Let’s start from the beginning, how was your childhood? Did you always want to be an artist?
I keep nice souvenirs from childhood. I have a really nice family, I always had lots of love and tenderness. Me and my sister were raised in a particular way, we always did what we wanted to do, it was a very free childhood, of course our parents helped us to make choices. My parents have worked all their life in politics (left wing), with unions, with poor communities and with other workers organisations in Colombia, so at dinner most of the time we talk about politics. I spent lots of time in the street, or alone doing different things at home. I always had friends older than me, three or four years, so I was precocious in some things, good and bad. I discovered art once I was in the University studying graphic design in Colombia, before, when I was child I wanted to be Astronaut.
Tell me about your work, your ethos and your inspiration.
Three question in one! My works are reflections about the way we behave, about how we understand our close environment, and about how this close environment is related with history, traditions, art, politics and power. I build these reflections with a playful spirit, it allows me to work with great freedom in different ways, which also is a comment about the way one works on art.
What attracted you to the art industry?
Well, I don't feel art as an industry, it's not like making cars, selling cell phones or fried chicken. I started to be interested in art because I saw that art was a field in which you can think about things in an independent way.
What is art for you?
A large field of reflection about how we understand the world.
You have studied Graphic Design, Photography and New Media; did it help you in your career as an artist?
Yes, I think so. I have learned many things, not only technical, by studying different things. I also worked for one year as the assistant of a well-known filmmaker in Colombia, Camilo Matiz, doing commercial and independent projects. I use to say that I had different lives. The more experiences you live the more elements you have to play with.
Humour characterizes most of your work, is there any reason why you decided to make your work this way?
Humour is about logics, it's about playing with the way we use or we think about things. Humour is built on failures, and failures helped us to understand how the world around us works. Humour is a tool of thinking which leaves us to criticize and exorcise “our devils”, our particular and general problems. For example in Colombia, a country with lots of problems on different levels, humour is very present, it helps us to keep going in.
Who would you like to see in your piece the “human-trap”?
What makes you different from other artists?
I don't feel I am “different” and I don't pretend to be it, I mean this is definitely not something that I'm worried about. I feel that art is a field in which each person is making a contribution, by opening ways to see and think the things from other point of views.
Your work is sometimes quite controversial, how do you overcome the critiques?
Critiques often draw the limits of your field of action, critiques point your failures. I love to see those limits, I try to be one step behind me when I am working and I think it's important to keep the ears open.
You created a watch that tells the time in money - thetimeismoney.com, do you believe “Time is Money”?
What is time? Like Saint-Agustin said: If no one asks me I know it, but if some one does I don't. This watch is the concretization of a common metaphor that we use in those capitalist times, I just translate this metaphor in a literal way and the result is an absurd clock that show us how absurd could be think that the time is only money.
12h 34mins 42 secs
Is humour and the human condition just your vehicle for a larger message?
I don't pretend to create messages, that's what publicity does. I like to think of my works as tools that could be used to think about things. Humour is related to logics, inside humour there are “logic failures” that leave us play with our beliefs and our behaviours. Humour is a tool for the thinking, it's also useful to analyse and criticise many things, our life conditions, our hopes, fears and expectations.
Your pieces appear to stand against the canon and institutionalised art, but to become a successful artist does one not have to become part of the canon and the institution?
I am not against art, I love art, and find that it's a very interesting and passionate field in which millions of ideas are circulating constantly. As I said before, my works are reflections about many subjects including art itself, I also try to generate questions about the way we see and we do art. I think every artist works also in the definition of art itself, even in a non-conscious way.
Have you been through self-doubt?
Quite often, I think that if you pretend to put questions and make experiences about your context and publish it, you have to be able to put question about yourself, if you don't it's not fare.
How has your background influenced your work? Are you still connected with your Colombian roots?
I spent most of my life in Colombia, since 0 until 21 years. I grew up there and that's of course a big influence. I don't use Colombia specifically but sometimes I feel that I employ a “Colombian perspective” to analyze situations. The way to conceive life changes according to places. That's the good thing of being in different places, you are pushed to see things differently.
When You put together your piece "retouch", what were the reactions of the people?
Nobody saw or said nothing, it happened very fast.
Watch "retouch" here
Can we expect a "retouch" of another iconic pieces in the art world?
Why not, you just give me the urge.
What are your main influences?
I have a lot. It depends the periods, I am now in a “Bas Jan Ader Period”, I had other periods, like “Jonathan Horowitz”, “Andy Kaufman”, “Ludwig Wittgenstein”, “Dan Graham”. Also my teachers for different reasons, Zenaida Osorio in Colombia, Claude Closky and Guuillaume Paris in France.
Where do you get inspiration from?
From “errors”, not in the working, but in the life.
In your opinion, what has been your most “fearless” piece until now?
Probably a recent video called “Altruism”, in which I make a long “kiss” to a subway bar, but anyway, I don't think my works are fearless, or about that, other artist who works on performance are very risky for example.
What are you scared of?
What can we expect from your next exhibition “Caliente”(“Hot”)?
It's a show build-up with pieces that question the way we feel history and traditions, in the museum, in the street, in the intimacy. We are a result of our past, and we undergoing it. Of course I treat those subjects with freedom and a kind of fake naivety. Humour is present but is not flagrant which I like.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
The place, I don't know, I recently moved with my wife, the artist Pauline Bastard, to New York, but we still having many projects to do in France, so we come back quite often. In life, in 5 years, I want to continue to work on my projects and expand my fields of action, in order to learn new things and to make new experiments. I love to learn stuff, I would love to edit some numbers of a magazine one day, or even make a TV series, always keeping a experimental line.
Who are your IDOLs?
I admire many people, people that I am close to and people from history. I admire people who enrich our regard, that create new point of views of things. Those who break our habits of seeing.
Words by Emma Hurwitz and Lucy Morris
Pictures courtesy of Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin