MM3 Artist Interview: Jonas Delaborde
'A plan to fix all the broken things of Rio'
Jonas recently spent a few months in Brazil, and made his 5 page graphic work for Mould Map 3 during his stay in Rio de Janeiro. Here he shares some reference images and discusses his own landmark anthologies.
MM3: You’re co-editor of the Nazi Knife and False Flag graphic anthologies. The way you put those together has had a big influence on the way I’ve approached the co-editing of Mould Map. Are you able to tell us about what made you want to start Nazi Knife, and how that developed?
JD: Initially, it started because Hendrik invited me to work together on a fanzine. He already had the title and the pictures he wanted for the cover. It was almost 8 years ago, I arrived in Paris one or two years before that, and i was a fan of his work, so I was very excited - it was very new to me. Quickly it became more than just a side project of Hendrik and it was one of our main art works.
Making books and zines was, and still is, a very important thing to me, because my sensibility has been irrigated by that culture of old xerox punk publications, raw drawings, aggressive collages, but also conceptual artist's books of the 70'. And the new stuff I was encountering when digging trenches in bookstores seemed at the time always bland and repetitive. I wanted us to create some key objects, dense and ambitious. It was an impulse both positive and negative: I wanted us to take part of something beautiful, to be as challenging and powerful as the books i was collecting, but I also wanted us to smash and destroy the boring intimate, self centered, unimaginative zine's current scene.
MM3: This anarchic charge, I can see the attitude there in your works, but no kind of explicit clear message. How do you work with political feelings when it comes to making a piece of work?
I have the strong belief that not displaying a clear message is already a political statement. It is actually one of the few ethic statement I can endorse: to trust the reader's intelligence, to challenge it, to build something together from scrap. It is definitely not equivalent of not having a political position. With Nazi Knife, we often face a heavy misunderstanding about our political feelings, which is something i can understand, of course, given the loaded title of the publication. But still, it never fails to disappoint me, because these easy and fast conclusions come from laziness. Hendrik might have a different take on these questions, but i feel very concerned by being true to my political/ethical feelings.
MM3: When you’re putting together a collection book, can you give us a little clue into what guides each book? When you asked me to contribute I really loved the written passages you provided, they really stuck in my mind. Do you have specific material constraints?
I have both visual and poetic ideas, plus, once i feel i achieved one specific goal, or designed a book which kind of fit with these ideas, i want to break it. Basically, it works with pictures associations, words associations, all combined in a tactic way to lose my/our path. That's a clue. The material constraints are mostly related to the budget and the storage capacity we can use. I am happy with small formats, but i prefer large books. I just can't always work on large projects because i can't fund them. But i love dense and complex objects, filled with eclectic content, hard to handle as a whole, as layered as a world.
MM3: Is there a dream book that you’re trying to make? Have you had a lingering publication that you’ve had the idea to make, but are stopped by a particular wall?
I would say yes to dream books, but not just one, or one after the other, replacing the previous one. But still, yes, i have this precise idea of what it should be, and i can't really achieve that. Maybe, as i said, this is because it would be too expensive to produce, too big, out of reach for some reason. Or maybe i just don't work hard enough.
MM3: Can I ask about the text you’ve put together for Mould Map, what is the genesis of these words?
JD: I was for few months in Rio de Janeiro this summer. It is an amazing place, very beautiful, but also deeply dysfunctional. For some days i stayed in my hotel room, a bit depressed by my struggling as an artist there, as the sun was shining above the garden in front of my windows. I forgot to eat as well and i eventually went out to buy fruits. My walk was dizzy and i sat on a bench somewhere, maybe in Parque Lage or in Parque das Ruinas. I ended up with this idea of making a plan to fix all the broken things of Rio, and i worked on it probably more than i should - looking for monkey names, left wing groups, politicians, etc. I lined them up, creating a whole absolute equivalence for every part, and i organized them on a chess plate. Then the narratives came quite easily.
MM3: Is it important for you to tie a narrative to your work? In your Mojang zines, I can’t help but see a thread through them. Is it important to keep it a secret?
I like structures and mechanisms, i like tactics and geography. Publications with large scale, great ambition in terms of power, are much more interesting to read or to look at than one-sided pamphlets. You can zoom in or out, focusing on one element or to an ensemble, or to the global conceptual & thematic landscape which is pictured. I wouldn't say it is always narrative, but it can be one of those structures which combines and links everything in a whole. Then, about keeping the map secret, i think it makes sense. I see it as physical laws in an enclosed world: gravity, weather, matter structure, geography. It is there, articulating pictures and ideas but you don't need to literally read the laws.
Mojang is the name of the company developing Minecraft.
MM3: What made you decide to start creating text pieces, when you are most known for your work with drawing and collage?
JD: This is something i want to do for some time. I wrote few poems which were published by Harsh Patel recently - also something for Innen.
The desire of writing is a complex thing. It is also both a positive and a negative impulse. I wrote dialogues for a movie script and it's a very funny thing to do. I enjoy that a lot - poetry as well. You can create some very powerful artifacts with writing. But it is somehow a risky trajectory, i'm not sure i can say why. This road is bordered with boredom and duplicity. But still a little less than visual arts.
MM3: how do you decide to present your text work?. I am curious because the imagery you write about seems close to the images you draw, but the text pages look very different from your drawing pages.
JD: The first page is a chess board. The three other ones are Pipas (kites) designs that i found in a shopping mall, in Madureira, a suburb of Rio's Zona Norte.
Bringing together elements too close (my drawings and the imagery in my writing) would be redundant and too balanced. Intensity comes with depth, dynamics and richness. This is why i like when someone else is in charge of the design of my poetry books. There is then the possibility to add some elements. And this is also why here i wanted something different from the texts, something from the outside, an addition, a contradiction. The Pipas designs are basically a found material that i replay in a different harmony than what i use in my writing.
MM3: how do you use travel, research and photography? are there certain things you’re looking for? are you able to tell us about that?
JD: I collect shapes, pictures of objects, of landscapes, of constructions, marks of history, plants, locations. I look for specificity, differences. Somehow all i do is linked with this desire i had when i was a student: archiving, compiling, and, mostly, organizing. I look for things to organize, so i can create new paths, new harmonies, to unfold new territories defined by resonance and discordance.
MM3: How’s your working relationship with ideas such as ‘the past’, ‘the present’ and ‘the future’.
For a while i had this motto in mind that i have to design what will be classic books 20 years from now, classicism of the future. It was something deeply implemented in my way of planning things, and it sounded quite good in interviews. Today, i'm much less convinced, less obsessed with the goal of melting a timeline into a shiny node, into an aleph. But i still like the idea of novelty and originality a lot. I felt forced to drop this idea while i was in art school and i'm slowly letting it infuse back into my brain.
MM3: Are you making the kind of work you expected you would make in 2013? What would you like to be making at the age of 60?
No, I am not making the kind of art i expected, and i mean in a frustrating way. But i deal with that, I'm slowly accepting that I'm slow.
At 60, i hope to have grand kids to play video games with, and to eat great exotic food. I see myself designing new toys and mind games in an attic, writing rules and drawing complex multi boards for a new sort of chess that no one will ever play to.
(Interviewed by Leon Sadler, conducted by email in Autumn 2013)