With The Beach and Other Stories you make use of photographic archives, investigating the various stories they may contain. How would you describe your relationship with the image?

I have long been interested in what it means to be together and the modalities of a shared narrative. At the present time, I feel that the common currency of our collective imaginations derives largely from images. This is what The Beach problematizes or investigates in a way. The omnipresence of images orients our narratives, our views, our ways of being together. I also feel, conversely, that this overflow impoverishes my imagination.

There’s a word in English that guides me here: “unharness.” To get rid of a harness, of something that constrains. The Beach stemmed from a need to liberate, to reappropriate the imagination. I wanted to become one with the image in order to restore its evocative power. This is why I reinserted these photographs into the flow of life by circulating within them, notably through narration and movement.


These narrative strategies lie at the heart of your performance. Tell us a bit about the writing process in which you tried to “become one with the image.”

In contrast to my previous works, in The Beach I tried to get rid of all forms of abstraction by turning to a much more concrete creative strategy: writing. I also wanted to work from a tangible form, one that already existed—photographs. We chose a set of photos taken by Olivier Tulliez depicting Bulgarian daily life between 1996 and 1998.

The work of co-writing with Michael Martini consisted in describing, in concrete detail, the action or landscape depicted in these images. We had to stay within the photographic frame, disregarding the socio-cultural context or the time period. We spent about an hour with each image and the idea was to make them speak by assigning roles to them and by exploring the various addresses. It was an exercise in observation, writing and sharing, a work of deep and sustained concentration. This writing period was a way for me to absorb the content of each photograph in order to better relate to them.

If the meaning of an image is embodied outside of oneself, I feel that writing allows one to get closer to it, to enter into oneself. I sought this proximity while at the same time maintaining a certain distance. I didn’t want this exercise of reappropriating the image to be too personal, or to become about me or my identity. I wanted to maintain a dialogue with multiple ramifications.


Why did you choose to work with photographic archives from Bulgaria of the 1990s?

It was a very special decade in Bulgaria, a chaotic time rife with contradictions. The hopes raised by the advent of democracy were very high, and came up against the perverse effects of the capitalism that was beginning to take hold. The communist regime had just collapsed. This absence of a political system and regime provided a common narrative where everything had to be created anew. Everyone was trying to invent a new collective life in the enthusiasm and chaos. The 1990s was a time of hope, and everyone dreamed of the possibilities of another life.

The collective imagination was expanding, not yet enslaved by political structures or market aesthetics. Which gave rise to revolutions. This overflow of energy—somewhat adolescent, with very few behavioural constraints, rules or prescriptions—is what interested me. I tried to imagine how all this could be staged. My work is based on social mechanisms, not on my identity. I try to figure out how to re-instill creative freedom within a market system.


What role does subversion play in your work?

A central one, because I try to subvert the image’s power of suggestion. Which is why there are intruders in the photographs (the image of the beach, the Goya painting) and nonsense in the stories I tell. I work mainly with exceptions, contrasts, illogicalities that interfere with the objects, bodies, words, photographs.

I look for actions that allow me to subvert my own system and that of creation. To subvert the rules that I suspect are inscribed within me. The challenge of this performance is to find exceptions in a commercial aesthetic without making any specific claims. Humour and irony are powerful vectors of subversion. But my work is based more on a gesture of tenderness. It’s important for me to crystallize a moment of grace in the act of communicating a story, of recounting it together.