Jèròme Sans

A lenticular dialogue Loris Cecchini interviewed by Jèròme Sans
In your first works using light boxes, you overlapped two different realities. What was the idea?

I started working with digital imaging several years ago, trying to utilize the perceptual gap as common ground between the perception usually altered by the media which overlaps, in a continuous exchange, a more concrete type of reality. This allowed me to present (most of this work comes in 16/9 format) a vast range of objects and figures that meet on the narrative plane as well as on the surreal and paradoxical plane of a situation that is simultaneously alienated and alienating. The environment I recreated in my studio, weather landscape or interior, gave me the possibility to construct a place that is real and virtualised at the same time, to move “remaining still”, playing with the idea of “modellization”; with this term I mean both the use of real models made to scale as well as a larger notion of the concept of model as an element of a reality reproduced and a sign recognizable as “non-contest”. In a way, the model allows one to speak in an abstract sense whilst remaining inside ones consistency. It is to this concept of composite Background that the various characters, which move on the scene, are then linked to.
The animals and people, thus becoming unwitting actors of a possible scene, all come from real photographs taken on streets, in squares, railway stations and so on: this allows me to work as a kind of director overlapping multiple images, originating from different physical and temporal contexts, that permit me to amalgamate the various elements together by placing them in a paradoxical plane, metaphorizing an over-constructed and parallel reality, just like in the movie “The Truman Show”. When that movie came out, I was already working in this way, and I was pleasantly surprised by the similarities between my photographical work and that particular story. The mixture of different elements in the photos, (objects, landscapes, architecture, portraits), give rise to a rallenty in the perception of the digitally reformulated photograph: this allows me to look each time at different subjects and objects, staging different situations inside of which move elements apparently alike, but which originate from a different physical and temporal distance. This operation provokes a perceptual moment (that of real time) in which one can feel a unitary situation from which we than have, in the way one reads the elements constituting the image, a backwards progress, a sort of rewind.
Digital post-production has always interested me very much, but I have always tried to keep a low profile, attempting to avoid the sensationalism and patination found in advertising and graphics work. From here the choice to stage low profile situations, where the characters, more than actors, are simply extras of desolate situations, appearing in a continuous metaphor on isolation, actionsí uselessness and the absurd.
Lately, this work, which I regard as “non-photographs”, is moving in parallel with my other projects; in the series “Transparencies”, for example, the transparent forms and areas reconnect directly to my spatial installations as well as to the architectural models and thermo-constructed collages, trying, through different planning qualities, to find a dimension which is common to all of the works, in which different levels of reality penetrate each other, continuously overlapping each other in a game where multiple realities, virtuality and simulation become part of our thought mechanisms, substantially modifying our common perception of reference models.

Is this why you used Light boxes which refers to urban media and at the same time to painting history, like an illusion of a window opening to the outside?

Of course is possible to have a structural parallel between digital collage and painting: Jeff Wall's lesson has been a wonderful example of it. Iíve always tried to create this composition, but not with the direct reference models Wall uses; instead, I try to use a plausible image in its apparent normality. More than simple windows to an outside world, my images are like screens, or visualizations, of an interior world.
I am referring to the production of a situation which pertains to the surrounding landscape, but in a kind of reconstructed memory of it, created inside a studio using simple and precarious elements, to which I add pieces of reality; transferred to the context of the painting, the actual pictorial context, these scenes create a dialogue between several elements, from the environment to the illustration, from the objects in it to the particular feeling of the image, that generates a kind of short circuit of surrealistic metaphysics. I use this to highlight a more existentialist, rather than pictorial, metaphor.
The pictorial aspects are drawn from the artificiality present in the collage: I believe this to be the main difference, as well as the choice of contexts, with many compositions associated with architectural rendering that also play with different scales and associations.

You are known for your rubber objects. How did you came to this material ?

I have always been fascinated by analogical materials: I have and still use many different types, in a continuous search that I believe is a form of curiosity and attitude. The decision to use rubber for my replicas came in a period where I’d visually had enough of the screen, I wanted to transcend the two-dimensionality of the non-photographs that at the time where the main focus of my work.
The rubber’s technology and using real scale moulds gave me the chance to keep on working on a form of visual and poetical paradox that had a direct relationship with my idea of “modellization” of reality, loss, replicas, by forming a ghost of the original. This material was perfect for me, because of its destructuralizing properties, which at the same time have great visual effect.
For me, the natural deformation it provokes on all objects is a sort of metaphorical collapse and a hybrid between structural and biological.
What collapses is not the real object, but only its model, its reference somehow virtualised by an action of deconstructive deformation.

Your objects ( bicycle, banch, doors) at scale 1 to1 looks so real, even so the material is sweet and no more strong plays like tricks, traps in spaces. What is your relationship with reality ?

Undoubtedly, I have a complex relationship with reality one I am not able to define philosophically; I look for different metaphors using different materials, always searching for a way to transfigure which is paradoxical and dematerialising. I believe it is through paradoxes that different keys of reading and recognising an object open up to new interpretations. I’m interested in working on an idea of visual wear, distance and a sense of perversion of reality, on different perceptual plains where one look can tense up the physical aspect, the weight and materiality of real objects. The choice of using familiar subjects leads to reinterpreting them in a neutralized condition, which I hope generates a “different” vision and at the same time states an undefined condition of loss of familiar models and knowledge.
For this reason I like to think of my work as being “non-sculptures”, the recreation of whole situations seen as a form of obsession of replicas, of clones. For a long time I looked at reality as being reshapeable and revisable in structural terms, working each time on different subjects which are dependant on the context that houses them, on the exhibition’s theme, rather than on the actual environment they are representing.
When I speak of ghosts of reality, I am thinking of the inability to recognize reality, of the impotence of being able to interpret things by simply looking at them. In this sense, the credibility of my sculptures is the metaphor for this inability to recreate a concrete reality, though at the same time they take you to a new imaginative dimension that stands between irony and drama, where the images optical illusion leaves you with an indefinable sense of the impracticability of something.
It’s as if they put themselves on a plain of concrete virtualisation, suddenly loosing their “portrayal”. They aren’t objects any longer; they’re no longer anything.

What would be their status?

I believe they represent a condition of concrete reality which fails because of our incapacity to understand it and also because of a generic dematerialization of elements of both the sham and fetishes of function. Thanks to their deforming, inconsistent and paradoxical characteristics these objects can be looked at as subjects, because they create a relationship with our memories and our experiences of them. The model of a real object shaped according to reality takes its place in reality itself.

A world of everyday life objects ( computer, chairs, cables,…) which has lost all its color to end up in grey. One grey world which links all of them in one line. Are you considering them as invaders ?

The colour grey is essentially linked to the total neutralization of the idea of texture and the qualities of the object’s surfaces, giving simply an idea of a mass that survives in a zone of lights and shadows; it’s the non-colour used in the missing parts of a fresco, or in the standard planning of a three-dimensional project before the elements in question are characterized by the final application of surface and rendering. It’s sort of stage which precedes materialisation, through which everything conforms itself by its absence. It is also a non-colour very much linked to the idea of “technical”, artificiality, prototypes, and ultimately to models. Iím fascinated by the simple idea of bringing everything on the same plain of monochrome configuration; I believe that, once again, the physical object is pushed in the realm of ideas, into a much more abstract and poetical plain.
Pursuing these same ideas, I have lately been working with transparencies and all the colours of the spectrum, using particular materials.

What is your relathoinship with monochrom and its history?

Iím so into this monochromatic vision that I find it difficult to work with colours, which may happen when working with photographs, but hardly ever when Iím working with spatial elementsÖ My fascination with monochrome is connected to representing a more psychological field of action where this constant tone transports you to a blurry world, deeper and more concentrated. On the other hand, grey has an infinite scale of modulations, nuances, warm and cold huesÖ
As far as art history, my affective precedents go back to a whole typology of painting and installation based on these prerogativesÖin reality, though, I am also very much interested in completely opposite chromatic experiences.

Your projects develop an hesitation in between real,dream or apocalypse. What do you think ?

I think that the elements of which you speak of are interchangeable and are dependent upon moods and contexts. My work develops as a hesitation towards a dematerialised reality, in a constant projection “outside oneself”, but which projects back inside, possibly towards the individual’s capacity to look at and read the elements. I try to produce small alteration processes which develop a transfiguration of the elements involved, knowing that the common factor is a sort of extraneousness which is inside us and envelops objects. My way of working with sculptures and objects, as well as photographs, has enabled me to “catalogue” a vast list of elements, stuff which I’ll probably use again, even if under a new form. Just as my latest architectural work, the “Monologue Patterns”, and my collages are spaces tied to a real deformation of dreams, places found between hallucination and planning qualities, abstraction and practicability, suspension and materiality.

Since your first light boxes, you seem to develop something archeleogical, based on styratifiactions. From sites to extract objects. How do you behave with history, and the one of the objects ?

The elements stratification you speak of is based on memory. The problem is that we are living in a state of hyper-reality which is not based on the structure of the individual or the community, but on a display of the senses: starting from this position, I try to work from a model already used by the media, already lost in a interpretative drift. In this way the stratifications of meaning bring, in an infinite kaleidoscope of interpretation and references, to the annihilation of the object in question, because of an excess of possibilities; I believe that the standard spatial perception parameters have been modified by the introduction of new technologies through which we find ourselves in an environment where our perceptive and sensorial capacities move on an order and chaos substantially different: from the elaboration of new complex architectural forms, to the quality of information, to the possibility to reread the classic models our knowledge is based upon under the light of changes brought by these same structural and behavioural modifications induced by technology.
Because they continuously overlap each other in a game where virtuality and simulation become part of our thought mechanisms, these different levels of reality, permeating each other, totally modify our customary perception of reference models.

How do you work ? You conceive most of your works from computer.

Itís true, I conceive a lot of my work on a PC, like everybody else, I believe; in the past few years the projecting phase has grown, but I always try to keep in mind the qualities of the material that has to come out from the screen, I try to find a connection between the projecting environment and the physical space, trying to make them “speak” to each other. I am extremely fascinated by this exchange between the virtually planned qualities of space-object and the actual material used. I see this three-dimensional software landscape as something to use as a “territorial” hypothesis, a place of belonging and absence, very much like the topography generated by electronic music.

You work with computer to conceive but at the same time you realize the pieces almots by hand. You are insisting with the process of making yourself by hand all the pieces you produce. Why such an importance ?

As far as the elements and objects more closely related to sculpture, they are made nearly entirely in the studio. Under many aspects, the way I work is very similar to an architects studio, but I prefer to follow the actual realization of my works, such as the entire process of casting and moulding, personally. This is also due to the quantity of the various pieces. Some of my installations are characterized by many different elements, I am thinking to my office tables or my audio equipment: these particular installations contain a large number of parts and consequently an awful lot of work.
I also like to work directly on the models or solve any technical problem which may arise, by discussing alternative solutions with my assistants. I feel a lot calmer knowing I can intervene directly, and openly experimenting the qualities and limits of the materials I use offers me constant inspiration for new projects.

What is your next major project?

I'm in the process of completing a large project I am extremely proud of. It’s a small structure build on a tree, and it’s the first of my architectural projects to be realized. It’s a sort of capsule joined to a tree, a place for meditating and reading, but also for transfiguration: it’s been completely coated with a lenticular film, at the same time you are sitting in a tree, about 3/4 m high, it's in a small park opposite the institution that produced the work, who will also regulate access to it. Once you climb up there, you have a totally distorted view, thanks to the lens effect, but you also find books on aesthetics, architecture, poetry which you can read for a while. It’s a permanent project and it represents exactly that mixture between artificiality and nature Iive been looking for also in my other works.