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Valérie Favre

'Art should be free and transgressive'
(Valérie Favre)

Valérie Favre (b. 1959) is a French-Swiss visual artist living and working in Berlin.


Since 2006 she is professor for painting at the University of Arts in Berlin.


Her work has been honored in international collections and exhibitions, including the Heydt Kunsthalle Wuppertal (2016/2017), Musée d'art moderne et contemporain in Strasbourg (2016), K21 Düsseldorf (2010/2011), Kunstmuseum Luzern (2009/2010) , Carré d'Art Nîmes (2009), Center Pompidou (2009) and Haus am Waldsee (2006). Favre was awarded the prestigious Prix Marcel Duchamp in France (2012).


To what extent does the principle of hope play a role in your work? Do you think we can be so keen daring to hope for a better world in the face of self-made disasters?
What I think very sincerely is that the world has never been beautiful and pleasant, especially for us women.


I am a realistic pessimist. What we are currently experiencing is perhaps nothing compared to the catastrophe as silent as this virus, that climate change and the collapse of biodiversity will cause as upheavals, viruses are, will be, will be part of the series of future catastrophes if we do not drastically change the models of community of life on this small planet. The consequences that this will have in all the different societies will increase even more, for example the difference between rich and poor, and will undoubtedly lead to multiple regressions in terms of acquired rights, for example for women, who will also be the first great victims.


The problem is that humans have great difficulty in anticipating the consequences of their actions, and unfortunately capitalist society only aims at short-term objectives. Perhaps one hope is that this virus could allow us to avoid the drifts, without having to account for it quickly.


In your opinion, what is the mission of contemporary art and what is the role of artists in our society? Could artists be catalysts in a process of transformation?

I don't know if artists can do anything. In my opinion artists have lost a lot of their status as well as politicians and economists etc. Nobody is really listened to anymore, except dictators and puppets - and besides how to hear something in all this hubbub? I don't think contemporary art has a mission to accomplish.


Art should be free and transgressive, it shows parallel paths. But I don't see many paths. And the role of the artist: I personally ask myself the same question. Starting out from a status of "outside" visionaries, we have developed a kind of industrialization of art, where we produce artists like employees in companies. But where is the poet's place? It would be precisely this subtle and abstract place of poetry that is in demand today! Poetry should be given more space than it ever had. And here, paradoxically, I have a lot of hope.


You are perceived as an excellent storyteller. What role does storytelling play in times of crisis and great upheaval?
Storytelling has always been super important; from the stories we tell children to put them to sleep to the stories of all the cultural traditions of all our civilizations past and present. I think we can't do without 'storytelling'; it keeps us alive.




Among other subjects, you are intensively involved in politics, philosophy, film and theatre. What other disciplines do you imagine creating an interesting dialogue with art? What could such a dialogue look like? What new ideas could emerge out of this?
I am thinking, for example, of the association 'Les nouveaux commanditaires' which brings art projects to places that do not necessarily have art as a framework, and which operates in villages and in various places. This is a great initiative. It's like a kind of folk theatre that once had a good reputation.


So it is undoubtedly in the multidisciplinary, in the diagonal of the weird, where probably new forms of artistic experience are made. On the other hand, nothing can replace the time you have to devote to the work, which is one of the few positive aspects of the current confinement.




If a better world could be reborn from the ruins of the old world, what would it look like to you? What do you wish for a better future?
A paradigm shift.


For example, in the art world, perhaps rethinking all this multiplication of art fairs and biennials? Where you shall have been (everywhere), have seen (everything) or should have participated in. At the university where I teach, and in the gallery that represents me in Berlin, we are looking for other possibilities, whether it be in the field of production and distribution, for example in virtual space.

Of course, it's absolutely different from reality, for example with a piece in situ. The virtual is the work itself. This opens up new perspectives. It reminds me of a laboratory in which the entire imagination of the world is flattened on screens, as if one were in the brain of an author, and connects to one of his synapses, perhaps all synapses at once, until he becomes one of his synapses to have a live virtual experience... I'm kidding.



It is often said that the strength of art lies in daring to make a new start, again and again, boldly and fearlessly, tirelessly recreating on a blank sheet of paper. What are your personal strategies for finding your way in a new work? For example, do you use certain rituals or techniques?
I have certainly translated consciously and unconsciously a lot of events from my life into my work. In this current moment of confinement and transformations that we all are going through, I notice that nothing replaces time, that we can finally, though perhaps only for some of us privileged ones, have the time in front of us to set up our achievements underway. Even if it's not exactly a strategy...


The interview was conducted in April 2020.

It has been edited for clearness.

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