1. In 1995, you established Bartleby & Co., which creates and publishes artists’ books and editions. What inspired you to establish such a project?
“Bartleby & Co.” developed gradually. My first edition from 1995 was inspired by Luc Richir, my former professor of philosophy at the Brussels “Académie des Beaux Arts”. Upon visiting a small exhibition displaying some of my drawing books, he asked me if I would like to work with him. He gave me a manuscript consisting solely of aphorisms, and I added my original drawings. We named the joint project, “La Quadrature du Ciel”. To me, making artists’ books seemed to be the perfect solution to combine three of my professional passions: bookselling (first trained as a bookseller), bookmaking (working as a production manager for a well-known German art publisher) and art (studying painting at the Art Academy in Brussels).
2. Certainly your project Bartleby & Co., helps you in networking and in facilitating the exchange of ideas with other artists. How does this collaboration inspire your own work and practice?
Over the years, collaborating with other “experts” has become the most important to me. What I truly like about making artists’ books is indeed the collaborative aspect. One cannot make a book all by one’s self. Writers, artists, printers, and bookbinders are all essential during the publishing process.
3. Your exhibition “Winter Heroes,” is currently on view at Deutsches Haus at NYU. Can you tell us how you developed the idea for this exhibition and how it was realized?
I like the idea that my books can be exhibited as specific objects of art without neglecting the richness of the content they are comprised of. For the show at Deutsches Haus, I tried to make a simple and movable exhibition featuring a few pages, quotations, laminated photographs and some other material of the two editions Neuköln “Heroes” and Nuclear Winter.
4. Besides the texts from these two very special artists’ books, the work of two photographers is part of the exhibition. Can you tell us a little more about these collaborators?
Indeed, the show is featuring some elements of the book Neuköln “Heroes,” published in close collaboration with the two Parisian photographers, Benoît Grimbert and Hannah Darabi. In addition to a series of stills from the silent Billy Wilder film, “Menschen am Sonntag,” showing ordinary Berliners from the 1920’s, Benoît and Hannah present their photographs of people from Berlin-Neukölln today. “Nuclear Winter,” was done with Benoît Grimbert, with whom I’ve already made a few books, three of them feature famous iconic figures of pop.
5. Is there anything else you are reflecting on during your stay in New York City? Any new projects you are thinking of?
Yes indeed! From time to time I come to New York. Over the years – ever since I first came here in 1989 – I’ve made friends with various artists, many of who I’ve enjoyed intensive work relations. During my stay, I met the New York based artist-writer Richard Kostelanetz, with whom I recently finished a book project. We are now developing a new book idea.
I also met with Joe Scanlan, a visual artist who lectures at Princeton. Twelve years ago, we published the book “Two Views,” and this time we have propelled the idea of publishing a book based on a monumental series of 3000 drawings he made. Another friend, the painter Laleh Khorramian from Catskill, met up with me in New York City and we are dreaming of a new joint artist book.
6. What has been your most precious experience in New York City? What do you enjoy the most when you are here?
I love New York City. I also like to discover new places. This time, I “found” an old-fashioned sandwich shop called “Eisenberg,” near the Flatiron building at Madison Square. Another enjoyable experience was the great “Hilma af Klint” show at the Guggenheim Museum. I’ve never before heard about this early abstract painter from Sweden. I found her work astonishingly beautiful.
7. Where do you feel most creative? Indoors? Outdoors? Has a city ever captivated your imagination?
I get my best ideas in public places. I love sitting in cafes or bars with a note or sketch book. While observing the other guests, and if sitting next to a window, I watch the life outside, get into a meditative mood, and in this state, I get new ideas…
8. Are there any contemporary artists that you’re particularly interested in?
“Hilma af Klint” was a real discovery. I prefer “silent” artists and those who for some reason are underestimated. On the more famous side, I admire the work of the Austrian painter Maria Lassnig, who passed in 2014. I’m really inspired by the work of Joseph Beuys, and I truly appreciate the American artist Richard Prince.