Interview # 1: Miguel Bonneville’s interview by homesession.
July 31, 2008
Homesession: Hi Miguel. You’re a 23 years old artist, living and performing now in Lisbon after a drama school in Porto, where you were born. Enough as an academic resumee?
Miguel Bonneville: As it is academic, yes. That would be a good sum up.
HS: You’ve created Miguel Bonneville, a complex and very cinematographic character. Miguel Bonneville should actually be Miguel Bonneville…
MB: Miguel Bonneville is the artist. He speaks for Miguel, who doesn’t really know how to explain what’s going on. Miguel lives and Miguel Bonneville shows and explains.
HS: But I imagine that Miguel Bonneville is not just a neutral interpret, that he transforms the way Miguel lives.
MB: Yes, indeed. Miguel Bonneville has made Miguel become someone else, someone better, more sociable. But it’s not like I can separate them. They are both me, although Miguel Bonneville is also lots of things.
HS: Autobiographies are generally written from elderness…
MB: I think I never was really a child and I guess the younger you think about your life and what you are doing with it, the easier it is not to regret things because you get to know how you work.
HS: We usually consider autobiography as a “nudity” whereas you accumulate clothes and objects…
MB: I have a problem with nudity because I think it’s become an easy way to show everything, when you are actually just showing a naked body. In my work I use what is lying around and what is part of my everyday life because that’s what catches my attention.
HS: This means family’s clothes as well as beautiful finds from Lisbon shops?
MB: Exactly. I usually have obsessions. An element that suddenly is important because it means something…
HS: … do you think clothes are really significant in that way?
MB: What you wear is an extension of yourself as is what you eat. It just has a futile connotation because of fashion and what fashion thinks of clothes.
HS: The objects you use in your work are on the right balance between rationality and baroque, minimalism and excess.
MB: I’m glad you tell me that, because I am always looking for a balance between too much time or too little time, a balance between rationality and emotional elements, a balance between intellectual values and physical matter.
HS: I usually idealize the 60s and 70s. Is it a flaw we share?
MB: It’s not a flaw…
HS: … well, idealization is a false representation…
MB: It’s a kind of dream. I idealize those decades because it was when everything was all right. my parents were together in beautiful landscapes, going on endless trips, looking really beautiful and happy. My reference of that time is my parents’ pictures. I would go over and over these albums. I was born in the 80’s when everything began to fall apart.
HS: Do you think your personal experience can be extended to a more general reality?
MB: Of course! Everybody has a family, has problems, everybody has been left, broken hearted… I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I didn’t think I would communicate.
HS: At the same time, you’re not the boy next door…
MB: No, I’m not and if I was, I would probably do something else.
HS: In the collective imagination, a romantic person is to be shy… How would you consider yourself?
MB: Well, I think I am shy but then I’m not. It depends. So maybe I am romantic and I am not.
HS: Your work is very nostalgic. That could be a criticism as it’s just obsessed with the past.
MB: I would tell the one who would made this criticism to go think a little and I would add that sometimes you have to look backward in the past to go ahead, a simple clichï¿½, but as usual, a true one.
HS: Video, perf, music, drawings… an into everything artist?
MB: I don’t think of it like that. For me it’s all part of one thing: to express what I want to say. It’s not enough for me only to do performances or to only write a song. I guess I want to be able to say whatever I have to say in the best way I can say it.
HS: Why doesn’t Miguel Bonneville do everything? Why did you also create Bambi, Black Bambi for your musical creations, The Blonde…
MB: As I said before, Miguel Bonneville is a part of Miguel, as BlackBambi or the Blonde. Maybe it’s a bit modernist of me to separate but I think it’s because they are all talking about different specific things. They have different skills.
HS: Let’s come back to performances. It could be considered as a self-construction of the artist or as the result of the interaction with the audience, even if in this case, the control over the performance can be diluted.
MB: The audience is never a problem. It hasn’t been until now at least. There is always a margin for something that is not planned to happen. I never rehearse and I hate it. I plan what I will do, I write things down, I draw… But I never rehearse.
HS: You never act with other performers?
MB: Sometimes, but when I do I don’t usually rehearse. I go through things with them, explain or give them rules to follow. There was only one performance where I rehearsed and it was only twice because there was Alvaro, who was playing the drums and he had to know what to do.
HS: Alvaro is also the name of our cat. You can tell him. Sure he will be very glad to know.
MB: Ahaha! I’m sure he will.
HS: Would you say you’re performing something like a diary: trying to retranscript and explain what you’re living, even if in the case of the diary there’s no audience but yourself.
MB: I usually use the word chapters. I was never really good with diaries, although I am now making an effort to write something down everyday. However, I think I couldn’t call my performances diaries. I’m not sharing any secrets and there’s a lot that people don’t know because they don’t need to know. I show what is important for what I want to share.
The diary, for me is linked to the fear of losing my memory. There was one time when I was trying to keep a kind of diary because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to remember things. Every night before going to sleep I would write down words that would link my feelings to that day…
HS: Afraid of getting old?
MB: Well, it was because I was trained as an actor and I had to remember all the lines and texts. I was afraid that if I didn’t train my memory it would get worse. And yes I think I am a bit afraid of getting old.
HS: Let’s talk about politics, which was the concern of your first performances. You pretend now to talk mostly about love… which is a real political question, as family is…
MB: The thing is I don’t think about them politically as I use to do when I was doing my earlier performances. I was really talking about art and society and how it was all crap. But I realised that is was useless and not important at all. I will not change the world and it’s not my responsibility to do so. It’s hard enough to change yourself and you’ve done a step forward if you manage to do it. It means you are able to think, to ask questions… And that is what changing the world should be about: asking questions.
HS: Actually, your questions are about you and by extension about the way you cope with the others. And that’s already a political perspective…
MB: Well I think whatever I do will always be political as it will always be therapeutic as all the other things that art is. Normally you just focus on what interests you the most but I am glad that there are all these different possibilities because the work then becomes open.
HS: You said you never were a child. Were you already 16 years old when you were born?
MB: I think I always behaved like an adult. Everything was serious. I had to take care of myself and defend myself, so I don’t remember these typical moments of insouciance, all about play and nothing to be worried about. There was always something that wasn’t right.
HS: We could initiate a Freudian psychoanalysis…
MB: Actually I’m very Freudian – although I’ve been told it’s very passï¿½.
HS: Passï¿½… I don’t know if I would combine psychoanalysis and fashion!
MB: Well, I’m used to that! They are both parts of my main interests. Before going to drama school I thought of going to a fashion design course. I spent whole afternoons drawing clothes so I guess my interest on clothes has always been there. And Freud… Well, I don’t actually know how it happened. Probably it has something to do with my brother, who used to brainwash me with all the new things he learnt. So at 9, I was doing school projects about Van Gogh and at 13 I could explain what post-modernism was about.
Van Gogh was really an important influence because I was fascinated by his self portraits and of course his own life.
HS: Nan Goldin or Sophie Calle?
MB: Both. But both of them for me came after Tina Turner and Van Gogh.
HS: … laughs…
MB: I smiled. I don’t laugh easily. That’s part of my shyness. I had to make up a laugh because I laughed without sound and it was strange so then having to make one up was even stranger.
HS: You will share a flat with us in the framework of Homesession project. Going from performing intimacy to see other’s intimacy?
MB: I’m all about intimacy.
HS: Has your mother already seen one of your performances?
MB: Yes, several…
HS: …She’s really proud…
MB: I think so. She says she doesn’t really understand what I do but she feels touched by it. I told her that it’s more than enough.
Interview # 2: homesession’s interview by Miguel Bonneville.
Agost 18, 2008
Miguel Bonneville: O., 34 years old, J., 32 years old, French, living and working in Barcelona for 6 years now, founders of Homesession. Anything you’d like to add to this short presentation?
OC: Yes. I’m very involved in space matters. This includes space design, architecture, moving in space and I hope one day space exploration.
JL: And the fact that we are a couple.
MB: Well yes but we all know that.
JL: Yes but it’s a way of focusing on the importance these elements should have, or that they actually have in the way we manage the project.
MB: I begin by asking something simple. Did you have any expectations of what my stay and work would be like, and if you did what kind of expectations?
OC: I don’t know why, I imagined a performance in the middle of the living-room, something with pictures or a projection.
JL: It’s quite hard to have any precise expectations when you don’t personally know the artist. Expectations in general, of course, as each residency brings something new at home, and strong ideas and meetings. But we don’t programme the residencies as spaces for artistic orders with something concretely defined previously. It is to be a space for experimentation. Nevertheless, as Olivier said, we had imagined something linked to your performance actions. Thanks for surprising us.
OC: Yes, it’s more about trusting someone. We like the work of an artist, trust him and give him the possibility to try something out.
MB: I feel it would’ve somehow been futile to perform, I mean perform in the sense of performance art, an action, something that was planned.
JL: I wonder what a performance could have been like if you had done it here. Maybe something violent in a way because of the closeness of the bodies, and maybe interesting as a way to force communication.
MB: I certainly do not want to force anything. I believe that we achieve less by forcing things to happen, forcing people to feel things. I think it’s important to leave it to each one to decide.
OC: Performing means audience, so maybe 2 people wouldn’t have been relevant for such representation.
MB: Not at all. I have performed for one person only and the importance is the same, if not more. The work ended up being also about that, don’t you think?
JL: Certainly. But the link between the performer and the audience is in this case not only stronger but of another nature. In a way, you’re forced to react and I don’t know if there’s not something interesting to take out of that kind of situation. It works like if we were all three performers, it’s true.
MB: Exactly. Did you ever think I wasn’t doing anything at all?
OC: No. I just thought: what a mysterious guy.
JL: Well, in the beginning, I was wondering, but I didn’t comment anything with Olivier. After that, I saw you writing pages and pages (even if, I’m sorry, I couldn’t see how many pages there were, if you were about to reach the bible or if you were much more modest) and I guessed you were about to do something very discursive but still an “official performance”.
MB: Is there something you would change in the work?
OC: Maybe just add the drawings of the cats?
JL: And less fridge?
MB: The fridge is important and I think the drawings could be easily fitted into the work.
JL: Let’s consider the fridge the centre of the house.
MB: And do you think you would react or act differently if you knew what the work was about? I mean if you previously knew that I was going to write a diary…
MB: What would’ve changed?
JL: Some questions you raise in your work about our attitude (vigilance, curiosity and so on…) … the fact is that we just tried to go on with our lives as if nothing was happening (I said “try”). But if you told us, I’m making something about you and me, and us… that would change everything of course. Maybe we would have been more theatrical, even if it’s only a hypothesis. Maybe we would have been more intrusive with you. Maybe we would have given you more elements… just to see. I don’t know, it’s difficult to put ourselves in this situation, but actually, I don’t think it would have been the same.
OC: Well….I gave you a notebook a few minutes after you arrived so maybe it was a premonition.
MB: So I guess we were all trying to live as if nothing was happening and still we were all performing.
JL: Totally. But you perform very discreetly! I admit that we were more prepared, as we had 4 ‘rehearsals’ before with the anterior residents. And the territory is ours (even if we share it with the cats).
MB: It is definitely yours but I think it’s really interesting that we were all doing the same thing in our own way.
JL: Well I guess it’s our own way to deal with sharing the intimacy. As each of us needs his own space, we just adapt our attitudes and behaviours to the limitations it implies.
MB: Were you embarrassed when reading it?
JL: No, curious.
OC: Me neither.
JL: You’re very mysterious so it was quite interesting to read some elements about the way you perceived your stay. We never want to be very present: being afraid of being too present. So each of us kept his own “secrets”.
MB: Did you read it at the same time? And commenting while reading?
OC: Yes we read it at the same time, but not in the same place. You know the magic of the internet.
JL: I read it before. I read it the day before. Yes. I was expecting your reaction (talking to Olivier).
OC: You could have waited for me!
JL: Anyway, we talked after Olivier read it to share commentaries.
MB: Did you think I would get more personal?
JL: More personal?! Do you mean about the details about your/our sentimental/sexual life? Or do you mean the relation we had, describing it, digging in it as if it was a grave?
MB: While I was there, I mean.
JL: Ah ok. Yes, definitely. But the communication in such circumstances is sometimes difficult. I understand it was not so easy.
MB: Because of what you knew of my work?
JL: No, because of what two weeks sharing a flat is about. It could have been you or someone else. I would have liked it to have been more personal, yes. But maybe you felt that it should have been more personal too, and feel some kind of regret. Or maybe you preferred it like that, as a rational behaviour, and keep thinking it was the right way. Maybe it was. Who knows?
MB: I don’t know. I still don’t know, but I think it was what it had to be.
JL: Maybe you’re right, I’m good for introspection as a question, but not as an answer.
MB: Could you tell me why you both think I am mysterious?
OC: Certainly because until the day we’ve planned for the artistic action, you didn’t tell us what you would do.
JL: Because I may even say that your behaviour is properly studied and it consists in delivering very, very few information in a one-to-one conversation which has not reached a sufficient level of intimacy. I think it’s part of a shyness we all share more or less. But you’re “cultivating” something beyond shyness.
MB: I like to answer questions. I think I’m good at that. I need help to start talking. What questions would you ask me now?
JL: In this conversation that’s not centred on personal themes but on your stay here, the questions we would ask could seem a bit direct. And actually, I’m not good at questions. I prefer conversations where elements come from one and other’s experience, as a real dialogue, more than as an interview.
OC: From your point of view now, would you have preferred to be more guided? To respond to a program, rules?
MB: Well, no. Not really. I think it was fine how it was. I like to find out ways of doing what I think is more honest and more linked to the situation I’m living in. I like to make my own rules. Do you think it would have been more interesting if I had asked personal themed questions?
JL: No, I think it’s fine. We read your questions in the book and actually your questions are more interesting than the answers we can bring to them.
OC: Actually there was a program. Doing it another way and telling us just a few hours before, was it a kind of provocation?
MB: No, I told you that is not my objective. It happened to be like that. I end up making my own rules.
OC: But surprising us was part of the process, right? Even if maybe there were “bad mood consequences” the day after?
MB: I wasn’t thinking about a surprise. I just don’t like any interference and if I told you what I was planning it would’ve changed the project. I started off by not saying anything and by becoming some sort of observer. Why should I ruin all that? I needed to keep this role until the end.
JL: My personal questions would have always been asked with the sensation of being very intrusive. Actually, many questions: lovers, father, the way you cope with the hyperactivity of your brother, the way you see us (I’ve always been unsure). But how could we have asked you that, if each of us were being so “detached” about the situation – or trying to – in order not to disturb one another?
MB: I like intrusive questions. I either answer them or not.
JL: It can be very violent for the people who ask not to have an answer. I prefer not to ask anything. You know how one can feel in this kind of situation.
MB: It depends on who is answering and of course how one asks the questions.
OC: Can you reveal to us your next projects?
MB: I’m planning MB#6..