Institut Ramon LLull

Interview with Albert Serra

Cinema.  Paris, 17/04/2013

This Wednesday saw the opening of a retrospective exhibition by the Catalan artist Albert Serra at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, with the prestigious centre giving the artist carte blanche to carry out various activities. Among the events programmed is a round table discussion on 27th April on the aesthetics of bullfighting that will also feature the participation of Miquel Barceló.

To coincide with the opening, we interview its star, Albert Serra, to discuss this project and his career.

What do you think about your work being the star attraction of a prominent space at the Centre George Pompidou, one of the great contemporary art centres of Europe and the whole world?

One can only see it in a very positive light. It is an honour, despite the fact that, personally, I am not keen on showing things from the past. In fact, I only like showing the latest things, those which have not yet been seen. The rest, in essence, is archaeology.

How does it feel for an underground creator like you ("Andergraun Films" is the name of your production company) to be hosted by the great temples of culture, as on this occasion in Paris?

Well, I come from nothing, but what I do is very serious and very important, so a good impact in critical circles is natural. That said, these large temples do not represent absolute values, they can also make mistakes and often pay tribute to artists who eventually become insignificant.

We know you are giving a talk on the world of bullfighting. What is your view regarding this perennially controversial topic?

I have no opinion from an ethical point of view. I'm only interested in the aesthetic side of it, which is very powerful and has always interested great artists over the years. And for me, that justifies certain cruelties that, indeed, in any other context we would find objectionable. At the Centre Pompidou we will only talk about aesthetics.

In Paris, you will also mention that Salvador Dalí, the genius from Figueres, is one of your artistic influences. What do you consider to be the essence of his contribution?

I do not know if he is one of the best artists of the twentieth century, but he is one of the most important (along with Duchamp and Warhol). He is a visionary (in fact, he said he would be remembered for his "worldview"), who anticipates many aesthetic achievements. And in terms of attitude, subversion and fantasy, he is unquestionably unique and unforgettable.

The director of the Centre Pompidou, Alain Seban, acknowledged that Albert Serra reminds him of Dalí's proteiform exuberance. Which aspects of him and his work do you identify with?

With none, since it would be too audacious. I only admire and try to learn. I secretly admire his mix of spontaneity and extreme artifice, which also tends to come naturally to me.
You have said several times that you consider film to be the literature of images and video art its language. Have you always worked according to these concepts?

It's a bit more complex than that. I only referred to the fact that film is transitive, creating an aesthetic world, while video art is a simple game with audiovisual language that has no consequences.

Your reputation as a filmmaker grew thanks to the screening of your acclaimed film El cant dels ocells (Birdsong) at the Cannes Film Festival. Will the Centre Pompidou reveal more about Albert Serra the artist and the man, besides his work?

It could do. It's not for me to say.

What is your next challenge / dream?

The same as always: to be free and independent of everything and everyone. Unfortunately, the artist's work requires great sacrifices that make it a slave of an aesthetic objective that clashes with this desire to be free. It is a bitter fight to the death. Who will win? I don't know. We shall see.

Dalí is one of your greatest influences. Could you update the list of those creators you are devoted to with some names from today's art scene?

It's difficult. My influences, at heart, in terms of content, are almost always deceased artists. Living people only influence me in superficial things, in the staging of myself. I like people that are spontaneous and incorruptible: Vincent Gallo, Michel Houellebecq, Limonov (who I have followed for a long a great disdain for Dalí, whom he met), and so on. 

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