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Louise HERVÉ & Chloé MAILLET (FR) / Identity and territory

Between performance and cinema, Louise Hervé & Chloé Maillet re-enact historical scenes related to the history of Fourierism, spiritism and magic, including a group of teenagers in their artistic project.

Based on historical material, this duo of artists catch these stories collectively and in a participatroy manner, re-enacting some experiences and leting new images emerge.

Born in 1981, Louise Hervé & Chloé Maillet live and work in Paris. They founded the I.I.I.I. (International Institute for Important Items) in 2001, in which they create performances, movies and installations. Their practice oscillates between the fields of archeology, history, science-fiction and combines films, publication of short fictions and performances, in the manner of visit-conferences. They mix literary and cinematographic references with the reality. The duo is represented by Marcelle Alix gallery in Paris.

They show “L’iguane” until the 25th of March, an exhibition in two acts at the Contemporary Art Center of Ivry – le Crédac.


Your film is anchored in the territory of Brussels. What did you discover from your architectural and collectivist investigations in Brussels?

For this film called L’Iguane, we were first interested in the Godin Familistère in Laeken, a unique building in Brussels built by Jean-Baptiste Godin and inspired by the utopian architecture of the Phalanstères of Charles Fourier from the end of the 19th century. The building presently in maintenance is nowadays interlocked with a shopping mall. It is composed of housings organized around a central tower of which only the structure remains. We talked about the building with architects and we went to the city archives, to the Brussels Museum of Industry and Labor, and at the foundry of Molenbeek. This gave us the occasion to immerse in the very rich history of the cooperative housing in Brussels, from the Marolles to the garden-cities.

It also includes the participation of teenagers in the process of a social reinsertion, in the framework of a workshop of urban pedagogy “Out of the Box” in Brussels, how did they involve in this project and how does this involvement allow an other reading of the film?

We met the teenagers of Out of the Box in Brussels and talked to them first about the architecture of the Godin Familistère, and then about an anecdote concerning the Fourierists: In 1848, while in France the Revolution failed, some of them started to get fascinated by spiritism. Their idea was to communicate with the spirits from other planets, to find the answers of the social questions on the Earth at that time.

We also showed them mediumistic artworks. These are abstract and symmetrical artworks produced by artists like Fleury Joseph Crépin or Augustin Lesage who pretended to paint under the influence of spirits and between-terrestrial beings. Both these artists are spirits and come from the working-class of the North of France in the 20th century.

From these two directions – the collective work guided by desire and appeal, and the extraterrestrial communication to the purpose of change –  we suggested the teenagers to stage and imagine their own version of these spirit artworks creating though a sort of a collective living image. Working with them was fascinating.

As artists interested in the narrative process of history, how do you consider the societal impact of this film? Do you think it can find some echo outside the art world and is it your wish?

We conceived the project L’Iguane as an articulation between a historical moment, an extraterrestrial thinking, and a site: the Familistère of Laeken. Our projects take place between past and future. They offer to look at the past the same way we look at the future, from our contemporary point of view.

We adopted a collective method: we both think and create the project and invite each time different groups in our work process. In Brussels, we asked young participants who are part of a program of alternative pedagogy, whose functioning resonates with the purpose of the film, to stage themselves. The story is written between us and the participants, and cross various fields, based on historical and geographical sources, updating alternative genealogies.