I am currently working on a project which takes place on a small island in Madagascar called Nosy T***A, located close to Nosy Be Island in the Channel of Mozambique. The project is called ET IN LIBERTALIA EGO. The project is based on the idea of the pirate’s utopia, inspired by the novel Libertalia by Captain Charles Johnson in his book « A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates « .
Its origins are an ambiguous mix of fiction and reality and some people suggest that “Charles Johnson” was actually Daniel Defoe. He set Libertalia in a place between Nosy be and Diego Suarez.
By coïncidence my aunt lives in Nosy be, so in 2008 I decided to go to visit her and do some research on Libertalia .
She lives in beachhouse and in front is a very tiny island called Nosy T***A .
I swam over to this island and discoverd that some people lived there – two women and some kids came to me and showed me around the island .
Then they introduced me to « Papa » -the chief of the Island.
Each day Saïd the son of the chief rowed me across in pyrogues .
I spent time with him discovering the Island, the family and its history.
The family lived there since 1920. The mother of Papa the chief bought the Island from the French governement when Madagascar was a colony.
Since then they try to keep a presence on the island.
Papa lives their permanetly with his son Said and his two kids.
The rest of the family come and go depending on what needs to be done.
They plant a lot of things, rice, mangos trees, coffee etc…
They are very poor and some people tried to take the Island from them.
They have difficulty to survive and to maintain the condition of their houses.
Everything is very precarious.
« Papa » is a sorcerer.
Nosy T***A is a sacred place. The spirits of deaths live there.
There are different holy places on the Island and most important a holy tree where the rituals take place.
While I was there, what was real and not real began to blur and I wasnt sure what to make of this.
The family and I finally decided to organise to a Zhur which is a 3day ritual, to celebrate our meeting.
The morning of the third day they came to me and asked me if I could do something on the Island to help them.
After 2 years of going back and forth to the Island with different ideas, I finally proposed to rent a part of their land to build a studio and develop my ideas of libertalia – the artwork as a utopia and Utopia as the subject of the artwork.
Art is « cosa mental », black magic is « cosa mental ».
Art and black magic are both connected. They both used objects or rituals to communicate.
I thought that this could be good way of communicating between myself and the family.
To put what we conisder art in this situation would create a new situation and art would have another meaning.
Art could become black magic in this new reality.
I imagined inviting artists, free thinkers, and writers that I have been inspired by to contribute and help me in this project. I imagined building a physical space that would become a mental space through the artworks.
The family talked to the spirits and the spirits accepted my project and Papa accepted me on the Island.
Some people privately helped me to finance the start of the project.
I built a small studio with basic commodities.
The main premise and methodology that I am adopting is based on ephermeral works that can be made for or adapted to the island, through a series of instructions.
The possibility of production we have there is limited and is part of the challenge.
It is also possible to come to the island and create something on site.
Afterwards we let the work have its own life and don’t maintain them.
In November 2012 I installed :
- A work by Pierre Huygue from 1995 called “Or.” This piece comprises a picture with two paths: the first is going somewhere, while the second has been specially built and is going nowhere. Pierre provided instructions to rebuild this work in Nosy T***A.
- Thomas Hirschhorn often places lists of books or small libraries in his exhibitions. He gave me a list of books called “Livres Parisiens” from which I created a small library in the studio.
- Damiàn Ortega provided instructions to number leaves of a tree. We have to keep the leaves to use them in the future as postcards.
In january 2013 I installed works by: Juan Pablo Macias, Gabriel Kuri, and Dejode & Lacombe came and produce a submarine beacon.
I work with the family as much I can.
We try to to communicate through our respective cultures and find ways to create something together that could be positive for each other.
Each time we produce an atrwork, we produce or provide something for them.
The first concern for the family was to provide them with paid work to live and to reinforce their presence on the Island.
We are in a postcolonial situation which makes the situation even more delicate.
We rebuilt a house for Saïd, built a new well and built pyrogues.
We will restore existing other houses and bungalows and build new ones.
They will be able to rent one to other people that come through, e.g -fishermen, sailors
Some artists like Les frères Chapuisat, Mike Nelson, Rudy Ricciotti will work directly on this goal.
We are also helping them to put the two kids into school.
Since 2014 ,the project is support by La Maison Rouge in Paris where I will create an exhibition about the project in Febraury 2015.
I really hope you will participate in this adventure.