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4.27.2010

Philippe Perrin, artist

Good evening contemporary art lovers!
I am very glad to introduce to you Philippe Perrin who is a fantastic French artist, most known for his sculptures of monumental scale weapons, handcuffs, knifes, razorblades, American punches... Expanding everyday objects gives them a new meaning, another interpretation and it's even stronger when it comes to weapons. His references are provided by the gangsta aesthetic but also by the classic literature and romantic poetry. He perfectly knows how to be provocative, cynical, and manipulative while remaining charming and seductive.

Dear Philippe, the MEP (European House of Photography) is going to host a retrospective of your works. Could you please tell us about this exhibition and explain to us how you have wanted organize it?

First, it's not a retrospective but rather a synthesis - an inventory on photography in my work since 1986. A retrospective would freeze in time a life still full of excitement. Moreover, it would have taken all the surrounding neighborhood if we had wanted to install my sculptures retrospectively.
Remember that it's the European House of Photography, which as its name suggests is focused on that medium. This exhibition is a path between objects, sculptures, drawings, soundtracks and video; a selection that is built around a selection of photographs from 1986 to today.

This exhibiton is entitled "Haut et Court" ("High and Short")? Is it a direct reference to the installation that you made in 1997?

Yes but it's also a reference to the Western films dear to our childhood, a tribute to Louis Mandrin (a French highway robber pre-revolutionary), to thugs and other infamous criminals that make up my personal pantheon, from Caravaggio to Francois Villon, Arthur Cravan or Jacques Mesrine. And then in the French art scene, in which one attempts to hang out people who, like me, stand out from the group, metaphor was obvious.

Expending weapons gives them weight; they are bigger than humans. Weapons refer to war, violence, cruelty... but ultimately they are the reflection of our society, aren't they? 

It's both a seductive object and an infant image, and in the same time what we see everyday on the TV or in the streets. The artist is just the mirror that reflects his own vision of life and society in which he lives. That's, in any case, my only possible definition of art. Art reflects filtered or selected images to give people something to think or offer them another vision. I am just a distorting mirror that magnifies reality to unveil it to the others.

You are a polymorphic artist whose work is particularly characteristic. Is there any movement to which one you feel connected by the approach, the subject, the creative process?

I don't belong to any group and I don't have any label. I am not in any too-easily-identifiable category. I have friends who are artists and very different from each others such as Wim Delvoye and Jacques Villegle, people for whom I have some respect like Robert Longo. The list is important: musicians from everywhere, movies directors, gangsters, etc. But I don't belong to any group. It's not even a choice. It's like that.

Your first pieces of art are deployed around Arthur Cravan, poet and boxer (so do you), nephew of Oscar Wilde. He was a dandy and that's what one says about you. How could you define a post-modern dandy and do you consider yourself as one of them?

Definition of a dandy is a man who takes care of his manners, his presentation and who has wit. I take care of my bad manners, my presentation is just what I give to be seen by others and my wit is twisted. A kind of dandyism, probably, but I feel so far from all those who wander in boulevard Saint Germain in Paris and for whom appearance is the only goal and who give so much trouble to take care of their manners without having any wit. The word "dandy" has been stolen, it has become almost pejorative.
A dandy? A highwayman? A highway"dandy"?

Only when one is on the precipice can we ask the basics questions: Who am I? Where am I? What should I do? Am I being sincere and honest? Yes. Definitely yes. At least I try to be like that. Especially, I try to be a man... to become a man. We must lead ourselves, force ourselves not to feel dizzy, stay between the attraction/abstraction of the vacuum and the relation to the matter, become a North America Indian and climb barefoot on the steel girders of the New York sky-scrapers. I voluntarily walk on the razor's edge, like a drunken tightrope walker, facing the abyss, especially without a net, above all, without cheating. This is my way of being and my only way of thinking, transmitting. I do it for myself, I do it for the others... Each exhibition is like a little death, each work of art is a new birth...

Dear Philippe, thank you so much!! I am so sad I missed the opening! I wish you all the best and for those who are in Paris: you must visit his show...

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