Disclaimer: this biography is based on conversations between Camille Laurelli and Brigit Arop.
Camille Laurelli (1981) is an intermedia artist combining mainly video, photography, performance, sculpture and curation in his work. His work is often confusing, misleading, based on failure, pirated and provoked misunderstandings, hence it often leaves the art field, and even his mother, confused. He is interested in the practice of collecting, sometimes turning his collection of objects or found images into a serial work. An important part of his practice is working with other artists and self-run spaces.
Studies and early work
“I studied visual art and after graduating I became a photographer. I was doing installations, taking pictures of them, and often exhibited the documentation of the installation work. I think I stopped being a photographer when I lost my camera. I wasn’t so much concerned with specific themes, rather the practice itself. During my studies and also later, I was fond of and influenced by artists who used humour as a statement.
During my master’s studies I developed the term “anachronistic plagiarism”, which I later found out was already an idea that other authors were working on. More than once I witnessed a situation when a student had their work criticized on the account of it being already done. You made something that another artist has already done as the ultimate critique, game over! Sometimes you see something that you had an idea about before. Whatever I do, someone else probably made it before, and probably will do it after me. So in that way they copied me, they just didn’t know it.
I was very influenced by Dick head man Record label’s work, and after school I joined them becoming one of the producers of the label. It is a fictional record label, which recorded and self-published amateur music, also hiding the burned CDs on the shelves of libraries. It was funny to imagine a band that could produce these sounds we were making on our computers. Dick head man Records was an excuse to do something else in addition to music – to use art for intervention.”
“I see potential in collecting, thus I have a lot of small collections. I have a sculptural view for everything – I see plastic, a form, and aesthetics. Everything is information waiting to be assembled. So a collection could be a composition, like you can see the shelves in the video game museum. I archive toys, books, comics, lighters, satirical magazines and newspapers, toy guns, video games, T-shirts, vinyl, tapes, postcards, pins. There was a period when I collected ashtrays. Sometimes my work materializes through the collections and documentation I have archived. The work “Hourglasses” (“Sabliers”) is a symbol of time passing with no recourse. In the case of memes, pictures, the internet, video games, etc., I play with the idea of contemporary folklore, at the same time recognizing that the concept could be filled with any kind of meaning. When I decided to establish the video game museum it was a combination of all these habits echoing my practice.”
On being a failed artist
“It started when I was in school and saw that the students were stressed out about having no residencies, supporting galleries or other institutions. They saw that other people decide if your work has potential or not. Around the same time I also realised that in France all the exhibition criticism was always positive. The institutions invited critics to write about the events and if the feedback was positive, you might be invited again. So I decided to play with the idea of inventing a character that is actually myself, sometimes using knowledge from performance, and failure as a form to portray an artist. This is connected both to laziness, as well as the idea of caricature. I have planned lectures and talks, but often I forgot what I planned, or got distracted… So I caricature myself in situations where failure is a high possibility. Also I wanted to see how the audience would react, and I was always open for any unplanned impulses and accidents which could become part of the show. I feel it’s like a cheat code, and gives you immunity in the art world! This reflects how I was fascinated by an American reality TV show “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist” – if an artist succeeded in an assignment he got immunity for the next one.”
Collective practices and self established art spaces
“Dick head man Records, Contemporary Art Center Oui in Grenoble, Showcase galleries in Grenoble (Showcase Galerie) and Tallinn (ARS and Volta Showcase), Interactive Video game Museum LVLup! – are some of the collective practices and self-run spaces I have been connected to over the years. I used to work in museums as a technician. Since then, part of my artistic practice is working with other artists, and having a space was an excuse to invite and meet artists whose work I enjoy. Working with artists and running self-established spaces was exciting and I didn’t have to build walls, usually. I was excited about the idea of installation, working with unusual materials. This was easier when I had access to an artist-run space. I didn’t have a CV, I wasn’t going to openings, I wasn’t trying to sell myself, so building my own institution allowed me to play by my own rules. All the artists I work with use humour in a way, so it is all kind of a serious joke. And you could say that in a way I’ve never escaped being an installation technician.”
Camille Laurelli is a French artist who lives and works in Tallinn, Estonia. He graduated from Grenoble Higher Art School (MA 2005) and Annecy Higher Art School (PhD 2015). He has curated exhibitions in Estonia, Sweden, France and in the Czech Republic. Laurelli is a co-founder and artistic director of the LVLup! Video game Museum. He is a visiting lecturer in the Estonian Academy of Arts. His work belongs to private collections.