1/ Which of the popular sports in the United States do you follow the most?
I watch tennis all year round. I sometimes manage to go to the U.S. Open, but not this year. I understand the issues of this sport that I practice when I can. Besides tennis, I follow baseball, football and ultimate fighting.
I would not say that I’m a fan, because true fans know everything about their team and I know almost nothing. However, I love the Yankees. When I used to live in France, I already knew the names of Babe Ruth, Joe Di Maggio, Mickey Mantle. Now, I follow the feats of Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. A few years ago, I took a picture in downtown New York with all the Yankees teammates wearing Jeter’s #2 jersey.
In football, I like the N.Y. Giants. I am one of the 70 million spectators watching the Super bowl. We won the last one and it was a great time to be in Manhattan.
Recently, I also discovered the violent ultimate fighting. It seems that it’ll replace boxing. With weird tattoos to scare the devils, they’re not beauty but beasts. Sure they smash eyebrows and strangle dragons, but the commitment of these gladiators is 100%, and yet they are still able to show respect to one another. I liked Randy Couture for his courage and energy to the bottom of the California Kid Urijah Faber.
I also like golf and basketball sometimes, but not all season long. If sport is a religion for some, none of us have the same mystical approach to a religion: faithful believers go to the synagogue every week, some others just go for the feasts or big events, and finally some go only for Kippur. I’d say that I’m part of the last group. I am concerned, but I usually have some things that come primer on my schedule.
2/ You have completed your installation called “Manhattan” not long ago. What was the most challenging part of accomplishing this piece?
For starters, it was the first time I had to work artistically with a team. I usually work alone, so nobody knows my recipes, my “tricks” and my rituals. But in order to get it accomplished, I had to reveal some secrets to those who accompanied me in this embodiment.
In addition, I didn’t have my tools, and it took some time to get the material with which I’m used to work.
Finally, we had to work fast, because time was running out and the inspiration as well. Fortunately, the team of sculptors and artists who gave me a hand rapidly understood the spine of the project. I showed them a sketchbook, with a lot of drawings that I had done, and they quickly assimilated the challenge. Everyone prepared drafts, and then I corrected their basis.
It was a little trickier to find the tint, color and ingredients that gave the right appearance to the sculptures, (a kind of a dark brown black and indefinable shade). We worked very hard during all of our time spent in this large warehouse plant fallow, abandoned for years, left to itself as an industrial wasteland. I planned to build 70 to 80 sculptures, and we were able to make a hundred. We ended up exhausted, drained, but very pleased with the result.
I hope that this “Manhattan” installation will circulate around the world. I’m sure lots of people would love to see it here in the MOMA.
3/ Which album (or song) will remind you of the summer 2012?
I really liked the new album of Joe Jackson, called “the Duke” that came out in June: ten covers of Duke Ellington, more or less known pieces, including the famous “Caravan“, “Mood Indigo” and “I Ain’t Got Nothing But The Blues“. I think the album is very well produced, both in the style of the time and yet very modern. It fits with the spirit of Joe Jackson. Fast and playful, it seems light but there is depth, as if nothing mattered, apparently. Excellent musicians around him (Iggy Pop even came to a piece), and I am sure that those who will see him live, will come out full of energy.
CharlElie, September 3rd, 2012 – from New York, NY.
In exclusive, here are a few photos from CharlElie’s work in progress of the giant sculpture “Manhattan“.
For more info, read and watch CharlElie’s interview: CharlElie’s “Manhattan Project” interview
- We know you worked and became friends with Coluche. Can you tell us how you met him and what this relationship brought you?
One night, after my first show in Paris, a journalist took me to Coluche’s house. There were parties every night at his house. I arrived around 1.30 AM, and many people were there already, famous people, actors, musicians, celebrities. A few hours later, Coluche came to me, asking me who I was. We talked a little. I knew nothing about show business and he gave me some tips and precious advice.
Sometime later, Veronica, Coluche’s spouse came to see me backstage of one of my concerts in the suburbs of Paris to tell me that she loved the show. I was about to hit the road back to Nancy when she suggested that I could eventually sleep at their house. On this occasion, I met Coluche once again, and shortly after he asked me to share the scene of a theater where he would be playing in the early evening. I agreed.
That evening, after he left the stage, it was my turn. The room emptied in part, nevertheless, someone named Jean Henri Meunier stayed. Jean Henri Meunier would later introduce me to Chris Blackwell.
Indirectly, Coluche changed my life. For a few years after that, I continued to visit Coluche’s family every time I was in Paris, and I often slept at their home.
- Once you said: « Things have a meaning, things have a shape. Design is the meaning of the shape. » You have designed watches, shoes, and other objects, and you now expose at Dunes with the work of Richard Shemtov. What is your relation with the design industry?
I believe that Art is a proposal. Art is a raw expression of the sentimental power; Art is an unsolved riddle. The work of craftsmen is a know-how: a work of mastery under control. A designer has a map in his head, he knows where he goes. A designer redoes his draft until he reaches the image of his dream.
Expressing his uncontrolled emotions, an artist is motivated by a flow of contrary ideas. Most of the time, his message is not clear. The artist does not exactly know what he wants; he relieves himself of his feelings.
Designers have a certain sense of organization. They drive their aesthetic with a specific purpose in mind, they ‘re like the communicators who vehicles special meanings, with a pre-concerted idea of their goal.
When I draw objects, (watches, shoes or whatever) which must be executed by others, by machines or in series, then I have to condense my thoughts. A design must be both obvious and labeled.
- The New Yorker lifestyle can be very stressful and challenging. You work a lot and do not sleep much. You travel, you perform with full energy, you write, you always have a bunch of projects going on. This lifestyle is very demanding and tiring, so what do you do when you need to relax?
As you say this New-York stress has a strong hold on me. I love it as much as I hate it. Like a drug, you’re addicted to it. Not easy to say, take it or leave it! When I’m not in this effervescence, I feel guilty. I fear of missing something. I spent too much time dreaming of it. In France, sometimes, it takes months to come to a final decision, and I suffered from these delays. Now I’m under pressure, but I chose it. I’m on a wire; I have no security belt. I climb on my bare feet but I don’t look back.
I’m just too scared to stop, paralyzed on the steep face. When I slow down, I feel that all I do might be useless. When you act, you’re in a train that you must feed constantly. When I ask myself: why do I make all this ?…then I can become upset.
My job is as heavy and deep as it is light and trivial. Art is a speculation of love and hate. It’s a gambling. I’m excited like any gamblers.
When I do nothing, my mind gets tangled. Knots appear in the threads, and it freezes the trigger. I lose my clairvoyance and my objectivity.
To relax outdoor, I might play tennis, (nothing’s better for me to clear up my brain), exercise my body in many ways, walk in the streets at night, (visit the Apple store after midnight), go to a museum, go fishing on a boat, take a plane to somewhere “beachy”, have a BBQ party with some lazy cool local friends.
To relax indoor, nothing better than: make love, play cards with some friends, read magazines, surf on the net, cross your hands or go to the synagogue, watch silly programs on TV. But sometimes it’s not enough. I fall asleep rarely before 2.30 AM.
If sleep does not come when I’m spiritually flooded, sometimes my last chance to relax is to complete crosswords, and loose myself in a well of silence.
CharlElie, February 12th, 2012 – from New York, NY.
- Have you ever thought about teaching art in a university?
People seem to like asking me this question. It is probably because they have seen me making speeches during conferences and meetings, and because there’s not a single day without me trying to explain what creating is to my visitors at the REGallery NYC.
I could certainly talk about art and creation, or explain what “Multism” means. Multism will be the topic of my lecture at the Sorbonne in a few days.
Who knows? Maybe one day someone will ask me to have a chair for a university.
My qualifications would allow me to, but I’ve never done it yet. I was too busy, and to tell you the truth, I am still a bit scared of that particular atmosphere in the corridors and rooms of the French Universities.
If it happens here in the U.S., I could eventually accept it, but I don’t know, it really depends where…
- What is the best concert or performer you have ever seen live on stage?
Three shows left me a special feeling:
First, there is the Dollar Brand concert, a South African jazz pianist, where he played a series of pieces in tribute to Duke Ellington. It was 1973, in my hometown of Nancy, and it moved me to tears.
Then, there is a concert by Tom Verlaine in Paris at the Locomotive. It was in the late 2000s. He displayed beautiful mind control and everything was imperfect.
And finally, an extraordinary Bob Dylan concert at the United Palace Theater in Harlem in November 2008, where I went with one of my daughters.
In life there are ups and downs, but that night I got stuck to the ceiling. The ancient temple turned into a theater. It was divine.
Impressive ease, and he was (for once) generous. Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan, an entity full of power. He’s not a protest songwriter anymore; he is just a great artist. He performed as if he was at home. Accompanied by a hell of a group, he gave life to the dough of his pieces like potter mania clay. It received full spirit. Everything was strong and perfect, even the musicians had style in their gray suits.
Tony Garnier – Bass; George narratives – Drums; Stu Kimball – Rhythm Guitar; Charlie Sexton – Lead Guitar; Donnie Herron – Viola Banjo, Electric Mandolin, Pedal Steel, Lap Steel. No super stars, but all good.
1. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again (Bob on keyboard)
2. It Is not Me, Babe (Bob on guitar)
3. Man In The Long Black Coat (Bob on guitar)
4. It’s All Good (Bob on keyboard)
5. Spirit On The Water (Bob on keyboard and harp)
6. High Water (For Charley Patton) (Bob on harp center internship, Donnie on banjo)
7. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine) (Bob on keyboard)
8. Forgetful Heart (Bob on harp center internship, Donnie on violin)
9. Cold Irons Bound (Bob on harp center placement)
10. I Feel A Change Comin ‘On (Bob on keyboard)
11. Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on keyboard)
12. Workingman’s Blues # 2 (Bob on harp center placement)
13. Thunder On The Mountain (Bob on keyboard)
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob on harp center placement) again:
15. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard)
16. Jolene (Bob on keyboard)
17. All Along The Watchtower (Bob on keyboard)
Mix of old titles and more recent material, Dylan spent more time standing behind his keyboard than in front of the stage on guitar, but who cares.
It avoids the mannerisms and yet there is much elegance in all this.
It’s certainly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life.
- What is your favorite spot in New York?
I must convince you that it is my gallery working space on 362 West 36th (bet. 8th and 9th).
In the working midtown, a multi activity aerie, full of surprises. I love it. As they say: it’s a conjunction in the middle of the town where different forces and strains come together.
The French morning corner interview with CharlElie.
- You are known to be one of the first French artists to explore the benefits of Internet. When and why did you start using it?
When I started my first tour with my music in 1981, I used to carry presentation books and portfolios to demonstrate what were my visual perspectives. In 1995, Mario Salis (an Italian artist) let me perceive what could be the web prospective. Therefore, I focused on that new multimedia. It seemed that it was an ideal way for me to present my work. On the same screen, it was possible then to offer my writing, my poetry, my visual and music experiments. My website is online since February 1996.
- If you had not been able to live from your art, what do you think would have been your profession?
If I could live another life, I would try something else. Maybe a pharmacist to sell legal drugs and all kinds of chemically perfumed cleaning powders, or maybe I would be the CEO of a waste reprocessing plant, or I would be the Art Director in an advertising agency specialized in politics and prophecies, or just a garbage collector breaking tons of garbage in the jaws of my big truck in the middle of the night, or I would be that tennis coach hoping to find the gold nugget champ’ every time a child enters my club, or I’d like to be an intergalactic bloodhound, or a spiritual German Jewish shepherd, or a successful giant Chippendale, or a pornstar in a muppet show, or I don’t know… I would try to see life from a different angle.
- Your daughters’ names are Shaan and Yamée. Can you tell us how you came up with these original names?
Damn, you seem very well informed…actually, I’m not sure I want to reveal the depth of all my personal secrets. The only thing I can tell is that I wanted a five-letter name for each one of them. I wanted a strong first name. The fact is that my two daughters are unique in many ways…
CharlElie, October 18th, 2011 – from Paris, France.
- Photography and painting, what does combining them add to your work?
Photography is a capture. You’re in the real, and by extracting this moment from the all absolute, you make it special. In a way, you give it a certain meaning, a certain “importance”. Photography creates new symbols.
Painting is the formalization of the feelings. It is the expression of your deep invisible. Painting and creation is a dive into your own personal mystery. Painting is a door opened to your inner space. It’s a scanner of your soul, the radiography of your psyche.
Combining these two forms of expression allows me to slide on the tight line where the real becomes surreal.
- We know you gave hundreds of concerts, but which were the most memorable ones?
I have lots and lots of memories of my concerts, like an athlete can remember his efforts. But certain were more “important” than some others. Right away I’m thinking at least at ten shows:
- First Olympia / Paris 1981
- Knoxville / Tennessee 1982
- Copenhagen / Danemark1984
- Canberra /Australia 1986
- “Les Naïves” at the Odeon/Paris 1994
- Saint Gilles / La reunion, 1995
- House of Blues / Chicago 1997
- Hanoi, Vietnam / 1998
- Splashlight / New York 2006
- Casino / Paris 2011
I could name a lot of others, but maybe the one that will stay on my mind for a long time is the one in Surabaya, Indonesia, in 1986 during the Asian Tour. During the whole day, colorful cars covered with posters were driving around the streets, announcing the show with some loud speakers, as if it was a circus. At night, the theater was totally full, and after the show it was such a fired ambiance that we needed protection to reach the backyard dressing rooms …
- What is your favorite place in Paris?
I love the XIXth century metallic architecture. Beside the Tour Eiffel, places like the “Gare de Lyon” station, the Grand Palais, Pavilion Baltard or the “Museum of Orsay” are really fascinating.
But I also love things and places from the Paris Art deco that came out in 1925.
CharlElie, September 26th, 2011 – from New York, NY
- What is the craziest thing you ever read about you?
In the 80′s, I produced 4 of Tom November’s albums. Him and I have different artist names, but we are brothers by blood. One day, a gay magazine badly informed, suggested that I helped my dear “boyfriend” Tom November to record his new album…
- When did you start to play tennis?
I started to play tennis exactly on November the 9th, 1989. I was on tour in Normandy, watching a report about the demolition of the Berlin Wall, when one of my musicians called to invite me to join them on the hotel’s court. Before, I had played a lot of table tennis, but had never played real tennis before; so I watched them through the window, and considering their freestyle technique, I decided to give it a try. When the manager came to pick us up to leave the hotel, I felt as he was withdrawing me something. Since then, beside some injuries, I’ve never quit. I love tennis.
- What does the RE-Gallery represent to you at this point of your career?
The RE -Gallery NYC is a snorkel. It allows me to swim underwater with my new creations. It’s also a gateway to America. People who enter in my workshop gallery know nothing about who I am, what I’ve done before.They’re just attracted to what they see. I got off the 19th floor where I used to work as an ascetic recluse for seven years, and I now find myself in the street, facing the movements of real life. My work is not anymore only mental, it’s a conjunction, an addition between the street reality and the music is in my head: it looks like what I see behind my windows.
CharlElie, September 1rst, 2011 – from New York, NY
- When and why did you decide to shave your head?
For Samson, Elvis and Marylin, for anyone, the hairstyle is like a hat, a cap.
This appearance has some meaning.
Your look means something for others who decipher your appearance.
Punk or rockabilly, trader or hippy, long hair, short hair, curlers or buns, braids or ponytails, a wig, a dye or a fringe can refer to a certain tribe.
Neither Boudiste or skinhead, one day, I decided to start my life, without any reference.
- What is it about Australia that made you record two albums over there?
Australia combines one of the most recent civilizations (ours) and one of the oldest (the Aborigines). Art is born in the subconscious; it reveals the mystery of the unspoken. My sister was living in Australia during the 90′s so I decided to go there to understand our differences. I related some of my experiences along two books: “Candy Dragons” and “The Hall of Mists”. I did lots of photos, my first photo-collages and photo poems came from there. I also recorded there two Cd’s : “Melbourne 1990” and “Victoria Spirit“,
- What are the main differences / challenges between composing a movie soundtrack and your own album?
I wrote 17 film scores. Each experience was different. Music should be heard without taking over. To create a mood is to find the right color of the film. Inspired by the scenario, it is like cutting a suit in history. I try to support the dialogues that others have written. When I write a song, I am the creator, but also the model who must wear it. So I write the words that I can easily interpret.
CharlElie, August 4th, 2011 – from Paris, France.
- How did you learn to play the piano?
My grany was a piano teacher and I started playing when I was six or seven. I was supervised by her but I had other professors. I loved to improvise and she didn’t like that so much. She used to listen to classical pieces reading the scores on her knees. She tought me how to listen to music, but she was a bit frustrating in terms of education. Anyway, I was 15 when she left us, and then I really started to do something for myself and I let my inspiration go, using all the different tricks and techniques that she gave me.
- What are you most scared of?
I’m scared of losing.
Losing who or what I love,
afraid of losing time,
losing an idea,
losing my mind
or losing the purpose of my life,
losing my ability to create, or drive my vehicule,
losing my power of understanding or my power of acting,
losing a match.
I don’t wanna be obliged to quit what I started,
before I see the result of my efforts.
I’m afraid of loneliness.
- When did you realize you were going to be famous?
Since I was a kid, lets say seven years old, I always acted as if I had a goal. Famous is for me the consequence of a success, something you achieved. Notoriety is a wind, it might turn. It requires a certain exigency, an opposition to the shared taste for conformity, a refusal of the confortable tendency to assimilation; make some choices and assume them. The stronger you feel in yourself, the stronger you can face the adversity.
CharlElie, July 25th 2011 – from Autrey-sur-Madon, Lorraine, France.