Lisa Jeannin & Rolf Schuurman

Le Sous–Marin (2011)

Lisa Jeannin in conversation with Gertrud Sandqvist, Professor at Malmö Art Academy and co-curator of Pandemonium – Art in a Time of Creativity Fever.

Gertrud Sandqvist  In your recent works, you let your father tell the fascinating story of his father, an inventor and explorer. What comes first in your collaborations with Rolf Schurmans? The images, the sounds, or the narrative?

Lisa Jeannin Every work is born after a long period of rumination that manifests itself in a vision, and then the sounds emerge, but it’s mainly about capturing a mood. We start by creating the place, and then the characters. If we need other participants we contact them and start preparing for the shoot. In the case of this particular work, my father was visiting us. We had already decided that my father would be played by a little cooker, and my father too understood that on an intuitive level. The cooker was in the same room where he told the narrative. It was facing him, and he often went over to it and looked at it. We recorded his stories in four sessions. Then we edited parts of it together and started animating and filming the story. This was a new way of working for us, since we had never used verbal stories in our works before, and the visual material had always come first. But I have been contemplating this subject consciously and unconsciously for a long time, and have occasionally made works that relate to these stories and feelings. For instance, I built a submarine. Rolf encouraged me to finish this piece in the form of a film, and we collaborated on that. It’s incredibly liberating to go from thought to action. We contacted Linn who is in the film and asked if we could come to Paris and film her. We brought a small round window surrounded by a piece of wall that could be mounted on a super-8 camera. 

GS The atmosphere in your works is what stays the longest with the viewer. The submarine you mentioned – when did you make the first version, and what was its purpose?

LJ The first time it appeared was in drawings and paintings when I was doing my first year at art school in Den Bosch, the Netherlands. That was in 1995-96. But it was the apartments that were called the Submarine that I was drawing and painting, and I was looking for an atmosphere. This is where I experienced some kind of awakening! I had to build a vessel that was neither seaworthy nor able to travel on land, but only through drawings and paintings that hung freely in the room, suspended by threads from the ceiling, to be viewed via a periscope. I wanted to liberate my drawings from being fastened to the walls and just being looked at. I wanted to create a journey. Those who wanted to try my submarine entered a room that was dark apart from a spotlight fastened to the periscope to illuminate the drawings you went past. The experience resembled that of being in the middle of a primitively drawn animated movie, where picture after picture passed the periscope as I pushed each traveller around the room. The drawings were about the apartment my grandfather lived in, but also my own and other people’s childhoods, about ageing, about plants and animals, exotic places, about a gorilla hospital, and about travelling in a submarine. As soon as I had the idea of building my submarine, I knew I am really working with art in the way I want to.

GS This is both a comment and a question: drawing, which you mention in connection with your submarine, is so vital to your artistic work that I would like to suggest that your works can be seen as enacted drawings, where the potential of the drawing to create fantastic worlds is extended into a partially-enacted reality. But I am curious to know what you mean when you say you are working with art in the way you want. Tell me more about that.

LJ Well, the way Rolf and I work nowadays is a bit like drawing in the air something that becomes reality. It’s about creating a world where our narratives become real and start living their own life. 

And where the viewer is both a voyager and an explorer.

Biography Lisa Jeannin born 1972 in Sweden, lives and works in Sweden.Rolf Schuurmans born 1972 in Holland, lives and works in Sweden. Jeannin has produced poetic and complex films, sculptures and installations since late the 1990s, presenting a dreamlike and often comical universe. She received her education at The Art Academy of s’Hertogen Bosch, Holland and Malmö Academy of Fine Arts. In 2010 she exhibited at Malmö Art Museum together with Rolf Schuurmans. Solo exhibitions include: Hobo, Galleri Brändström & Stene, Stockholm; Nocturne, Galleri Box, Göteborg; Breaking the Law, Base Alpha, Antwerpen.