Cyril de Commarque: ‘I believe in a new renaissance of thinking’
The French artist has converted a grain barge into an artwork to sail the Thames, blasting out a soundtrack of revolution and hosting conferences with leading thinkers on philosophy, economics and nanotechnology. He welcomed Studio International on board
Cyril de Commarque (b1970) believes in the theory of progress acceleration: that we can’t change the technological progress that is going on around us at an exponential rate. But, as a result, changes in society are no longer democratic, he says: they are decided neither by the politicians, nor the people, but happen as a result of mobile phones and social media and who knows what else. “The only space for freedom we can gain is inside ourselves,” de Commarque concludes, remaining adamant of the need to dream of a new utopia, despite its inherent risks.
Having previously worked with architectural projects and social and political subjects, including migration and the evolution of political and geographical borders, de Commarque has spent three years working on Fluxland, converting a 1950s Dutch grain barge into a 25-metre-long, interactive artwork, sound piece and space for debate. The name derives from his interest in borders, but also the Fluxus movement in art, and his belief that art has a function, to reveal to people the necessity of taking action, and not becoming the victim of politics. As part of Totally Thames, the boat will sail up and down the river, attracting audiences, who will hear the battle cries of revolutions and the speeches both of dictators and of peace, emanating from the speakers, and then come closer to see themselves reflected in the mirrored surfaces. This upper part of the barge is constructed out of two polyhedrons – the symbol of melancholia – and will reflect both the river and the onlookers, inviting them to look inside, both the vessel and themselves. As de Commarque says: “You have to go inside of yourself and accept the humility to think: ‘Am I doing the right thing for a better world?’”
Throughout the month, a series of conferences will be hosted on board, in association with Art Review. These will feature other artists, economists, philosophers and a nanotechnologist, all invited to discuss future utopian projects.
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY