's also a medium which helps you to be in contact with the 'thing'. I can't give it a name; it is inexpressible. Your social mind wishes to forget it. It's difficult to remember a dream, but we can notice that we have sometimes strange feelings during a whole day which disturb us & which are overcome by a quiet reality. Thus, it is only a weak shadow of something behind a wall, so look and what do you see? It has no name. My art is inspired by the various experimental music I'm listening to. I think my art is inspired by everything in life, too. And I don't see frontiers between my art and life. Imagine how strong & powerful may be a day in your life. It's the strongest medium you have to express everything. It's a shame that we can't use our minds completely. It's something very strong, the strongest I know. For example, I could try to break windows, fold up forks, etc. I try to express something thru my images.

-Godsend:
Tell me something about METRO RIQUET and your involvement in other arts...

-Françoise Duvivier:
     It is difficult to express why and when I did METRO RIQUET. This involvement came after a lot of experiences and my need to say 'no' to our mainstream culture-to feature something else and destroy frontiers. METRO RIQUET was a meeting of the international network. I'm sorry to say that it has stopped because of the lack of a supportive audience which made this publication too expensive. It has been hard to stop when I still have a lot of projects to do, so it is difficult to talk about this involvement which has been short-lived. My goal was to feature an alternative culture, and artists whose art is generally rejected by people because it's not ordinary and common. I hoped to express something more, but the time and the lack of money didn't allow me to express more of all my projects. Performances and new, experimental music were my main goals. I work now in the magazine SENSORIA FROM CENSORIUM in Canada whose goals are almost similar. The magazine is edited by John Marriot. I've featured in this next issue John Bergin's work. He does comix and music and Shaun Caton, whose work I admire, too. These people give me a lot because their art is intense and they are more preoccupied with honest research than the common taste. So, their example is great and full of hope; their art is unique looking for what is personal and unique in their minds. I think they show how great a second moment in this life may be, making it beautiful. So, I've shown their art in this issue of S.F.C. which will be published around October. For more info, write to John Marriot/ Sensoria From Censorium/Box 147,Stn, J, Toronto, Ont, Canada, M4J.4X8. As I don't separate art from life, I've featured people of the animal liberation movement which has only existed in France for two years. This is a movement which has grown up with the ideas of P.Singer and T.Reagan in the U.S. around 1975. You can ask me why I mix art with the animals' respect, why I'm stubborn to refuse eating meat as I persist to look for another mind in our mainstream culture. And if you accept to consider these two standpoints, you can consider that eating meat is like being dominated by the mainstream culture. I can't accept any kind of sexism, racism, or specism. We can see that everything is already dead when we are born, like his meat we are eating, this culture offers us only cadavers.

-Godsend:
Is there any message or statement in your collages, or do you mean it to be purely interpretational or ambiguous?

-Françoise Duvivier:
     You can consider what I've told you already as a message in my collages. My opinions only justify what this art is, but they don't dominate the images and their mysteries which stay 'invisible' to me, too. It's impossible to explain my feelings, and I prefer to let people travel mentally thru these images, which are bits of life in grey, black and white. I play with the texture of these no colours. I think there is more tragedy in the world of black and white surrounded by various textures of grey. It seems to me that a photo (for example) or the movies are more right and direct than those in colour. The colour seems to me too literary. It happens sometimes that I dream in black and white and the atmosphere is more powerful. As I feel physically a continuation of my images, I am myself dressed in black and white. Everyone is an image inside another image, and plenty of doors are open to our curiosity. Maybe I try to open these doors to get you to look at that and travel mentally. So, no message but an invitation to play with me. If there is a statement, it is the one of our condition, of our life. Indeed it may appear tragic to lots of people, but I think the world is a deep abyss where it is impossible to exit alive.

-Godsend:
I noticed you did the cover art for Dirk Ivens Dive CD project, 'Final Report'. How did this come about, and do you like doing art for musical projects?

-Françoise Duvivier:
     I like the music of Dive, and I hope he gets the success that he deserves. I'm doing a book project with him which will include his lyrics and my collages. I'm glad to illustrate his music. -First, I don't know very well the music of Dive. I remember I sent a Jew collages to Sandy Nys from Magisch Theatre, several years ago; the project was called 'The ritual should be kept alive', a marvelous CD which was recorded live in April 28 , 1991. (Ed.-This CD is under the name Hybryds). I recommend it to you. Dirk Ivens was interested in the images I had sent to "Magisch Theatre" and wanted to use some of them for his famous 'Final Report'. The work has been good, and I'm glad to have worked with him. Some parts of his music achieve the same tragedy I wish to express in my images. I like doing art for musical projects. I've made the cover of Fragment 4 featuring musicians as G.K. Montgomery and Chop Shop. Fragment is a series of issues that strives to explore and focus attention on 2 artists per release. This series is a product and extension of N.D. Magazine, whose editor is Daniel Plunkett, in Texas. Yes indeed, I like doing art for musical projects, and I feel more akin to musicians. I consider music a powerful tool to get shine out of your feelings and tensions and more easily than any other kind of art. The sound has been first; it's the most primitive sensitivity we have. I've noticed that when you look at an image, a picture, listening to music at the time, the music stays in you but the image is vanishing. I think musicians may feel this physical touch they have with their public more so than a visual artist. They are lucky. It's the more subtle art which doesn't need images which are too visual. It's the art of the invisible which gets out our deep feelings. I like especially the experimental and new music, and when I'm doing my collages I listen to this kind of music. It happens I like silence, too, but there is no silence, indeed, and you can notice music is always around you. Any sound is able to make you remember a feeling, bad or good. Any sound is always surprising.

-Godsend:
What do you have planned for the future? And other comments?

-Françoise Duvivier:
     I have actually to make a project for a book with Dirk Ivens, and I hope to do something good. I'm now involved in the dollmaking, which is a strong activity where I discover again more and more things. And again, I feel in front of the primitive mysteries when I read about the doll. It's the prolongation of a travel into the unknown, and when I get involved in something, it becomes quickly tyrannic and obsessional, making me dream of dolls, with plenty of ideas that I unfortunately don't have enough time to realize. I hope in the future to print myself a book featuring my dolls. It's again an adventure and it's only the beginning. I could say that my projects are called destruction, too, because the things I create are often destroyed, and I consider that like a big feast of hate and love, or despair, too. I don't consider art as an order in life. On the contrary, it is something irrational and violent in a life that people wish to make rational, clean, and narrow-minded, plenty of conformity! I think art must get the power which has been robbed, and when I do art, it means that I say no.