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Interview with Etant donnés resident Pierre Paulin

Pierre Paulin spent a few months in residency in New York in 2019 to work on a book with American poet Tan Lin. Born in 1982 in France, he lives and works in Paris. He has exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013); the Ricard foundation, Paris (2016); and the Calouste-Gulbenkian Foundation, Paris (2017). In 2017, he had a solo exhibition at the Plateau FRAC, Île-de-France, Paris and, in 2018, he had a solo show at Circuit, Lausanne.

What was your initial project at the residency?

I arrived in New York with the intention to pursue a writing project with the New-Yorker poet Tan Lin. I had previously invited him to Paris to give several lectures and to participate in a staged discussion for my personal exhibition “Boom Boom Run Run” at the FRAC Île-de-France. We also co-organized an exhibition with Gallien Dejean, showcasing his work at Treize, an independent Paris venue. On this occasion, we worked with art historian Maxime Boidy to translate his essay “Disco as Operating System”, which was published by Mix Edition. After all these different projects, coming to an artist residency in New York to pursue a writing project together was the logical continuation of our exchange. In Paris, Tan and I had already started thinking about a collaborative publication on the cultural aspect of the smells and scents of our two respective cities.

What were you able to create in this context?

In the course of my residency, I wrote an essay about the perception of smells and the idea of memory in the perfumery industry. The text focuses on Chanel’s use of perfume as a marketing strategy after World War I, when American soldiers brought back French perfume as a souvenir from Europe. Tan Lin wrote an essay entitled “A Biography of Smell”, about the Chanel perfume that his mother wore and the smells of his childhood, like those of electronics or of certain books, from which he created a fabric of personal memory. Apart from that, I have also been invited to exhibit my work and hold a lecture at the Emily Harvey Foundation, where I was able to meet members of the New-Yorker poetry scene and people from the independent publishing world.

Can you present to us your new creations or the current progress of your research?

During those three months of writing, I also took the time to think about how I would publish the two texts that we were writing together with Tan, which led me to develop a bilingual editorial format in the form of a magazine I entitled la robe (the dress). The purpose of this magazine is to record and to distribute, bit by bit, my texts, my notes, transcriptions of conversations, documents integral to my artistic practice, but also to publish my texts and/or elements from people with whom I exchange. This magazine was born out of the desire to create a channel of distribution for all the activities peripheral to my art, such as this collaboration with Tan Lin.

How did your residency unfold?

The time spent in New York allowed me to make a sidestep, to launch the editorial format la robe, which turned out to be a central part of my practice. I am currently working on the third issue of la robe. In addition, the text I wrote with Tan Lin allowed me to jump back to a short film project about the mirrored staircase of the Chanel boutique at 31 Rue Cambon.

What future prospects and desires do you have at the end of this residency?

When I stayed New York I forged ties with curators and publishers to give rise to projects between Paris and New York. As of now, I have the possibility to come back in December to present the first three issues of “la robe”. I wish to develop an edition with an independant US publisher focusing on artists' books. The event will take place in NYC in December, in a place to be confirmed shortly.

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