October the 4th, 2013, Quotidien de l'Art, p.4

Stephanie Cherpin has lived in Africa and she took part in the Salon de Montrouge in 2010, where she presented a gigantic famished whale. Portrait.

She is in her thirties, she always wanted to do fine arts but she held back, nervy about Regional Cultural Affairs Councils or something like that, she therefore started more serious studies, a literature foundation course, and an intensive foundation degree in literature, a master's in philosophy, three months at Sciences Po, "a nightmare", before finally entering the fine arts school in Bordeaux.
As often happens with art studies, she mainly learnt what she already knew. What she needed to find again: Africa. Crossing through Arte Povera - Paolini style - from Franz West to Anita Molinero, she took on the gestures, the daring, the strengths of an Ivorian situation experienced at 5, 6 and 7 years old. For some, this is the age at which it happens. The electricity, the light and the sounds, fixing aesthetics, morals. Style. And she found a gallery (Cortex Athletico [Bordeaux - Paris]).
Stéphanie Cherpin is a migrant artist. She has a car with a big boot, she moves on the outskirts of the cities that commission her works, she stops in front of workshops, factories, warehouses, construction sites, sales outlets, where she detects and chooses objects, tools, machines, materials, ideas. It can take weeks. She doesn't salvage, she buys. She stuffs all of this in the boot of her big car, and brings her purchases to the place where she is supposed to create an artwork.

WHEN SHE HAS THOUGHT, TRAVELLED, ACCUMULATED ENOUGH, SHE NAILS, GLUES, ASSEMBLES, BREAKS, SAWS, CUTS, builds the monument of a childhood sorrow: what use are these objects on which we could bang to make music, these instruction manuals out of which we could make louvers, these doors behind which we don't know anything, these planks to scaffold birds and houses to empty floors, these tiles to not go up stairs, these neon lights to cook an egg, these railway tracks raised towards the sky... Often, Stéphanie Cherpin raises things.

There is anger against sophisticated, forbidden, dangerous tools, that the artist does not know how to use and that she uses anyway, in her own way. Just like the colour that sooths the standards of this very physical site where the misuse of materials is combined with the perversion of the tools. The first sometimes take the place of the latter and vice versa, in doing so, she redefines arts, because she seizes a reality of pure irony. Negritude that is finally noticed without the race hiding it, without the skin and the languages that blind its ethical questioning: what use are these things? Totem. Raising, once again, the nature of objects into gigantic animistic dolls. And doing this for the Bordeaux tramway (it's next year's project), or for the Salon de Montrouge where she will present in 2010 her gigantic famished whale, Starving in the belly of a whale. Terrifying, and at the same time fragile. Fleeting, and at the same time unforgettable. Tragic, yet at the same time modest.

Text published as part of the programme of critical supervision of the artists of the Salon de Montrouge, with the support of the city of Montrouge, the Departmental Council of Hauts-de-Seine and the Ministry of Culture and Communication.

Stephanie Cherpin
Born in 1979
Lives and works in Paris

DNSEP, École des Beaux-Arts, Marseille

DNAP, École des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux

Master in philosophy, University of Nice

(d'humeur à lâcher deux trois je t'aime), Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex
Athletico, Paris - exhibition views HERE

Foreign Parts, L'Assaut de la Menuiserie, Saint-Etienne

Le paysage ouvre à heures fixes, FRAC Limousin, Limoges
Art Genève, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Geneva - exhibition views HERE

FIAC 2012, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Paris - exhibition views HERE
Trapped again in still life, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Bordeaux
No room, La Salle de bains, Lyon - exhibition views HERE

Use once and destroy I, 40m3, Rennes

Starving in the belly of a whale, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Bordeaux - exhibition views HERE
FABRIKculture, with Julie Legrand, Hegenheim

Liste 08 - The young art fair, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Basel - exhibition views HERE
Gouge Away, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Bordeaux - exhibition views HERE



Sculpter (faire l?atelier), La Criée, Beaux-Arts, FRAC Bretagne, Rennes

Voisins de campagne - Prologue 1, with the SHED Centre d'art contemporain de Normandie, Château de Tonneville, Bourville

Run, Run, Run,
Villa Arson, Nice
Raoul Reynolds : une rétrospective,
Friche la Belle de Mai, Marseille
The Past is the Past
, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Paris - exhibition views HERE
Les épis Girardon,
Moly-Sabata, Fondation Albert Gleizes, Sablons
, FRAC Poitou-Charentes, Angoulême
Raoul Reynolds: A Retrospective, Scotland Street School Museum, Glasgow

L'Artothèque au Musée, Guéret, Musée d'art et d'archéologie de Guéret, Guéret
Mécaniques du dessin, FRAC Limousin, Impasse des Charentes, Limoges
Faillir Pouvoir Prévoir, Galerie Xippas, Genève

Préférez le moderne à l'ancien, FRAC Aquitaine, Bordeaux
Terrains vagues, an exhibition about S.B. du Veyrier's collection, ESAD organized by Le Magasin, Grenoble
Natura Lapsa, Confort Moderne, Poitiers
Quelque chose à vous dire, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Paris - exhibition views HERE
Grandeur. French sculpture from Laurens until the present day, Museum Beelden aan zee, La Haye
Biennale d'art contemporain, Saint-Flour

3 days in Paris, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Paris
Le Grand Tout, FRAC Limousin, Limoges

Autres. Etre sauvage de Rousseau à nos jours, Musée du Château, Annecy
Architectures fantômes, Espace d'art contemporain, Royan
Campagnes/ Campagne, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Bordeaux - exhibition views HERE
Derelict, Galerie Édouard Manet, Gennevilliers, with Farah Atassi
Artbrussels, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Brussels - exhibition views HERE
Arts Le Havre 2012, Biennale Arts Le Havre, Paris

Méfiance, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Bordeaux - exhibition views HERE
De la neige en été, Le Confort Moderne, Poitiers
Au fil de la bave, galerie Alain Gutharc, Paris
The past is a grotesque animal, In extenso, Clermont Ferrand
La forêt d'art contemporain, Parc Naturel Régional des Landes de Gascogne

Artissima, Galerie Thomas Bernard - Cortex Athletico, Torino - exhibition views HERE
Retour vers le futur, Buy-Sellf, CAPC, Bordeaux
Dynasty, Palais de Tokyo & Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
55ème Salon de Montrouge, La Fabrique, Montrouge
Collection, FRAC Limousin, Brive
Somewhere over the rainbow, FRAC  Aquitaine, Bordeaux

Stéphanie Cherpin, Julie Legrand, FABRIKculture, Hegenheim
Biennale d'art contemporain, Anglet
Le Spot, Le Havre

L'effondrement de l'onde de probabilité, Zoogalerie, Nantes

Imbéciles habitants, Domaine de Kermingham - Concarneau
Pinéde Légende, La Compagnie - Marseille

Sculptocratie, Red District - Marseille

Rencontres Art & Sciences, Université de Bordeaux 1 - Bordeaux


Ecole d'Art de l'Agglomération d'Annecy

Professor, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux

Jury DNAP, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Marseille
Jury Bachelor, La HEAD, Geneva

Jury of 2nd year Bachelor, La HEAD, Geneva

Jury DNSEP, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Brest


La HEAD, Geneva

La HEAD, Geneva

Villa Arson, Nice
Intervention in educational establishments in collaboration with Le Confort Moderne, Poitiers

CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain, Bordeaux

École des Beaux-Arts, Pau

École des Beaux-Arts, Brest

Sculpter (faire l'atelier), La Criée, Beaux-Arts, Rennes

Stéphanie Cherpin, monographic catalogue, with the support of CNAP, FRAC Limousin, Confort Moderne, 40mcube, Rennes, editions Presse du réel

Dynasty, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris

Bourse Aide Indiduelle à la Création, Drac Île de France

CNAP Centre National d'Arts Plastiques - aide pour le premier catalogue monographique

Drac Île de France

Nominated for the MAIF award for sculpture

FRAC Limousin
FRAC Aquitaine
Artothèque du Limousin
CNAP - Centre National des Arts Plastiques

Interview between Stéphanie Cherpin and Paul Bernard, September 2010 - April 2011

Paul Bernard:
Music plays a very important role in your work, during its production, as well as in the result. Could you talk about your working playlist and what role it has in your sculpture?

Stéphanie Cherpin:
There is indeed a play list that I listen to while I am working, and it's always the same, mostly American and English bands from the late 1980s and the mid-1990s. The essentials are Nirvana, PJ Harvey, The Pixies, and Sonic Youth. Then, depending on the piece I am working on, I may add other groups. I listen to the albums in a loop, but for each piece, there are always one or two tracks that emerge and that are always different. They will then reappear in the titles of the works, they give a voice to the sculpture. This is a way to make each piece different without using my own words, I'd rather use someone else's voice. Music contributes to the creation of the piece which then retains its traces. It's a tool like any other: it plays a role in this kind of ritual which allows me to enter a special state of mind conductive to sculpting.

In more abstract terms, there are notions of rhythms that I'm trying to grasp. It will act upon my body, in the way I work, in my gesture. If I hear lyrics that are like a command, I will almost take it straight as a summons to act specifically upon it. For example, a song like Drain You 1 by Nirvana, will incite me to drain a piece 2, to make it like a skeleton, to cut it; or also Break My Body 3 by the Pixies: the body of the dresser was cut in two and sharpened, one part holds the other piece, becoming a base 4. These are quite repetitive songs where the words come to your ear like a hammer knocking again and again, like a battle song giving strength before the fight. The sculpture I do is actually very abstract. I use materials almost like a musician playing with notes or with an instrument. This is most of all a matter of balance of power, of fragments that I put end to end, rhythms, ruptures and movements, voids and solids. The disharmonic sound that is particular to garage or grunge music is very important. Then my sculpture can be shrill, rough, battered.

Paul Bernard:
You have a special relationship with a certain type of cinema. I know your taste for the British movie Clash of Titans 5 (the 1981 version). It is easy to understand your attraction to the mythical dimension, but there is also something related to the bad special effects onscreen.

Stéphanie Cherpin:
I have the same monomaniac relationship with this film as I have with music. This is a film that left a profound impression on me when I was a child and that I had not seen for several years. I rediscovered it eight years ago. It was produced by Ray Harryhausen who also created the special effects and who is a prominent figure of animated cinema. I indeed love this film for its mythical dimension, even it its unorthodox use of mythology has been criticized. For me, it is exactly because of the many anachronisms (like Andromeda's golden wedge heels), the free combination of different stories, and the invention of various creatures that this film shows very well what makes a myth so powerful: it is a history with no author, passed on, repeated and reinterpreted, with a universal strength. Time and place are not that important. And also, as a woman sculptor, the figure of the Gorgon (certainly one of the most beautiful parts of the movie) is for me a wonderful founding myth.

All the animation for the movie was done in stop motion. They created one image after another, one by one, with rubber creatures in front of a natural background. Movements are halted, some parts are very kitsch but there is some accuracy in these beat-up monsters with their weird movements and gestures. One can feel, in all the creatures by Harryhausen, the weight of the material, this mix of strength and weakness that really touches me and that echoes in my work. I almost have an animistic relationship with objects and materials. I consider my work a little bit like he considers his creatures: they are obviously inanimate, but they have a strong identity and the qualities of the living. Besides, in the credits at the end of the movie, the creatures are mentioned on the same level as the actors 6.

Paul Bernard:
For the piece Move on over Here, Slow It down I 7 you did at the contemporary art center 40mcube in Rennes, we again see the idea of a background, a setting that opens toward a narrative, toward fiction.

Stéphanie Cherpin:
In all of my work there is indeed something related to a setting, to masking objects, without always hiding completely what they were created for in the first place. For me, there is not only one truth for a material, it also has several identities. In this visible make-up, as well as in poorly done special effects, there is a profound tragic dimension that I try to uncover in my sculpture. In Fellini movies, especially in Satyricon, we find this too: the make-up that comes off, the dripping, the cardboard set, painted in garish and unrealistic colors. All this gives us a sensation of emptiness and weakness, and at the same time of grotesque comedy. One can have the impression that life is just a big joke - but that would be dark humor. This is both serious and funny: the tragic as an affirmation of existence.

This is what I am looking to do in my work. For the piece in Rennes, I for the first time had the opportunity to use a big space all for myself, and I wanted to measure myself to it. I could not directly alter the walls or the roof structure - which is the usual process when I work with the elements at my disposal. I tried to double the space where I was working, and I could confront the replica, attack it, vent my anger upon it. It was becoming some sort of sick, monstrous, alter ego of the exhibition space.

I don't think we can exactly talk about fiction: I don't invent anything. The only story is the process of creation of the piece. This is a truly real relationship lived between myself and my sculpture. It is not a reconstitution or a production in which I have much leeway or total and distanced control over the situation. At the end there is only one solution and it comes under pressure, in a necessary way, and it depends on the very specific context in which the piece has been created. I cannot rearrange or go back to what I did, every new step excludes the preceding state, and in the end, the piece bears all the hardships it underwent. It bears the marks of the process in the sense that it is absolutely different from a staging (mise en scène) or setting even if they can sometimes share some characteristics.

Paul Bernard:
You also show great interest for movies by Robert Bresson, such as Mouchette, Un condamné à mort s'est échappé, Au hasard Balthazar?

Stéphanie Cherpin:
I have read some texts about his work style 8: he chooses non-professional actors and he exhausts them. He has them repeat a scene twenty, thirty times in a row. He pushes them to a maximum in order to have the affects he wants to see come out, even if they speak very mechanically, with impassive faces. I have the same relationship with the materials, the objects I use: I return them, I cut them in every direction, and I combine them. I look for exhaustion of the shape in order to end up with something right.

Bresson is also a filmmaker who films a lot with medium close-ups, gestures, and objects 9. The narration comes from the transmission of an object from one hand to another. Bresson focuses n the movements of bodies, noises, footsteps. This is like a permanent choreography, a process which seems very cold but which I find very physical. Just like in Sophocle's tragedies or some movies by Pasolini, the conclusion is quite secondary: it's already known (sometimes announced as soon as the title with Bresson) or we guess it very quickly. What counts is what leads to it: the process, the tragic sequence of events - and Bresson attaches a particular attention to editing. This is also what I am looking for: how to go from one shape, material to another, how to manage to build something and hold it together.

Paul Bernard:
Another essential reference for your work are so-called "primitive" cultures. You often go to the Quai Branly museum and you also told me about "Aztec definitions 10". How did this influence your sculpture?

Stéphanie Cherpin:
This is more a form of recognition: I have the impression that I understand what is at stake, or at least part of it. It's not the image that these objects can convey that I am interested in, but something more like a principle, a way of knowing that is familiar to me. It's a relationship to things where there is no distance between the subject and its environment. There is a porosity between identities that is very evident for example in a hunter's tunic where pieces of different hunted animals (skin, hair, etc.) have been stitched on. This exemplifies a way of presenting oneself humbly in front of the animal which is about to donate its life; it's a way of imbuing oneself with its soul and its body. It establishes an equal relationship. And there is also this idea of sampling from reality. This is quite similar to when I work on my sculpture. I try to be equal with the elements I work with, and then a kind of physical and psychic mimicry is established. The identification process is very different from the relationship to the world that I experienced at university where there is a form of erudition, a strict hierarchy of words and arguments.

You mention the "Aztec definitions": they show a true freedom in their forms and concepts. They have a clear and recognizable point of view. Things are not defined from above. There is, for example, no absolute essence of the forest: it is reduced to the experiences one can have of it. Then, to define it, we can find successively two sentences like: "The forest calms me down" and "the forest terrifies me". There is no more distance between the subject/narrator and the object/forest. One can feel that he travelled the length and breadth of it, that he felt the fear, the wild animals: "Aztec definitions" are always based on particular and specific experiences.

Paul Bernard:
I would like to bring up the space where you work. Your studio is in the suburbs and to go there you drive on the périphérique 11, you cross wide industrial areas. How would you describe these spaces? This reminds me of an interview where Ed Ruscha describes his painting as "drive-in" 12. Is there something similar in your sculpture? Could you talk about the role of your car?

Stéphanie Cherpin:
I like this drive-in story because when I work I indeed go to the drive-in every two days. What's more, I spend the same amount of time, or even more, in my car than in my studio. This is very important; I need to move, to turn, and to be caught in a movement. And at the same time, the car allows me to stay in my own bubble. I don't really have to make an effort. I can absorb it all, I become like a sponge, I get drunk on the movement. When I get out of the car to work, I am already K.O., exhausted like after a long day of running errands. There is also the rhythm of the music I listen to during these drives. The first thing I do when I can't get myself to work in my studio is to take my car and drive. It prepares me mentally.

All these territories I cross nurture my practice. For the piece I did in Rennes, I explored all the exits of the highway, spaces usually dedicated to the so-called "zones" (industrial, commercial, etc.) I feel the need to immerse myself in these locations, to see those constructions, supermarkets, malls, do-it-yourself restaurant among the crowd and to capture this environment. The exhibition space is important but it is only part of a much larger context. And the periphery is also connected to my own childhood: as a kid, I always lived in anonymous suburbs.

We go back to this thing for poorly done specials effects. Here too there's something tragic. I find it strong and fragile at the same time. It is both murky and very lively. Around the périphérique we see all the semi-abandoned properties, semi-constructed shanty towns, malls: I find some strength there. One can also find broad shapes there, a power struggle between the contradictory emotions brought up by these territories. I think that I can't describe my sculpture as "urban", my pieces don't exactly come from the city but more from these territories. I think that I can't describe my sculpture as "urban", my pieces don't exactly come from the city but more from these large areas at the margin. These are spaces that I apprehend almost as a natural environment. I am carried by the energy that comes from them. This is my new forest. These peripheral landscapes work as a futility, which nevertheless doesn't prevent action: everything is screwed up, but this is probably also the reason why everything is possible.

Paul Bernard:
This aesthetic without qualities you're talking about here reminds me of a famous interview with Tony Smith where he recalls an experience he had, in a car - we go back to the car - during which he literally recorded how vernacular constructions and buildings with no cultural traditions are actually very powerful. This had a very strong impact on his practice 13. I wonder if it has anything to do with this aspect of memento mori that you just mentioned: these suburban constructions don't have any cultural value a priori, but they embody a tragic power more than many artworks.

Stéphanie Cherpin:
We can find the narrative of that kind of experience in many artists' writings; I think of Georges Bataille in L'Expérience intérieure (1943), of the importance of the car in the poetics of Jeff Wall or Abbas Kiarostami, or even of how Hilla Becher discovered what would become the "subject" of her work during a train ride, contemplating the succession of industrial buildings through the train windows. I even heard recently the reading of Odilon Redon's account of the power of journeys by cart through his childhood landscapes, how these particular perceptions affected his work. Michael Fried analyses Tony Smith's story and makes an ego-centered theatrical experience of it. The spectator/subject is kept at a certain distance from the objects flashing by. I think that Fried has never has that kind of experience. This is exactly the opposite that is going on here! The isolation of a static body in a moving object allows, on the contrary, some sort of dissolution of perception in the scenery, a total awareness that is not passive at all. There is no dominating viewpoint, on the contrary, there is an immersion in an environment, in a world that absorbs the individual. Then follows a deep feeling of empathy, the sensation of belonging to a community, to a cycle. This is quite similar to the experience of the forest described in the "Aztec definitions": distances are irrelevant, abolished by this comprehension allowing a kind of transfer of qualities between the subject and the object. Besides, Tony Smith talks about his works in terms of "presences", that is to say neither an object, nor a subject, but something in between.

The different places recalled in these kinds of narratives also have their importance be they "natural" or "artificial", they share common and essential characteristics: generation and corruption. The "Aztec definition" of the forest shows it very well: life and death follow one another, mingle, without any hierarchy in the experience that the narrator has of this space. Tony Smith speaks of a highway under construction, of abandoned, useless landscapes, worlds built with no traditions. These spaces at the margins of cities are in permanent transformation: construction sites, finished buildings, demolitions follow one another. There is no desire to preserve a historic heritage or to hide construction sites as is done in city centers.

This empathy coming from the experience of impermanence is also the one of the absence of control: the eye cannot catch everything, there is obviously a fragmented perception of the scenery, reinforced by the continuing alterations of the landscapes that I just mentioned. There is nothing out of the ordinary about it but it makes it essential: this ontological experience put us in the world, we find again this function of futility here, which intensifies the vital force of the tragic. I think that is the memento mori: constructions reminding a civilization of its own transience which it usually tries to disguise with monuments symbolizing eternity - and the transience, far from being depressing, can probably remind us that the time we have can allow us to resist, to engage in artistic acts of resistance. There's a kind of heroism in art. It's a little ridiculous: like superheroes with useless powers.

This is the greatness, in the negative, and this point of view on history that are seen through the desolate beauty of these ordinary constructions.

It's impossible, I think, to render the strength of this amount of affect without loss. That is why Tony Smith speaks about an experience that is difficult to define ("you have to live it, he says") and he notices a certain form of the powerlessness of art, another form of the tragic.

Pau Bernard:
Every sculpture you make originates in an object which makes up part of the matrix. And these objects usually remind us of the suburbs in all of its forms: industries, row houses, bedroom communities, strip mall... I am often struck by the evidence of materials and objects that you select and running almost like symbols. What are the requirements that lead you to pick up one object more than another?

Stéphanie Cherpin:
The objects coming from these spaces present an aesthetic that is neither one of rough objects nor of design pieces but something in between, shaped by the simplicity of the familiar and of the ordinary. I actually like to hear people say while looking at one of my pieces that they used the same color to repaint their bedroom, that there is the same gate at their aunt's house, that they always dreamed of tearing to shreds a tent they couldn't manage to fold... In the end, it's a common vocabulary, even if the language is different.

As for the choice, I am never primarily interested in an object for what it symbolizes. I try to do my best to avoid that, or at least to make this process of symbolic determination an unconscious process, because that's actually the only way to make the right decision, self-evidently and at the same time without knowing exactly why. It comes from extensively surveying the places we just talked about, from knowing what they're about, from going over the stock of materials almost exhaustively. In the car I have a notebook on the passenger seat where I write down the things I see. For example: a specific building, or the way people attach something on their trailer... I sometimes take pictures with my cellphone. I also do drawings of objects and materials that mostly function as inventories, as lists. When I start a sculpture, but never before I start, I draw as well. This enables me to more easily manipulate and visualize heavy shapes. I try to exhaust the drawings by doing them over several times but they never reach completion. I also draw my piece at different steps of its creation. In the end, it's a kind of memory tool but what's always most important is directly working and being in contact with the piece.

I'm beginning to amass a rather large inventory of objects, shapes, and materials. In fact, it's a bit like the playlist I mentioned earlier: according to the circumstances, a material imposes itself, the final choice does not allow a return to earlier stages.

Paul Bernard:
The tools you use are mostly cutting instruments. Admittedly, your sculpture is quite classic: you operate on a block by carving it down. What is your relationship with these tools? There is also a particular gestures, as if you wanted to get rid of any expressionism and rather give them a mechanical aspect.

Stéphanie Cherpin:
Yes, the first movement is always to take off, to skin, to dismantle. A little but like a hunter who skins his game once back at home. My relationship to the tools is quite special. Before I use them I am afraid of them, and I sometimes wait several months after I buy them to finally use them. And I never use them properly. I went from my hand to a hammer and to a screw gun, and, these days, I have a preference for the grinder. I can do everything with it: cut, sans, work on the section or just on the surface. I've also been using a jigsaw and a drill a lot, and more recently a chain saw; I use mostly do-it-yourself tools that are not quite machines which induces a very physical relationship of the material I am working on.

Despite the gestures of destruction I mentioned before, my work is also about a sculpture of assemblage, of construction; about parts which must always be as one, form one body, and not move toward installation art. This is again a question of the balance of power. When I commit a violent gesture, I need to repair this action. As If I had injured someone, I then need to act more gently. Painting is precisely one of these moments of appeasement after something very violent. This is the moment to calm down, to lick one's wounds. My gestures are of the same nature as the materials I use: very common, a mix of labor (without the technical perfection) and domestic return to this expressionist aspect, let's say that I try to do everything to turn into a machine: my body is in the service of the sculpture. My little personal stories are obviously there, but there's no need to over-act them. I almost feel like I am entirely in these archetypal, timeless gestures, like I don't belong to any place. The gesture has to be mechanical in order to balance any aspect that would be strictly subjective. I think that the intense physical commitment is also a means for this part of subjectivity to attain a more profound level. It becomes stylized, purged: this is not about staging my little self, but about achieving shapes, or, what's basically one and the same, achieving meanings and affects that do not come under the sphere of the individual. Shapes have to catch objective affects.

Paul Bernard:
You often work under pressure. How does this sharpen your thoughts?

Stéphanie Cherpin:
Let's say that I need the wolves at the door to be efficient. Indeed, being under pressure allow my mind to reach a high level of concentration, also because it mistreats my body, the two are inseparable. Pressure undermines a series of things (I don't know what to call them: values, principles), which might emerge almost despite myself while I'm working. This is, among others, the question of technical virtuosity, of erudition, of one's excessive consciousness of oneself and of others. I believe in the virtue of forgetting all these means of power when I am creating a sculpture. Fear favors this kind of amnesia. When I start a sculpture, I have no ideas, no plans. I always have the impression that I don't know how to do it, that I don't know how to do it, that I don't have the technical skills, I tell myself that this time I won't be able to do it. By avoiding mastery of the materials, the way to go, and that is far more intense and rich, even if the risk of ruining a piece is always there. But in the end this isn't a problem, on the contrary, there are more or less important pieces, but each of them have brought me or taught me something that I cannot think of in terms of efficiency, failure, or success, it goes far beyond. In the same way, my sculptures are quite fragile, sometimes they deteriorate, they get damaged, hey go back as material for the next piece. Those are natural processes, sculptures cannot go beyond that.

1 Nirvana, Drain You, « Nevermind » album, 1991
2 Drain You (2009), metal barriers, vegetal fibres, snow chains, felt, 210x195x55 cm.
3 Pixies, Break My Body « Surfer Rosa » album, 1988
4 Break my Body, Hold my Bones, wooden dresser, wooden pallets, fiber and concrete coating, paint, 270x200x30 cm.
5 The Clash of Titans (1981), directed by Desmond Davis and produced by Ray Harryhausen, Charles H. Schneer and John Palmer.
6 Credits are divided in three: the immortals, the mortal and the creature.
7 Move on over here, slow it down (2010), ropes, painting, coating, bars, parquet, partitions, railway crossbeam, ondobitume, variable size, private collection.
8 Philippe Arnaud, Robert Bresson, Paris, Cahiers du cinéma, coll. Petite bibliothèque des Cahiers du cinéma, 2003
9 Especially in Pickpocket, in L'Argent, or in Un condamné à mort s'est échappé.
10 Jerome Rothenberg, Technicians of the Sacred, Berkeley (CA), University of California Press, 1985 (for the French edition : Yves di Manno, Les Techniciens du sacré, Paris, José Corti, coll. Merveilleux, 2007, p 58). The « Astec defintions » are excerpted from the 11th book of Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain, written in 1577 (Introduction to Historia General de las Cosas de la Nueva Espana; 12 volumes in 13 books), trans. Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J. O Anderson (Salt Lake City (UT): University of Utah Press, 1950-1982). In 1547, 26 years after the dowfall of Mexico / Tenochtitlan, the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagun recorded first hand narratives and accounts of Aztec ways and customs: these definitions are like old scraps of a civilization, remnants of its daily life.
11 Translator's note : The boulevard périphérique is a ring road surrounding Paris which is a generally-accepted boudary between the city of Paris proper and its suburbs.
12 Bernard Blistène, « Conversation avec Edward Ruscha », in Edward Ruscha, Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1989, p 86
13 « Talking with Tony Simth » interview with Samuel Wagstaff Jr., in Artforum, New York, 4, December 1966 ; quoted in Charles Harrison, Paul Wool (dir.), Art en théorie 1900-1990; Paris, Hazan, 1997, p 819