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Magic Matter

[An interview with the French sculptor Pierre Matter]

by Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia & Adrian Ioniţă

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click pentru versiunea română

[Self-portrait © Pierre Matter]

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: Your official biography speaks of a “mystical” childhood. Could you share with our
readers some events in your childhood that influenced your artistic vision later in your career?

Pierre Matter: During my childhood, I bathed in the mystical and religious ambiance given by my parents. But
soon after being crushed by a car and narrowly escaped death, I realized that their God does not protect against car
violence. Therefore, my first experience with mechanics has been painful, since the same time it made me doubt
my family beliefs. I still retained some essential values such as generosity. I think we should be generous, and than,
sooner or later life will return our gift.

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: Have you had a favorite hero in your childhood? A hero who could mark a
development of your artistic creations?

Pierre Matter: There may be Black and Mortimer (comics characters) who have led at an early time my
imagination into the future, science fiction and so on... There was also, Albert Schweitzer, although I am not sure
that he influenced in any way my artistic work.
[Pink Phantasm © Pierre Matter]

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: What other styles have you experienced before reaching the stage of defining
yourself as an artist? What kinds of other materials you have worked with, before resorting to metal? And why did
you choose the metal in the end?

Pierre Matter: I really started with the comic strips in 1988-1989. The project called "The horses Ladoga", had a
political-fantasy theme, and unfortunately ended in failure. Then, for almost 10 years I explored the field of
mineral, mainly Basso-relief, before returning to metal and finally to tri-dimensional work. I would say that, if you
have the right means, through metal, you could push far enough, in theory, the limits of size and shape. Perhaps
there is also, the influence of my father, who was locksmith and let me access his workshop from an early age.
[atelier © Pierre Matter]

Adrian Ioniţă: Many people see an association between your sculpture and Steampunk. What do you think in
this regard? Could you define Steampunk? What would you say if one day your sculptures would be considered as
an outstanding representation of this movement?

Pierre Matter: I am quite unaware of what the Steampunk movement represents. I do not know if there is a form
of nostalgia in this movement. The Jules Verne angle inspires me enormously, especially in its dimension offered
towards the reflection on future, rather than its now, a bit outdated, plastic representation. What I know for sure is
that I'm not trying to be part of a particular movement.

[Spermship Hp 2022 © Pierre Matter]

Adrian Ioniţă: Anyway, the subjects of your art work are pure Steampunk, Where from all this interest?

Pierre Matter: The passion for boats, floating monsters, ghost towns, popular ghosts of the abyss after sinking,
all of them a potential Titanic, all comes straight from my childhood dreams. The journey, the mystery of the
Bermuda Triangle, Jules Verne, Herman Melville, and sperm whales, sharks and submarines, all this has come to
mix in my dream factory. There is also the danger, drama, the war, immersion, the supertankers, the extinction of
fish as species, a host of topics of inspiration that, as soon as I soaked them in the waters of the Blue Sea, were
trapped in the nets of my imagination.
[Hommage à Kubrick © Pierre Matter]

Adrian Ioniţă: „Hommage à Kubrick” brings up many interogations. Would you tell me something about the
idea of the piece?

Pierre Matter: The self-portrait in which I wear my own head under the arm, and whose head is replaced by a TV
screen, it’s a way to question myself about our times, in the same vain of "A Space Odyssey" movie, in which the
machine eventually ends up annihilating humans. The latest version of the global financial crisis tends to
corroborate the idea of the urgency for man to take back control on machines, not the opposite.

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: Your way of human representation inspired, at least in my case, a certain fear of
machineries, of human “mechanization” and the way the “machine” disturbs the self-perception of man. Do you
think that the postmodern world will ever go beyond the anxiety produced by the "mechanical man"? Some of your
works reminded me of "The Mechanical Bride" of Marshal Mc Luhan. Does your "Mechanical Women" reflect the
social and cultural constraints placed on the female body and the concept of femininity? How would you define
today, the concept of "femininity"?

Pierre Matter: Yes, there always resides an anxiety. Remove the trucks and you do not eat after a period of 2-3
days. If we outline ourselves in situations, which in fact are not so extreme as that, our lives may be completely
shattered because of a detail. Not even talking about the A-bomb, another machine that holds in its power the
human destiny. Since we became mechanical- men, the fact that the extensions are external (cars etc) or integrated
(prostheses, nano technologies applied to medical) does not change anything. And hence, women are not spared
either. In fact, the woman has always been a "cog" in the industrial and now post-industrial world, to the point
where today she joins the man to the same rank in the system’s slavery. Today, she has the same constraints of
time, labor, transportation, like the man, putting aside the constraints inherent to the status of woman, as
maternity for example, which is often delayed because of social pressures related to career or simple economic
needs. The liberation of women has also led to put in a position to exercise trades historically devoted to men,
either because of the harsh physical or psychological as in the case of the exercise of power. And I think that
unfortunately, women who, for example, are faced with the exercise of power, become less sensitive as men in the
same situation, and they often lose some of their femininity, that part of kindness, aspiration to peace, love and
solidarity that humanity needs to survive. The woman is the future of man...

[Freud’s Horse © Pierre Matter]

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: Your work was compared by many to those of HR Giger. Do you think that there is
some resemblance between Ginger’s methods of artistic expression, and your sculpture?

Pierre Matter: There is a clear correlation in my view, which is in harmony between human beings and
materials. My work is less morbid than Giger’s, whose dark side is quite obvious.

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: I note that one of your major themes in your work is the fear of man, seen as a
mixture of human and mechanism, the mixture of machine and the beast. Critics define your work as
biomechanics. Does your work fall under this definition? What is your opinion on the representation of man as
mechanical object or animal?

Pierre Matter: It is clear that biomechanics is at the heart of my thinking. There is so little more than gestures
made by man himself in the technological world. Almost everything we do is delegated to the machine. Just try to
count the number of mini food processors that may be there in a house of the twenty-first century. If all the
machines disappeared over night, we would be totally lost... They amplify our means, but make us totally
dependent. We therefore became cyborgs in its own right, even if the machines integrated as prostheses into our
bodies are still rare. All others are also extensions of our fingers, our eyes, ears, legs...

[Hommage à Ader © Pierre Matter]

Adrian Ioniţă: “Tribute to Ader”, dedicated to an inventor who managed to fly with the help of a steam engine,
seems to suggest the nostalgia for the times when we used to dream with open eyes. Please tell me something about
the idea of flight in your sculptures.

Pierre Matter: Our inability to fly must have been one of our oldest frustrations. The child in me is still in blissful
admiration in front of a flying machine, especially the first ones, those of those pioneers. Before them, of course,
have been Icarus, Pegasus, the entire mythology and the idea before the Incarnation. Today everything has become
so commonplace, most people fly as we take a train, without feeling that the mere rise in the air was magical,
without being aware that the flying machine is inherently one that allowed the man to exceed his own condition.

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: What do you see at the core of the relationship between nature and machine? How
are affected our notions about environment, world and humanity by this interconnection?

Pierre Matter: I think the nature of this relationship depends in fact by the order of the natural evolution, in the
sense that it is born from the millenary human evolution. It is not artificial, it derives directly from the sequence of
events that made the man what he is now and that since the dawn of time. The man is in nature and interacts with
it at this time mainly by destroying it. In this sense he it is not outside nature, but a part it. In the same way, the
machines are not external to humanity, they arise from it. The definition of the individual, his relationship to the
world, is evolving therefore along with his inventions. The man is not an isolated and frozen individual, he consists
of all the relationships it has with its environment. In this sense, he becomes cyborg (cybernetic organism).
[Satin pink love story © Pierre Matter]

Adrian Ioniţă: Some of your works, as “satin pink love story” are highly humorous.

Pierre Matter: Ben Harper said once at France Inter radio: In the morning when I wake up, half of me wants to
conquer the world and the other half does not want to get out of bed." I have the impression that us, all of us, have
today this side of "wanting to be anything other than what we are", which is both an awareness that life is not static,
we can evolve - but equally - is something very difficult, hard to bear if we try to live that way, because it is an
existential challenge which inflicts on ourselves.... That is what this, would be pink, Black Panther represents in
“satin pink love story”.

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: Could you name some significant cultural aspects of today's world that have
influenced your work?

Pierre Matter: I can quote people like Jodorowsky, Giger, Enki Bilal, Gimenez, some science fiction movies,
philosophers like Jacques Ellul, Paul Virillio, but also Jean-François Kahn, reflection on evolution in general,
Hubert Reeves, too. In a way, everything related to the quest for understanding of what we are, what is the universe
in which we live and to which we belong.

[Birth © Pierre Matter]

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: Is femininity today a question of biomechanics, as your work may suggest? How
would you evaluate the influence of postmodern mass culture, advertising or film on changes in self perception
suffered by individuals?

Pierre Matter: No, femininity is not a question of biomechanics, the breast implants are not "femininity". In my
work, femininity is to be found in the gentle curves that remain after we remove the mechanical part.
Advertising and marketing are constantly removing the man from himself. The perception he has about himself is
increasingly made through standards and norms. The Post-modern individual, dreams to be paced into a Brad Pitt
canon of beauty. From this point of view, the man joined the woman by wanting to strive for physical perfection the
way advertisements promote sales for creams and silicone. I think that the post-modern man is more in denial of
what he really is, an animal by instinct and a sensitive being who is suffering some not just a picture dream by
others for us.

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: Your animal sculptures represent a mixture of natural and industrial. Does nature
itself become a controllable "robotic" element?
Pierre Matter: In any case it is subservient to man. The truly wild nature is so over. The ground, any animal, has
become a tool of production, or food, of proteins, glue and even affection in the case of pets. The intervention of
genetic manipulation in the balance of nature is actually leaning towards Robotization.

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: Which of your artistic projects love you the most? Do you have a favorite work? Is
there a sculpture that you like over others, who represent something special for you?
Pierre Matter : I need years to understand whether a particular piece is more powerful or deeper or more
harmonious than another. My eyes need decanting, like wine... When immersed in the development of a work for
weeks, even months, and the play is over, it is almost impossible to have the necessary detachment to apprehend or
make judgments about it.
Very few times, when you reexamine a sculpture after a few years, and you say to yourself "Woow!" than you really
feel exultance.

[Vaisseau © Pierre Matter]


Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: How would you describe yourself in three simple words?

Pierre Matter: Simple, complex, stubborn.

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: What other passions define Pierre Matter outside the artist?

Pierre Matter: The meetings, travel, observation and criticism of the world as it is, the model ships of the
nineteenth century.

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: I understand that you have studied mathematics. What would be the part of your art
to be influenced by these studies?

Pierre Matter: The precision of gesture, the proportions of a sculpture, the overall harmony of a piece, at times-
geometry, mastering the temperature control of welding or casting bronze, etc…

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: Where do you find your inspiration for your projects?

Pierre Matter: Everywhere. The world, environment, reading, everything. The process of maturation of an
element, of a project, is quite difficult to grasp with words. That is why I express myself through sculpture.

Silvia-Alexandra Zaharia: Would you define yourself as "lone wolf", a solitary artist or you have employees
helping you give a final shape to your art projects?

Pierre Matter: Sometimes I work in collaboration, while taking about “the lone wolf” I’ll rather quote Cocteau
who said that the artist is a prison while his works are the evaders!...