Ben displays all his brilliant mind in an archive video from 1989

Ben displays all his brilliant mind in an archive video from 1989
Ben displays all his brilliant mind in an archive video from 1989

The shock wave caused by the announcement of his death spread far beyond the small world of art, as his aura radiated everywhere. Solar artist, generous and laughing, Ben Vautier killed himself on June 5, just a few hours after his wife Annie died of a stroke… Leaving the city of Nicewhere he had been based since 1949, orphan of one of its most eminent and popular figures.

“The whole history of art is a story of ego. ” In this video archive from 1989the artist already widely recognized for his philosophical-comic witticisms written in white cursive letters on a black background, answers questions from host Thierry Ardisson. The anecdotes flow at lightning speed, from his job as a record store to his first steps as an artist at the end of the 1950s, when he sought “methodically to do what had not yet been done”.

The ego, the artist’s worst enemy

“When John Cage says ‘everything is music’, it’s not true! Rather, he tells us ‘everything is John Cage!’ »

Ben affirms it: since Marcel Duchamp elevated a simple bottle rack to the status of a work of art in 1914, anything is possible! If overcoming the champion of the ready-made nevertheless seems difficult, he calls on artists not to wallow in the reproduction of reality and to seek to “bring something new”. For him, everything is art “provided that we assume it theoretically”.

The artist’s worst enemy? His disproportionate “self” ! To convince his interlocutor, Ben returns in particular to the “failure” of Fluxusa movement in which he took part alongside Nam Jun Paik and Yoko Ono: “Fluxus tries to combine life with art, but it is a failure because [les artistes] can’t get rid of their ego. When John Cage says ‘everything is music’, it’s not true! Rather, he tells us ‘everything is John Cage!’ » QED!

A philosophical artist

Throughout the interview, Ben multiplies his humor and wit, sometimes becoming a philosopher, sometimes a critic, as when he questions the ambiguous relationship between art and power. One question, however, leaves him (almost) speechless: “What is art for? » Ben hesitates, procrastinates: “I thought at first that it was a story of well-being but I don’t believe it, it worries me. Because of art, I don’t sleep at night. » Let us hope that death, which he so often addressed in his work without ever fearing it, finally gives him a little respite.

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