Cartoonist Philippe Vuillemin, from Charlie Hebdo, exhibits at the Fleurs de Bitume Showroom, in Béziers

Cartoonist Philippe Vuillemin, from Charlie Hebdo, exhibits at the Fleurs de Bitume Showroom, in Béziers
Cartoonist Philippe Vuillemin, from Charlie Hebdo, exhibits at the Fleurs de Bitume Showroom, in Béziers

This Saturday, May 25, the Fleurs de Bitume Showroom, located near the central halls of Béziers, hosted the designer Philippe Vuillemin (Charlie Hebdo, Hara-Kiri, l’Écho des Savanes). He exhibits there until June 2.

An old backpacker in the satirical press, Philippe Vuillemin has worked for Charlie Hebdo, Hara-Kiri and even l’Écho des Savanes. An exhibition presenting part of his work will be visible at Fleur de Bitume until June 2.

How did you come to do this exhibition here at Fleur de Bitume?

I come to Béziers from time to time, I have a friend who runs a bistro nearby. His wife is an embroiderer, I gave her a jacket. It was when he came to get this jacket that he introduced me to these people. It’s completely anecdotal. There is no particular reason, it’s out of friendship.

What works have you chosen to exhibit?

What I usually do. I put things from a series called Les Sales Jokes in l’Écho des Savanes. There are also the drawings that I am currently doing in Charlie Hebdo. I mixed the old and the modern.

Could you come back to your journey?

It was a designer called Yves Got who introduced me to Écho des Savanes at the end of 70. I released my first book with them in 77. One day, I was coming back from a festival in Font-Romeu when ‘a guy tells me that there is Charlie’s gang in a train car. I wanted to at least see them physically. A guy introduces us, and then Reiser says to me “Is that you, Vuillemin?” He had read my book. He said to me, “You come see us at Charlie.” Little by little, Choron made me do something else. I found myself with the keys to Hara-Kiri. I continued with l’Écho des Savanes, where I took up the Dirty Jokes of Reiser and Coluche, when Reiser died. I continued to work on various projects with Choron, then a little for Libération and Siné Hebdo. In 2015, after the attacks, I stopped Dirty Jokes to return to Charlie. The circle was closed.

What is your point of view on the evolution of the satirical press?

Let’s say that the paper press practically no longer exists. The readers who read Charlie Hebdo are those who read it in the 80s. For comics, it’s the same, there are no more comics newspapers. I arrived at the time when it was still blazing and then everything disappeared. The press is not dead, but the big print runs are over. I think it will come back one day if there is a big power outage.

You have quite a dark sense of humor, do you feel restricted about that today?

No, France remains a country where you can still do anything and everything. There is no censorship problem. Of course, on the internet, there are people who don’t hesitate to say in relation to Charlie “you only got what you deserve”, when a drawing is not liked. It’s pub bullshit, if the networks didn’t exist it would be forgotten the next day. But the problem with social media is that it stays.

Was one of your albums censored at the time? (Hitler = SS)

Not censored, banned. We did a series on the Shoah in 87 with Jean-Marie Gourio. It was in relation to the fact that former homosexual deportees had been turned away by Jewish and communist deportees during a memorial. We said to ourselves that there was a golden subject on this. The book didn’t last two days, it was seized. We were accused of inciting racial hatred. There was a trial afterwards, I don’t know if we won or lost, in any case we were acquitted. As a result, it has become a legendary book that costs a fortune on the internet. I reread it recently and I find it very funny, there is not an ounce of provocation.

Do you think you have a favorite subject?

No, for me, what matters is finding the drawing that makes you laugh. I don’t have a fight or anything. I watch Cnews, I laugh to myself, the work is half done. When I saw Choron laughing at one of my drawings for the first time, it was as if I had been awarded the Legion of Honor. The goal is to find the little thing. It doesn’t pretend to change the world. What’s rewarding is seeing someone come out of an exhibition laughing.

Fleurs de Bitume, rue du Chapeau-Rouge, in Béziers. Such. 06 09 69 26 73. Showroom open Thursday and Friday, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. FREE ENTRANCE.
Midi Libre correspondent: 06 46 32 13 96.
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