Parisian installation artist Baptiste Debombourg defies all predictability with his mind bending, three-dimensional pieces. He sheds architectural conventionality, and instead works with shapes and patterns in a way that is nourishing to the eye and baffling to the mind. While some artists play around with the idea of containing chaos, forcing an idea into a space, so that it can be examined easily, Debombourg prefers to takes ordinary materials and creates that chaos.
Debombourg recently collaborated with luxury brand Maison Martin Margiela to create a dynamic installation piece for the Grenelle store in Paris. The piece, appropriately named Turbo, is full of drama and impact, forcing the viewer to look twice. Following the success of Turbo, Debombourg teamed up with the luxury brand once again to create another installation piece, Stalker, which premiered at the Miami location, in time for Art Basel.
We sat down with Baptiste in Paris, and asked him to share with us his perspective on contemporary art, his growth as an artist and the correlation between art and science. His penchant for his art carries in every word he speaks; Debombourg is a brilliant thinker and his work is innovative.
What influenced you to become an artist?
I was just curious about everything, and was trying to find the best way to understand things. I was very scared of becoming an artist, but chose the arts because it was the best way to have the freedom to find, to search and create projects. I was also asking myself about the question of ego because the ego is very bad for the arts. I thought a lot about this question, and finally, I chose the way of art because it allows the freedom to imagine everything you can do, and in our society, I think that’s very important, to have a way to imagine something and a way to think it would be possible to do it.
You work in temporary spaces, and your work is often three-dimensional, why have you chosen installation art as your medium?
This is the way that you touch the reality and exist more in the workspace in my point of view. I decided to create some work in sculpture and installation, because when you’re making an installation you don’t impose a work to everybody, it’s just a question of time. Installation is exciting, it can offer a surprise, last just long enough to disappear, then it exists only in the memory. The aim is to make sure the piece exists without me, I think this is the best way.
When you enter a new space, do you already have ideas about what the piece will look like?
When I start, I arrive at the space just as a visitor. It’s a very intuitive and sensible way of working. I examine all of the context, meaning the architecture and materials but also the humanity, the people who will come and put out the energy to give a spirit to the space.
The challenge is to find the best material that will match the context. I’m not just interested by the material, I’m more interested in how I can use the raw material to examine some sort of question. As artists, our work is to ask and express something about the problems we feel.
Are you hoping for people to find solutions to the questions you ask in your piece?
When you are searching for something, sometimes you find something else, and sometimes you don’t find it immediately because you’re not ready I think that’s very important, because today we are living in a society that wants results immediately. It is false to believe that immediate results are is the best way. We have to keep such a freedom to search and of course not to find immediately, but to use the time to have the freedom to use the time to imagine first, and to live second.
Which part of the process gives you the most pleasure?
I don’t have a lot of pleasure when I’m working, because I’m challenging myself a lot, every time I start a project it excites me, but I know the difficulties will be very high. During all the projects I am very stressed. Pleasure comes at the end when I present the work to the people and I can see immediately if it is working. When people say “what is this?” or “so strange” that is the best salary for an artist to receive.
My pleasure comes in knowing I have the freedom to do something, and I took the freedom. This freedom is also some kind of risk; it’s not a pleasure, it’s a risk when you’re working with glass, with one tonne of glass, and you have just four days to cover 100m with 1 tonne of glass, and you just don’t have the good tools to do the work, so every time with such a stressful situation, there is no pleasure. The pleasure comes after everything is finished.
How important is collaboration to you?
My way of working is very open to meeting people, and I’ve met a lot of people that are not artists. Each time, the link with the person and me was the passion to do something, I respect such an aspect, because you create something, and for me art offers this opportunity to invite people which are very passionate about having something to exchange.
What are your thoughts on the international contemporary art scene?
With the larger art markets, everybody wants to become a star because they have the idea that becoming a star will make them happy and it’s a big problem. It’s why so many people don’t exchange something very deep, they suffer with the problem of ego and are not as good at exchanging ideas.
I think that we need contemporary art, it’s our way of connecting different universes, such an interesting way to work together as we explore mediums of art and science. I don’t like the speculating of the market, the commercialization, Koons versus Art Rogers. This is stupid. The art is not only a competition of prize, and this is the problem: it’s the collectors that make the markets.
Any advice for emerging artists?
I think it’s very important to work with your imagination. I believe in the force of idea, for me this is a kind of law. One idea could become a force, in every kind of situation, if you have some problem, you have to find a solution. if you observe more, if you’re more open to make the experience, it’s become more easy to find the solution, and not obsess every time to say “okay, I want to become the best artist in the world.
by sarah sangha / THE SCREEN GIRLS (CA)