Interview, Urbanautica Awards, Architecture, Space & Conflicts, 2019


Both as architect and as artist I have one in common topic: the memory of a place. As an architect I mainly work in rehabilitation and intervention in old buildings. For the architectural project I search a minimalist intervention, keeping in mind what already exists.

As an artist I focus on places that are in the menace of disappearance or in a phase of transition. Everything that concerns operations of destruction, reconstruction and rehabilitation. I search for traces on the ground, found materials.

In both cases my preoccupations are similar. I wonder about the process of memory. Like …








1. Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up and what kind of place it was?


When I was a child, my parents moved a lot, so I grew up in a multitude of different surroundings.

In the beginning my parents lived in a village located in the center of France, that is struck by the phenomenon of desertification nowadays.

Then we lived in a village in the mountains, the last place before the hiking trails begin, a tourist station that is touched by the different rhythms of life every year. This chapter has had an impact on my childhood. I liked the mountains, the particular wind that came from the south, walking… Nature is very important to me.

When we moved to Lyon, I lost my reference points for the first time. It took me a while to adapt.

These different changes of place certainly explain the importance I give to the construction of memory, the memory of a place and the uprooting in my art work.

Moreover my parents rented an apartment in Flaine and another one in Cap d’Agde for three years. It was during the time of innovational experiments in urban planning and architecture, by Breuer coming from the Bauhaus in Flaine for example. I am sure that this influenced the choices I make today and created an opening towards another type of architecture, another way of seeing.

2. What are the memories of your first shots with camera. Please share with us if you have any…

My interest in art, drawing in particular started at a very young age. I did a lot of drawings.

Photography entered my life much later. During my studies in architecture I took an optional class in photography. My first photographic „shock“ (or contact) was the appearance of the photograph in the development bath.

One of my first memories is a market in Moscow. It was before studying photography. The camera was my real means of communication: I photographed the people without talking one word of russian. At some point this type of spontaneity disappeared. From a documentarian approach I turned towards a process of constructing the image. Before photographing, I reflect a lot on the composition, the meaning and the intention.

One other important moment is the day I took the photograph „L’arbre“ of the series „When water comes together with other water“ and reflects this  development. I was uprooting a tree when I had the idea to hang it in the green room with the leaf drawings on the walls. It was like a first step to the process of installation.

I add this citation by Abbas Kiarostami in my head :„When you take a tree that is rooted in the ground, and transfer it from one place to another, the tree will no longer bear fruit. And if it does, the fruit will not be as good as it was in its original place.“  « Landscapes of the mind » [archive], Guardian Unlimited, 2005/ Wikipedia 


3. You are an architect and artist. Can you tell us more about your general approach and visual exploration…

Both as architect and as artist I have one in common topic: the memory of a place. As an architect I mainly work in rehabilitation and intervention in old buildings. For the architectural project I search a minimalist intervention, keeping in mind what already exists.

As an artist I focus on places that are in the menace of disappearance or in a phase of transition. Everything that concerns operations of destruction, reconstruction and rehabilitation. I search for traces on the ground, found materials.

In both cases my preoccupations are similar. I wonder about the process of memory. Like sedimentation, each „history“, small or big, leaves a trace; and such as layers they come to superimpose one over the other and interact with or destroy each other. This is also a crossover of the reparation concept by Kader Attia, that I would summarize here as a process of cicatrization, a need to „make do“ with what subsides a trauma (his definition is more complex and his concept of reparation touches on other subjects like colonization, the human body, etc.)

I am more particularly interested in the feeling of belonging to a place, everything that can connect us to a place, the collective and individual images, the accompanying dreams, like a double take or a spectrum of a place, constructed by memories, that subsist the reality.

I am interested in all deviations that come with this ambivalence, the phenomena of appropriation and derealisation… : How does the human being appropriate a space? How can someone appropriate a place and talk about it as if they knew it whilst never having lived in it? What is the collective feeling that pushes towards destruction or conservation of a building? How to live a reconstructed place, an artefact? How come a place can stay present even though it does not physically exist any more? The image that lasts is situated between a personal remembrance, a collective image and a registration of what is left. 

To pick up on Louise Bourgeois (interview on france culture 04/10/2016 ) „votre souvenir est plus intéressant que la réalité“

4. In several of your site-specific installations there is an interaction with the space. You do not limit yourself to recording but there is a real in situ design. As in ‚Les Tracés Perdus‘ or ‚Résidus d’Interstices‘. How do you choose your locations?

I am operating by sort of de- and reconstructing a place. After doing research on the history and memory of the place, the analysis and the gathering of traces, I reconstruct and transform it.

Like Claudio Parmiggiani termed it,  I work out a „ composé d’anachronismes“, a superposition of traces of different periods to which I add my own interpretation. My goal is to open up to a variety of free interpretations, a questioning of the notions of reality and our relation to remembrance, fiction and poetry.  

The construction of an installation on site is therefore at the heart of my work. It’s a physical experience that is demanding time and energy of me. I can spend several days with the construction of an installation. This stage of the work is an integral part to my creative process.

For example for „Les Tracés Perdus“, I made an installation in a room, where the soldiers drew war maps on plexiglass. In the beginning I had the vague idea to reproduce the maps and hang them. When taking away layers of the room, I found that the ceiling was covered in painted canvases, so I had the idea to use those canvasses: their constellation, the crumbling paint and the transparent parts made them look like maps.

Similarly for „Les Résidus d’Interstices“, an older project: The hotel Bogota was both a famous hotel and site for exhibitions directed by Joachim Rissmann, who is passionate for photography. The hotel had to shut down because of real estate and financial pressure. I wanted to go and document the rooms as they were. Finding myself in this place in the middle of moving, the furniture was piled in the hallways or corners. I started to modify the space with tape and moved the furniture around to signify their belonging to the place.

I choose places that carry a history and a rupture, menaced by disappearance. I find them through a variety of methods, for example by walking. Several of my installation have been executed in an abandoned military station in the forest of Brandenburg. I discovered it by accident, I broke into it and was confronted with the potential and abundance of space: tunnels, stairways, closed off rooms, some buried or at half human height, others very large and open to the exterior.

I can find places by doing prerequisite research ahead of time. For example in Kaunas: The three weeks of my residency were sacrificed in regards to come back and construct an installation. I did three weeks of intensive research, where, thanks to the curator Gintare Krasuckaité I visited several places, an old textile factory, a burned house and a military hospital, that became my project of intention.  I was supposed to come back in order to make my installations and the idea was to transform the building in a temporary space for exhibitions and workshops, open to the public. Unfortunately this ambitious project was canceled, due to financial and administrative complications.

Other times I jump on opportunities. In Kaliningrad, after having sacrificed two weeks of my residency traversing the city, researching and proposing different ideas and work intentions, the curator Zinaida Sherschun found a place with several vacant rooms due to a water damage. This was a chance and an important step, suddenly I found myself with a space to realize the different drafts of my proposal.

To choose a place is indeed most often a long process, a come and go between observations, readouts, research, collection of materials and work on site.


5. ‚Ephemeral Intersects‘ was recently awarded by Urbanautica Institute for the category „Architecture and conflicts“. It’s difficult to talk about a photographic series as the whole project is made of different interventions. Can you introduce us to it?

I realized this work through a residency and an exchange program between the center for art „Künstlerhaus Ahrenshoop“ and NCCA in Kaliningrad. The topic is the myth of a town: Kaliningrad/ Königsberg and it’s manifestations of city architecture.

Kaliningrad can be characterized by the word ‚between’, a state of transition and in-between. Constructed on the destruction of another town, enclave between Europe and Russia, the city is separated by two ideologies, a russian and a german and/or european one. Between an unknown equation – little people in Europe know how to situate this town- and a negative reputation – „Kaliningrad is the ugliest city in the world“- the reconstruction of the lost town Königsberg represents an ideal to pursue. The recent urbanist competitions search for proposals that integrate the histories of both Kaliningrad and Königsberg.

The locals live the idea of a lost town while inhabiting another in a schizophrenic manner, talking about Königsberg as if they knew it. Between a dreamed up and lived town, between nostalgia and reality, Kaliningrad and the reconstruction of Königsberg participate in the elaboration of a myth and the image of a city situated between utopia and dystopia.

Since my arrival I had the impression that through this myth the city crystallized several of my topics: the survival of two images, between past and present, between two cultures and the ambivalence of a perception situated between reality, fiction and poetry.

In situ, I got attached to photographing informal situations and structures that testify this transitory state or that show how individuals adapt to the situation, a residual architecture.

Everything that is constructed in a casual way is a silent reflection of a society’s relationship with their building. I hence photographed self-build structures, sheds, construction sites, scaffoldings, vague grounds, reinvested areas that had been destroyed. I was searching for a state of limits, traces of both a presence and it’s disappearance.

A second step consists of replicating these casual structures in a different context. As a follow up I built installations with found materials from construction sites. In several pieces I used old windows and scaffolding wood from a historic site, Kronprinz, a former stronghold.

The realization of those structures is somewhat aiming to reveal their existence. The choice of materials and the adjustment to form and site though generate an interpretation and adaptation of the installation while it is being constructed. This decontextualization and rewriting of a form is participating in a process of derealization, which I have lived during my phases of explorations and research of the city. Through constructing a fictional installation, provisionally drawn from reality, I am searching to metaphorically testify a fragility that accompanies a state of transition.

This work mixes photography, installation, drawing and writing.

Drawing is for me a way to analyze and reduce to the essential, a work tool. Before each installation I draw a sketch of the installation.

Photography is of two types: first a documentary approach, a survey; the second use is metaphorically and treat the notion of between, the transition.

The installations are a necessary step to transcribe the relationship to a constructed space, which I often describe as one of the most important parts. In Kaliningrad the installations were possible thanks to the available rooms that became my studio spaces. Here again, like for the drawings, the process of deconstruction and decontextualization are means of analysis and reduction.

I have completed three types of installations:

      The first was in consequence of discovering a place: the jumble of sheds, huts for a construction site, of which the structure cut in two reflected the division of identity to me.  This place had a very strange atmosphere, the jumble, the fog… I went back several times and started duplicating the shape in different situations.

      For a second installation I used the windows found on site. The splitting and shattering reflected the idea of ambivalent and double identity.

      Lastly I used maps. On a found map I drew strings, symbols of the enclave’s position. On each end I drew a found map of the city of Kaliningrad.

Later I felt the need to write. Last april I wrote a text for a book called ‚les Utopies Rouges’ that will be published with Editions Essarter. (With other authors and photographers) The idea for this text came through an interview that I lead with a professor in philology in Kaliningrad. The text mixes documentation and research of history, the myth and architecture of a city, citations of people and the words of this professor.

I always wanted to make a self published book, to assemble all my research and conserve the background documentation work. Now I believe that I would like to continue the research before making the book. I still feel haunted by the topic. The idea to reconstruct the city of Königsberg or not is a current theme. Additionally in the text I had added other people’s voices. The citations are important in the text, they bring a human echo to the table, I would like to work more with sound, I don’t really know yet how.  


6. Your visual journey is now leading to ‚Corps Noir‘. Tell us about it?

First of I need to say that I always work on multiple ideas in parallel. 

‚Corps Noir’ is subsequent of ‚Ephemeral Intersects’. My intention was (and still is) to reproduce several of the shapes found in Kaliningrad.I wanted to continue this work of decontextualization and highlight the manifestations of appropriation.

I have worked (within others) on two installations presented on my website, ‚Corps Noir’ and ‚Hollowed’. These installations ask for a certain investment between the idea and the realization. The realization was destabilizing: I experimented with those shapes in a space that did not have anything to do with Kaliningrad. Nevertheless this approach was related to one of my preoccupations and seemed like a logic continuation: what to do when the place is not there anymore? What then is the relevance of an installation? Like I said earlier, for the moment I would like to deepen my research in situ and travel back to Kaliningrad. Though I don’t know when that will be possible.

Similarly in Kaunas several project ideas surfaced. Where I was lodged, in a cloister, one room was being restored. There were fragments of drawings, murals. I photographed those fragments. Since I worked on the reconstitution of this space made out of paper the drawings have been printed and painted and I have photographed them again. This work is in the process of realization. Treating the idea of traces by drawings, the techniques of restoration, I wanted to create an abrasion of the matters of representation. The drawings were photographed, then painted, then all together reconstructed and photographed again, the final photograph itself could be painted.

One of my project last year 2018 was a project grant called ‚Mach den Kiosk 2018 Herr Fleischer e.V.’

I was offered this grant by the association ‚Herr Fleischer e.V.’. The members of this organization take care of a kiosk, a building that dates from East German times. They organize exhibitions, encounters, etc…

The grant was dedicated to one of the founding members, Juliane Noack, of the organization who died in the 2015 suicide flight of a german pilot who deliberately crashed the airplane into the french mountains. I have done a lot of research on the artist’s life and work. To create a link between her and this event, I proposed an installation that would retake the structure of the kiosk at life size, tilted and suspended, to symbolize the loss.The material was copper, used by the artist at the end of her life.

The realization of this project was not possible because it hindered the circulation of the public road. So I offered to construct a model of the proposition and stage the destruction. The final result was an in-situ installation for the exhibition with video, slides and photographs.

It was an interesting experience because I used the model as a reproduction of the place for the first time.


7. Photography still plays a role in your artistic work to document and register your installations. It’s a way to visually translate an experience in a different support. How do you see image making nowadays? 

Photography is a means of documentation and, by this direct connection to reality, a possibility to provoke ambiguities between what exists and what could be. In my mind one detail can shift everything into an ambivalence between reality and fiction. I am searching this shift, the doubt between what is seen and what is represented. My goal is somewhat to represent something that is almost not visible, something unspoken. I always wanted to create something poetic. 

For this I work out every detail of each image. I have the tendency to reduce to the essential and search for a minimalist composition. These last years photography has shown it’s limits to me. I felt the incapacity to translate everything I wanted to express, for example the physical experience on site, in the phenomenological sense, the relation to a space. That is one reason why I diversified my means of expression. I would see my current work more like ‘making a place’ than only ‘making images’.  But everything that I construct is doomed to be destroyed, photography is hence a tool to make things last.

Today being a photographer means being part of a large number of people – there are too many photographers – and a multitude of images – „the single image no longer exists, there is an image complex“ said Eyal Weisman of Forensic Architecture – between everything that is distributed on the Internet, social networks etc.. On the one hand,  the access to information is direct, the number of practices has diversified, there is a great deal of creative energy. On the other hand, one must try to stand out in an overloaded system, where codes prevail. The meaning of the word installation has evolved, but what does it really mean to do an installation? In my opinion, the idea of physical commitment is missing.

In addition, many photographers find themselves forced to pay in order to show their work, between entries to competitions, transport and production costs, etc. Last year, difficulties were raised for women – it is frightening the number of women who stop after forty years – but this precariousness concerns everyone.


8. You mention in your statement that by «identifying and de-contextualizing remains of the past, and by modifying and restoring sites, I use found materials to build ephemeral installations and photograph them». Your works are not ephemeral but relate to history, places, people. A way to safeguard the memory. How do you show your work usually? How do you socially interact with your audience?

It is essential for me to have a connection to the past, memory. At the basis of my work, there is a whole range of upstream research, philosophical, literary, historical, sociological etc… On the spot, I work more as an archaeologist, I search for found materials, situations… From this interaction between documentation and field research comes the creative process.

For me, the exhibition is an extension of the work that has begun. I like to think of each exhibition in a new way, in relation to the work and the exhibition space. If possible, I try to mix several means of representation, photography, installation and drawing. For example, for Ephemeral Intersects, I have the idea of integrating a new installation for each exhibition. 

Hollowed‘ is one example that I presented in 2017 in Waren. The division, the difference, took up the theme of the double identity that I have already mentioned, its unequal sides also translated the idea of a house that was impossible to build. The photographs were printed on newsprint paper, to remind of the status of a document. 

In Kaliningrad I had shown it in a different way. I had retaken a structure inspired by the scaffoldings; one of the constructions, by means of a few bars, evoked the shape of a house depending on where you were in the room. A drawing also made for the exhibition, gathered several sketches, photographs I had taken during the research. 

Recently, I have worked on printing on a material identical to the installation made, for example, I made prints on fabrics for the installation „Les Tracés Perdus“ (work mentioned 4). The photographs of the installation made in Kaliningrad ‚1, as 1 in 2‘ had been printed on wood. It is a way of referring to the material used, but also to sublimate a first realization made of recovered materials, and referring to the process of derealization. As well I’ looking for to give the illusion of a painting.

As for interaction, in my work, I try to raise questions, without necessarily giving answers. My work is left to an open reading and different interpretations.

However, many exchanges take place during the mounting of the installation or exhibition. These are ideal moments of interaction and exchange, which generally remain too invisible, privileged moments, which could be stimulating if the public could actively participate.

In the Kronprinz building, for example, I was able to meet people during the assembly of the window installation. Some came to see me, I think most didn’t understand that I could hang windows in a flooded room (or thought I was crazy). Similarly, when I was able to set up the exhibition in Kaliningrad, or Halle, people asked me what I was doing. In Halle, the fact that the building is outside open to the public was an interesting experience, the kiosk is located in a crossroads, the goal was to design an installation that is permanently exposed to the public.

In „my spaces“, this interaction can only be hidden, or indirect, I am breaking in, even if the spaces where I intervene are visited daily, everyone hides. Sometimes there are acts of vandalism. Strangely enough, one of my paintings was never touched. Another time, someone had drawn a huge smiley on the floor. The ideal would be to make an installation once and like Matta-Clark or Cyprien Gaillard open the place to the public.

My most direct interaction was last year in Lithuania. I was in residence at the Kaunas Photography Gallery and they allowed me to do a workshop in a disused building. It was a bold and interesting experience. The idea was to let the students experiment with found materials and build installations in a rather spontaneous way. I am very grateful for the trust I was granted by the team at the Kaunas Photography Gallery and Nida symposium.


9. Cities are growing. Urbanism is expanding. More and more people are moving away from their lands to live in huge artificial settlements often polluted. Beyond weak attempts to bring nature back into towns what is the role of architecture?

I think the primary role of architecture is to respond to a human need, to allow an environment that is responsive to the needs of those who live there, an appropriation of space. This seems obvious, however, every situation, every place is different and the field of architecture is intertwined in a complex system of realities, whether economic, political, geographical, historical, historical or urban. They must face many challenges, such as meeting the needs of housing, accommodation for refugees, designing energy-efficient buildings, dealing with climate change etc…

For me one challenge remains working with the legacy of the past. The question arises: Who has the right to choose? Again, for each case, the situation, the circumstances in which the building was destroyed are different, is it after the war, a disaster or to recall a much older loss. Recently I have done a lot of research on the notion of reconstruction, an issue that has been and still is very much debated in Berlin for the reconstruction of the castle.The 1964 Venice Charter prohibited identical reconstruction in the name of authenticity. This notion has since been nuanced, in particular by taking into account cultural practices, such as the reconstruction of temples in Japan, or this notion of the spirit of a place. My position has always been to try and involve as many traces of the past as possible, the memory of the inhabitants, and  deal with them, even if these traces can be painful. For example – and this is not an operation of reconstruction but of rehabilitation but I take this as an example to explain this problem through a personal experience – I went to Trieste several times twenty years ago during my studies, a seminar consisted in doing research on the old center, which was located in the middle of the city, had been surrounded by a wall and left as it was. My projects proposed to take into account the gaps, for example to leave holes in the walls to open up new paths. I returned last year in November: everything was restored and rebuilt. I was bluffed. A walk in the centre gives the impression that the district exists the way it was for years, this period of emptiness was forgotten. Beyond the question of authenticity, the observation is that the need for oblivion exists and has its legitimacy.   

This is a peaceful example. Questions of reconstruction can be much more painful following a war, or when two cultures are involved, as is the case in Kaliningrad/Königsberg for example.


10. Does art need more architecture or does architecture need more art?

Art and architecture are so involved in my work and life that I inevitably see a necessary and unavoidable interaction. These two domains are linked to the perception and poetics of a space and are creators of utopias. In general, art is a way of raising questions for me, but it does not necessarily provide answers; if we think about the functional aspect of architecture, architecture must propose some, whether for housing or to meet human needs. Architecture also presupposes a perenniality that I question in my art.


These recent years my work has turned towards architecture and the creation of installations. Very early on, I was influenced by an artist whose work is on the threshold of both, Matta-Clark. He wanted to attack the substance of space, and by modifying the structure, he questioned it.  He questioned the limits of space by working on site in a performative way, without knowing if he would achieve his goal. Barragan wanted to work architecture as a work of art in the sense that „it can be subjected to constant experimentation during its creation.“ A work of art/a building would be defined by its possibility of adaptation, its flexibility of transformation (He said during its creation; I would extend it to what comes after, during its use). To take up what I said in the previous question: how to create a human space, a space where those who live it can appropriate it, invest in it.

A few days before receiving this interview, I was reading an article by Hanno Rautenberg who said that architecture should make more room for art, he was talking about investing less money in architecture but more in the presentation of works of art, in the content. The museum is a place where architecture can take over, the atmosphere can determine the presentation of the works. For example, I visited the Jewish Museum by Libeskind in Berlin at the end of it’s construction when it was still empty, it was a very strong spatial experience. Today the multitude of objects on display and information compete with the architecture.

Virtual reality is also at the intersection of these two fields. The capacities and possibilities for creation are endless and still to be exploited. Personally, I have not yet been able to make a convincing spatial experience of a virtual space, even if each time the realization was irreproachable and masterful. I use three dimensional work for architecture, I read a lot and search on this topic, but my attachment to the physical space is certainly too deeply rooted. However, I remain open. Eyal Weisman of Forensic Architecture said that the place no longer exists, „that it was before“. He uses images found on the internet in a very interesting way, analyzing videos frame by frame to re-create, and there again rebuild a space. Through architecture and images of ruins, he seeks to better understand and show what happened, the conflicts, and to denounce the crimes of the responsible states.


11. Can you mention a nice show you have seen that had a great impact on your imagination.

One, where art and architecture corresponding themselves.

It was Cyprien Gaillard „Rubble and Revelation“,  Fondazione Nicola Trussardi in Milano, 2012

The space was an old military bakery and the spaces had some traces of use, that really fit to the works of Cyprien Gaillard. It was an example of an exhibition, who has been designed to respond to the works for the artist. 

Rubble and Revelation


12. Can you tell us about 3 books (not only photography) that you would recommend and why?

The Future of Nostalgia, Svetlana Boym, Basics Books Publisher 2001

This book deals with Nostalgia. She’s is mixing some critical reflexion and stories, She is making a difference between restorative and a reflective nostalgia, one wants to restore the past, to reconstruct it, even if it  has not a lot sense with was really happened, the other is more a passive attitude, that would try to work with the feeling of lost. I could find in this book a lot of reflexions and similarities with some of my thematics. For example, she wrote a beautiful introduction about a German couple, who is coming back to Kaliningrad, or about the feeling of longing ’ How can one be homesick for a home that one never had?„  

Ontologie de l’accident – essai sur la plasticité destructrice, Catherine Marabout, Editions Léo Scheer, 2009

Catherine Malabou is a French Philosoph, her book deals with plasticity, she defines it as „when the changing is coming before the being“. In this book she analyses the consequences of trauma and how something, someone could be affected and changed after the experience of destruction. As well she makes parallels with literature like Duras, Kafka.

Les Villes Invisibles, Italo Calvino, 1972 (1st édition) – Editions du Seuil, 1974

This is for me one of the more poetic book, I have read it several times , I love his metaphors about the different aspects of a city.




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