focus on -
july 2015
Interview by Dorothée Dupuis

Dorothée Dupuis Could you talk about your formal influences? What do you look at? How do you think? How has your training as a designer informed how you produce forms in the exhibition sphere? It seems that the language of abstraction is still important for you. In what sense do you think you’re tackling it in a new way?
?Clémence Seilles I regularly go back and see images by my classical masters: Tatlin, Sottsass, Sonia, as well as Robert Delaunay, Superstudio, Hélio Oiticica, the Gelatin collective… to mention only a handful of “dirty artists” who have navigated or are navigating, casually and doubtfully, between applied arts and fine arts. Primordial shapes like circles, triangles, squares… enable me to concentrate more on narratives, circumstances and processes. I proceed from what societies tangibly produce to build themselves. I visit companies dealing in supplies or construction equipment, and go to rendering plants and product assembly factories. I idly drive through industrial estates in Italy, France, Germany and Holland. On YouTube I watch guitar swirling in garages and industrial plastic machining. In China, Russia, Morocco, Jamaica and Mexico, I study wire mesh houses, terracotta vehicles, simple and exuberant displays, custom cars, street amenities for chance meetings… I’m fascinated by amusements, even the most modest: a subwoofer in a pot with holes, a fish-shaped gun barrel in the bar of a deck chair… I adore permissive societies. The work Bassin ouvert(Open Bassin) at ar/ge kunst in Bolzano, which first appeared at Triangle in Marseille, is a desire to create a social space within that of art, where people are invited to create a critical product. In this context, the work is at once an everyday object and something fantastical: a fountain, a long swimming pool, in which shapes and materials follow directly from the research I mentioned a moment ago. Although my training as a designer informs manipulations of conventions (much more than manipulations of shapes), the exhibition sphere, which is not very familiar with functional services and devices, opens up a fertile field of experiments that are more complicated to develop in the commercial sphere.,
D.D. You do a lot of collaborative projects with your “gang”. You’re invited to organise birthdays (Triangle, ar/ge kunst); your friends cross Europe to work with you; you share the fee money; you sell cocktails and t-shirts; you teach; you occupy squats and villas. Are you more of a Fassbinder, Wako or Beverly Hills 90210??
C.S. I’m from Montboucons. It’s the Beverly Hills of Besançon in Franche-Comté. A gang can be Philip K. Dick (Ubik) and Kerouac (The Dharma Bums) living in the City of Quartz (Mike Davis), flirting on Less Than Zero (Bret Easton Ellis) with the risk of ending up like in The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M. Cain), alone and condemned. I try to combine sustainable economic efficiency with the risk of alienation. The gang – made up of artists, designers, composers, curators and architects who are all fanatical about hard beats – lives between Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris, and is heterogeneous and multifarious. There’s no unifying manifesto, exclusive dogma, or even a name. The action hierarchies are healthy, made of individuals who do their singular research and can take turns implementing or supporting a project. Drama is part of this game that we haven’t really found rules for, but experience has shown us that the virtues of fraternity bring tangible added value to our critical ambitions and to the wellbeing of our respective lives. To name a few of these creations that I’m surrounded by: the Krux, a giant, well-equipped collective studio for periods of production, big parties and ‘afters coalitions’. PostNorma, a fabulous squat conquered and dissolved in one year, which generated workshops and various events. The Dirty Art department, an institutional bouillabaisse that made lots of meetings and journeys possible. SANKS, a design company among friends. Cicciolinas, unifying techno parties. Secret Castles, a contemporary art festival/summer camp hybrid…
D.D. How do you reconcile the “post-hippie” aspect of your methodology with the need for rigour linked to the idea of artistic commitment? What is you position in all of this relative to institutions and the art market??
C.S. I see the “hippie” position, this sort of non-conformist, as a necessary step, even if it’s only temporary, time enough to identify our views and strengthen them while freeing ourselves from commodities as much as possible. I don’t want to marginalise myself on a desert island and live my life with my group, I simply want to avoid getting sucked up by the art market, so I have time to create. I believe in a market that’s integrated into society, and it is precisely by being active in different spheres and markets (art, design, performance) that one can build a new kind of expert position. My artistic commitment is romantic. It is to create an optimal climate for creativity, establishing circumstances that produce autonomous strengths and attitudes without excluding myself from society – quite the opposite. I practice lateral thinking and oblique strategies. Oblique Strategies is a set of cards invented by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in 1974. Each card contains a cryptic phrase or comment to meditate on, one that can be used to overcome a creative block or dilemma. Lateral thinking is the opposite of vertical or conventional thinking, which rejects an idea if its application hasn’t been validated. It is based on imagination and on putting forward impossible, absurd, unrealistic theories in order to create springboards towards other ideas that are themselves achievable. Embodied in my practice, this means that I go off into fairly diverse application areas and development structures, working with people who are also very different and sometimes have polar opposite ways of thinking. This makes it more tiring and difficult to exist in different markets instead of only one, since people still have a strong tendency (less in English-speaking countries) to recognise only a single profession for each person. This is why I tirelessly dodge having to justify myself as an artist or a designer and explain why I created the “dirty artist” designation, which symbolises that universal position of the creator before the historical split between applied arts and fine arts.

Magazine du Palais -
January 2013
Interview by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel

translation on google translate.

Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel : Ton approche du geste et de la forme se situe à la croisée du design et des beaux-arts. La forme (les socles, la lumière, les matériaux industriels) s’attaque ainsi « efficacement » au fond (les questions du matérialisme, de l’exotisme ou encore de l’environnement naturel contemporain). Selon toi l’art peut-il avoir une fonction pratique, une possible tâche à accomplir, un cahier des charges à remplir ?
Clémence Seilles : Mon travail est très contextuel. J’essaie toujours de répondre à une situation donnée (un lieu, un contexte, des contraintes) ou inventée par moi-même (avec l'écriture de scripts et de fictions). Cette attitude vient de ma formation de designer. Selon une définition classique de son rôle, le designer évalue une demande, un contexte, et y répond en conséquence avec le souci d’apporter une réponse « utile ». Pour ma première exposition personnelle, en 2012, j’ai simplement « produit » une exposition, comme un scénographe pourrait le faire. Ce projet avait pour point de départ une réflexion sur certains mécanismes d'exposition, de présentation des œuvres, de hiérarchie entre les socles (que j’ai rebaptisés « outils de légitimation d'œuvre ») et les œuvres elles-mêmes. Tous les volumes et toutes les lumières étaient au service d'une scénographie, destinée à cadrer le regard sur les œuvres. Mais celles-ci n'étaient pas présentes, ni l'artiste d'ailleurs, et ces outils scénographiques ont finalement acquis le statut d'œuvre. Les environnements réels ou fictionnels que je construis utilisent toujours des sources industrielles ou artisanales : aucun matériau qui ne soit pas soumis à un processus de transformation par l'homme (agglomération, pressage, coupe, moulage…). Les volumes qui reprennent des formes géométriques primordiales (carré, triangle, cercle) composent un langage primitif industriel. C'est un inventaire poétique de matériaux synthétiques, qui peut être donné à lire comme une archéologie matérialiste de l'Occident contemporain.
RLV:Alain Badiou, dans Le Siècle (2005), définit le XXe siècle comme celui d’une passion du réel et affirme que le XXIe siècle n’a pas commencé, que nous sommes figés dans un regard porté sur le XXe, divisés entre peur et fascination pour ses atrocités. Comment un artiste peut-il réagir aujourd’hui au poids de l’Histoire et inventer un système qui se dégage de cette obsession du réel ? Ton travail sur la science-fiction est-il un moyen d’ouvrir une telle porte de sortie ? L’apocalypse serait-elle le meilleur antidote contre la stagnation ?
CS:Je ne pense pas comme Alain Badiou que le XXe siècle soit celui de la volonté de réel. La fascination pour ses atrocités a tout de même généré de nombreux récits de fictions, auxquels je me rattache. Le tour de force génial que l'apocalypse nous permet, c'est de projeter la « re-création ». Un scénario post-apocalyptique ouvre en effet des perspectives sans limites, en rupture totale avec ce qui a précédé, qu’il n’est même pas besoin de justifier. Écrire de tels scénarios est pour moi une grande échappatoire à la réalité. Des hommes aux attitudes absurdes dans un environnement idiot, qui ne se raccrochent à rien de réel. En ce sens, cette écriture fictionnelle fait partie de ma stratégie d'action. Mais elle ne constitue qu’un de ses éléments. Sinon je me retrouverais vite dans un isolement bizarre, sans prise avec le réel. Réaliser des projets de fiction, c'est comme préparer un terrain neuf pour une nouvelle réflexion, dessiner un schéma de rupture entre passé et futur. C'est à la fois un acte libérateur et une méthode de travail dont la fonction est de nous ramener dans notre monde tangible. Faire appel à l’absurde, cela me permet de me libérer de la morale et de préjugés sociaux et, pour reprendre Alain Badiou, il s'agit d'identifier « l’instant d’exception qui efface le XXe siècle », ce poids de l'Histoire dont tu parles. Je le rejoins sur ce point pour reconnaitre que cet instant appartient à une logique autre, dont nous ne connaissons pas encore la structure.
RLV: À une époque où nous assistons à l’apogée de l’individualisme, au règne du « je », où le « Néandertal contemporain » est à l’origine de toute norme, tu sembles privilégier les actions collectives, les rencontres de subjectivités, la collusion d’intérêts disparates.
CS:Peut-être que l'homme de Néandertal était trop individualiste et qu’il n'a pas su anticiper les grandes vagues de froid qui se sont abattues sur son habitat. Dans la division, seuls les plus forts ont survécu. Et le dernier d’entre eux s’est retrouvé comme un con, avec sa fourrure certes, mais seul ! C'est en fait une histoire très contemporaine. Que peut-on proposer quand on est artiste? Pourquoi choisissons-nous de ne servir à rien, au sens utilitaire du terme dont nous parlions plus tôt ? Je crois à la poésie collective et à l'échange des subjectivités. Pour qu'un discours soit fort, il faut qu'il soit mis en perspective avec celui d'autres contemporains, qu'il y ait réflexion et partage. C'est la raison pour laquelle j'ai choisi de construire le Dirty Art Department au Sandberg Institut d'Amsterdam, avec Jerszy Seymour, Catherine Geel et Stéphane Barbier Bouvet. Il y a un programme, une vision, tout ce qu’on attend d'une école : être fainéant en production et ambitieux en perspectives, pour paraphraser Jean Renoir. Il se référait aux Grecs anciens et à l'invention de l'agora, un lieu d'échange autour duquel toute une civilisation s'est formée, mais dans lequel ils ne « faisaient » rien. Dans mon environnement contemporain, je perçois chaque opportunité qui m'est donnée comme une possibilité de construire une agora des subjectivités… Et si en tant qu’artiste je réussis à me reconnaitre dans un groupe, je crois que ça sera toujours mieux que de mourir seule en fourrure de chinchilla et chaussons de galuchat.
Encadrer ? Concentrer ?

Precursor - Gestalen Verlag-
Mars 2011
Interview by Jan Middendorp

- This book combines the work of young creative people working in a variety of disciplines -- both artists and people who are usually thought of as designers. Do you think that kind of distinction is still relevant? What would you like people to call you?

I am a designer because I am concerned with setting up life situations, and present inspiring outcome for poeple, and that's what a designer is doing. Then what the medium should be is a technical issue witch doesn't really matter, you can do them all, or associate yourself with specialists, the working process it is the same, there are as many as projects exist. It can be an object, a space, a volume, a mass, an illustration a piece of writing, a performance, a craft making, an industrial production or a self-made experiment, what matter is the relevancy of the expression in the contemporary world. I won't dig into an unsecure definition of Art and neither design, but it sounds quite clear what essential existential difference is, one is free, one is alienated.
Artists and designers are connected if friendship exist, and it is not new: for art deco parisian decorator Jean-michel frank (in french history, early designers were decorators) friendships with Dali and Giacometti were really strong.
What is presented today in design magazines and specialised publication as a new issue, a recent proximity between Art and design is actually a comparaison of tools. Does paper and typing machine makes the stenographer close to the poet? A non-industrial production and/or a distribution area well-known for art such as the gallery or auction house, don't make the designer an artist. From early XXth century, when artists started using industrial objects and process in their artwork, it appears, in an industrial society, relevant to consider the present environment and economy to reflect on, as much as the areas of expression for the designer cannot only be industry: the designer doesn't appear with the industrial revolution but with the first woman on earth who brought together sea-shelves for building herself a neckless while the first man on earth put down his bottom on a stone and found it convenient (or close to this period).

- What are the aspects of today's culture that most fascinate and inspire you? What are the aspects that you could live without?

I am fascinated by the decadence: if I look with a nostalgic eye at inspiring personalities who were very much multy disciplinary, because here is our topic, bridges were not needed to pass over a flowing river of invitations. To call one: William Klein, coming from commercial photography, encouraged by the fashion magazine of the 60's, defined a contemporary photography, visionnaire fictions and documentaries for cinema from Qui etes-vous Polly Magoo to Mister freedom. Today, it feels every litte move needs to be justified: why you live here when you're born there and call yourself this while you do not exactly what the title word says. In a decadent society so loose of convictions we title and over-place definitions to report an hybridity instead of inventing new characters: we are post-modern, post-industrial, anti-utilitariste, I listen to techno/ragga/folk music with a touch of free-funk, beuuuuuh! This looseness of convictions leaves a lot of space for creativity, places to take. But very first thing to do is to kill the fathers, and there are still standing too hard. This is why I am doing a Revisionist History in design, starting by rewriting biographies of famous masters, not relevant to carry on worshipping, like Enzo Mari: "We will remind Enzo as the windvane who believed predicted the wind flow". Designer Stephane Barbier Bouvet, is also taking the piss in Amateur historicity by remaking in a very dum way these emblematic XXth century chairs. Shooting in the sand bag, again and again, until it starts leaking.

- You grew up in France, studied in London and moved to Berlin. What have these different environments meant to your development as an artist? How does Berlin influence you today?

Besancon in France, is where my parents concieved me and raised me. London is where it was interesting to go when I was 22 to study, and Berlin to meet Jerszy Seymour actually. It is where I still live today, surrounded by artists friends contributing to an inspiring environement in a large physical space available; so far. It will probably be another place to go when this inspiration will dry out. In Europe, it can happen as fast as a hand clap, no boarders for visa issues, so that's why it is so easy to move. Considering this possibility, for my generation, it is really retarded to be the local redneck, and not be curious to the world.

- Your work seems to inhabit a special place between play, speculation and usability. How do you see it function in people's lives?

Nothing works and neither "functions" in people's lives with what I am proposing. I rather believe to impulse a curious and generous attitude to people.

- There is a social and performative aspect to some of your projects as well, such as the No Limit Race. Is that a strand in your work - participation art? 

The performance format allows to express in a short time snap a lively sharing since the choregraphy is participative. If, as a designer again, setting up living situation is an ambition, it must involve poeple to stimulate their curiosity by taking part in the action and social relationship, in the moment or in delay. What happens is that most of the time these performance or participative event (whatever you call it) are only representations, fables, fictions, shows. It is very much a spectacle like Guy Debord defines it. It means it is not the society, it is only presenting it. There are design show let's say, choregraphed moment of life. When La Fontaine takes a toad to blow as big as the bull, he makes a burlesque illustration for a human behavior. The No limit race and The Made in Time racing again are burlesque pictures of diligent man labor.

- Do you have a special connection with theatre?

No. However, there is a fascination for mecanism of representation, that theater is dealing with to a much more assumed, conscient and digested attitude, like cinema and novel writing too. I start writing short science fiction novels inspired from 70's poets Jacques Sternberg and Roland Jaccard, who digged into the absurd and the humour noir related with cutting illustrations of Roland Topor. There is this animation movie The fantastic planet also with Roland Topor, an alien adventure where humans are the ineducated pets of a peacefull sophisticated specie. A surprising perspective on Humanity pressed by an inventive aesthetic.

- You seem to have an enormous delight in shapes, colours, encounters of forms, making things with your own hands... In a previous life, would you have been an artisan?

No I would have been an unconditional dictator distributing a lot of hand slaps. It is still an actual life plan. The artisan is too much of a passive actor in the creative chain, a technician blocked into a strong huge knowledge that he receives in a painfull, patient long apprenticeship. It is horrible! I hate this notion of pain in learning that exactly turns you into a total respectfull attitude in regard of this knowledge and lock the invention: "It was so hard to learn, I will be the guardian of it". It is a secure way of archiving; then of course history of artisanat is ponctuated of inventions due to genius enough characters to overpass that respect. Not being instructed, I also like to tell myself that actually most of the interesting inventions have been mistakes: a distracted monk forgets a cask of barley in the basement; the fermentation will produce beer alcohol (for example).

- Do you like to feel useful?

Yes, like when the rubbish bin is full, and needs to be emptied. That's why I do design, to empty the rubbish of our lives.

- Could you say something about the role of chance and random processes in your work?

It is more lazyness than a theory, and I trully hope this will lead me to unexpected directions. I am not working like a university researcher with a conscient chase for a THEORY, I am not a philosopher neither but a motherfucker, meaning that I rely on talented personalities building theories that I take over for random interpretations, I shoot in the dark. I lately discovered french philosopher Jean Pierre Voyer, an unconditional rebel of 70 years old, sending obscene mails to pseudo intellectual french jet set while supporting the theory of humanity starting with communication: it is the refinement of his animal needs.

- You're also a storyteller. How does the writing interact with you visual work?

It starts sometimes with storytelling to fulfil a desire that cannot be or just doesn't need to be phisycal. When this get translated physically, there will be contexts for conversations. Sometimes it is a need for physical existence, in a cosmic sence: here I stand, made of matter and sublime, and that's it. As object, lamps are giving that possiblity of distance with vulgar comodity of use, utility. The Matter and Osmoses lamps, are poorly functional, very much decorative. Their "mission" if there is one, is to stand and exist for themselves, nothing rational trying to solve a problem. And this makes no sence to connect with a piece of writing, it only is a physical experience.

- Tell me about your magazine NoisyChronic and about the Krater Club.

The NoisyChronic is proposing a way of journalism to a community. So far it is only a closed mailing list sharing sounds and moving like a cadavre exquis, freely passing from one hand to another. We made one physical translation at the HBC in Berlin, a concert hall, cafe/bar. It was a party/exhibition. We invited NC contributors to reflect on a given theme: Confusion of the tongues. We chaotically displayed all the things (painting, scultures, videos, singing…in a confusion party/concert happening behind the scene of a big concert scheduled the same evening at the HBC. People would not understand, and we were telling them that this is a magazine release. There were more confused.
The Krater Club was another proposal made for the HBC. I spent one year there, doing different things. At some point I proposed Jerszy Seymour to collaborate for their restaurant. We invented a club of artists who would run the menu of the restaurant, by creating recipes, coktails and happening evening. HBC didn't take it unfortunatly.

Design 360°, french design - Sandu Cultural Medi-
January 2011
Interview by Sasha Lo

You grew up in France, you studied at RCA in London, and you took your internship in Rotterdam and Berlin. How do the experiences of living and working in different places affect your life and your view? You finally decided to settle down in Berlin. What peculiarity is so appealing to you there?

I believe we must break as much as we can the conception of a national individu and its cultural determinism, and reather decide ourself on the person we want to be, no matter where you are. It is like saying I don't care of being french, I prefer to be a human gender. But most importantly I go where I find interesting poeple, if there were all in France I would stay there, but there are not ! For my studies, internship and works experiences,, I looked for Pierre Charpin (this one is french), Ron Arad, Jurgen Bey, Martino Gamper, Atelier Van Lieshout and Jerszy Seymour. But moving within European union is really easy, more and more poeple are being these "chic immigrants" like I am: it is not a forced immigration pushed by poverty.It is a life style to take advantages of this european situation of not having visa needed, relativelly short distances and cultures, langages can be learned or we commit on english langages. For example Berlin is really a european capital with a lot of foreigners from all over europe and sometimes from more far away, and a large number of them came not because of the charm of german sausages and Goethe. A lot of poeple work and live in english langage, like I do, because no-one really cares where you are from and how much you are involved into german tradition; it is more about an excitment of poeple doing things and generating creative situations. There are still a lot of free spaces in Berlin, geographically and mentally, this is very inspiring for many artists. This is why I like to stay in Berlin at the moment.

Being a designer from France, does the French culture have any influence on you and your design works? In what ways?

Of course french culture have a strong influence on me. It is part of me. It stays the one I grew up with, eating caw brain, soup tripes, aged pheasant, bone marrow and foie-gras. There are reactions and attitudes which I am amused to realise sometimes: like french people we always believe we have invented everything. About my work, maybe it is a methodology or a way of presenting an idea, which is very didactic, like we are instructed to write essays at school: show the advantages of an issue, then its opposite and draw a synthese. Except for that, I don't feel consciently very concerned to express in my work particular signs of french culture.

How do you define your design aesthetic? Is there a message you try to convey through your design?

The aesthetic I produce is contributed by insdustrial finished products that I bring together in a collage of mine. It is a gesture directly inspired by the ready-made sculptures of Marcel Duchamps. The elements I use are easilly available in commercial places for non-professionals, like DIY shops, or specialised shops in certain tools and materials. I don't do magic tricks with alien objects that you cannot tell where there are from, made of, and stay impenetrable. Every element is familiar, recognisable, available. I am more curious of ways to dismenber, reassemble and shift areas to produce the surpise, like when I bring pavements on the dinning table. I try to draw out the proximity and the large creativity that is available in our direct environment

There seems to be a kind of spontaneousness in your works. So when you are executing a project, will the ideas come first or you are enlightened through actual practice?

Yes it is true, I deeply believe in spontaneity. But it doesn't mean that things necessary happen fast, but when there is an idea, it must emerge physically, even it makes no sence or stay asleep for a year, because nothing is lost, we always find meanings to our actions. I take the example my project Made in time which is a racing furniture making project. I first have a desire about a human activity, when I see people doing jogging and looking at their pulse on a watch; I know I must do something about it and take the jogger and his pulse rhythm at the heart of a design project. So my spontanious reaction will be to train aerobic lessons for months, a bit desesperated to understand what it means. So it can take very long time before I finally come to my interpretation. I was training again, with similar choreographical motions applyed at doing stools.

You had a project called Trip in China/Inner Mongolia. What is this project about? Could you share with us something interesting in your trip?

It was last summer that I went to China and Inner Mongolia to visit a part of my "new" family coming from inner mongolia. It was my first time going there. Like a big experience it has been wonderfull and terrible monents. One of the inspirations I brought back with me are the way rocks are composed for fountains, flooring, decorative displays, on pedestals, collectionning, signing…That was very exotic to me. There not this culture in Europe, or in a very different attitude. So at the moment I carry two projects with stone making and rocks compositions.

Apart from designing and making objects, you are also engaged in painting, publication and short story writing. How do you keep the incessant inspiration for all these matters?

All these matters are part of the same story with different tools to make it happen, such as illustration, painting, writing, welding, carpentry. At the end of the day, isn't it design a very generalist practice? I don't know how to describe what the designer is specifically doing, as precise as the plumber is fixing plumbing. I have a lot of friends also currently working in a multidisciplinary way, designers makers, designers artists… looking for an autonome attitude.

Please tell us something about NoisyChronic.

The noisychronic is an emerging newsletters/project space I lead in collaboration with the young german designer Raoul Zollner. We are setting up an interactive web newsletter (, and live presentations/parties that cares about building a general contemporary culture. Each issue has a defined theme such as surfin' on Babel tower scrapes, Revisionist history of design, kill them all…these old masters. We invite designers, artists, musicians, poets…, dead and alive, to contribute to issues, in the newsletter, or in the physical space that changes location. As I said it is an emerging project that still have to find its sustainable way to run, but we start in the chaos, spontaniously again, as to force ourselves to be engaged. Maybe one day we organise to make an issue in China?

What are you planning on for 2011?

A lot!