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Claude Eigan | Interview

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Claude Eigan, Foto: Jörn Rädisch

In sleeping mode

On July 8th, Claude Eigan opens her first solo show “Comfort Zone” at L’espace de l’espèce
in Berlin. On the occasion of Artfest 2016 at HB55 Kunstfabrik, she is showing her latest
sculptures. We met the artist in preparation of her exhibition to find out more about the origin
and the connection between the title and her latest pieces. At her studio we talked about
the comfort and anxiety that lies within the exploration of new paths, materials, and collaborations.

“The idea came while I was working in a corporate office during my time as a graphic designer; especially
while I was working in San Francisco. I would often find myself in these big conference
rooms that in most cases lack any soul and identity.Yet you could hear the sea coming from outside,
which is a weird experience because at the same time these rooms are so isolated.The set up
seems to organize the meeting space as a place where functionality counts. You have to make it
short, be precise and hence be more efficient.”

Often those conference spaces are rented out to numerous different parties. Thus you
know you only have it at your disposal for a specific amount of time.

“Yes, but you can detect this already in the offices: The notion of speed and the request for action
is all-encompassing.

You described the space as somehow neutral and impersonal. Consequently one could
think that it gives you a certain comfort, makes it universal even so everyone can join in the
meeting equally, on common grounds.
Did you feel disconnected from your environment?

“You try to be active, and then you will hear the seabirds and all these sounds coming from outside
which have nothing to do with what you are working on inside. I wanted to associate this kind of
rigidly scheduled hyperactive space with the experience of timelessness.”

In order to flatten the contrast you experienced?

“Yes and no, in this moment the presence of the different constituting elements became more apparent,
and I started wandering what is happening in this room, when no one is here to use it,
when everything is quiet and “sleepy”?”

You mean, you detected the nature of things in a conference room where the value of things
only adds on because of use, i.e. human activation of its function?

“Yes, there is a very intriguing moment while things are in sleeping mode and kind of on hold, waiting
to be reactivated. In the meantime, paused and quiet, weird things evolve, the conference phone
becomes useless yet its actual shape becomes apparent. The objects’ and spatial sound, their
physical space reclaim presence. Things somehow become alive. Imagine you are dreaming of
going to work. There is a certain awkwardness that arises.”

You start looking at the things; objects which are not designed to enter your perception but
to serve its function. They retrieve in order to give space for exchange and content but you
make them raise their own voices.

“I put them in perspective again. I am looking for the object’s intrinsic characteristics.The shape,
the object itself animates my fantasy. It all of the sudden becomes a lively thing, yet in a way not
really alive, simply somehow present. I think of it as more of some kind of morphosis. The sculptures
I derived from the actual forms encountered. They don’t move in time either but are congealed
in time like fossils. As an object of matter they regain presence and value. It is this kind of design
that supposedly makes you feel comfortable, that is aligned with your body, with the nature of
things.”

That adapts to your shape and lets you work at your best.

“But can only fit one person. Which brings me to the main idea: what would happen when there is
no one here? When there is no human activity to interact with those elements, is there something
we can still gain from this neutral and impersonal object deprived of any live, only characterized by
basic function itself. On the other hand: what does it mean, when the offices in nowadays are designed
and conceived as a space that fulfill all our needs. A place where you can spent all your day.
Yet at the end it is the same you are spending your life at work. Somehow nobody cares about it, it
is made to disappear. I guess there you can find the consistency in my practice throughout the past
three years.”

Most of the time you have been intrigued by the shape of things and how they dissolve in
our day to day use. You always burst ready-made objects everyone recognized open to reveal
their most inner coherences.

“Yes, in most of my work, I’m using objects that people don’t really see anymore, mostly because
they are too generic to be noticed: at some point you don’t pay attention to its aesthetic or its design.
It becomes just a functional thing, you don’t really think about, you just use it.
For this show in particular, I’m following the same principle. There is also a lot of experimentation in
my practice, which is actually quite funny especially since its title is “Comfort Zone”. It wasn't comfortable
at all to produce this show, most of the materials used, I have used for the very first time. I
didn't know how to work and produce with it.”

Your change of practice thus also pushed you out of your comfort zone. At the beginning of
the exhibition you said stands the office design which is made to isolate you. Yet it lead you
to collaborate a lot. In the arts the question always stands: Does an artist need to create
everything out of his/ her own hands or can he/she use others?

“Yes, maybe I also felt that to work as an artist you can get isolated somehow; especially when
you have your own space. I mean spending a lot of time alone enables you to stay focused and
concentrated but sometimes this can be tricky too. Especially if you have so many things to do, it is
better to work together with other people, get them involved and get their feedback. I think it is actually
better to work with people that are skilled and specialized on the things that aren‘t your area
of expertise. Why spend valuable time on attempting to construct what you envisioned, especially
when I know there is someone downstairs who does it perfectly. So I decided I would rather focus
on experiencing new materials, invest my energy in using them creatively. It is more for practical
elements when I consider relying on help.”

You mentioned that one of the reasons you moved to HB55 Kunstfabrik was the idea of having
more of the possibility to enter into an exchange and get in touch with other artists. Do
you think HB55 Kunstfabrik is providing and enabling this more than other studio houses?

“Yes, well the studio house I had my atelier at before was more based on the concept of renting
boxes for artists. There was no communication about what is going on in the space. I mean there
was also nothing going on in the space. There was no way to have food. No network thing. I was
missing that at the time but I also understand that some artist might need the isolation. I think the
exhibition space is also a very important thing at HB55 Kunstfabrik. There are 220 artists in the
same building and it just makes sense that they have a space where they can exhibit their work.
When I moved into the space it was clear to me that I have a curator of the space that I can approach.
I can ask her to help me with something or do an exhibition together but you can also do
your own thing here. There is no obligation. I think it is good to have both. Not all the spaces provide
their artists with these possibilities.”