Arne Quinze: Climbing Camille

Dazed Digital talks to Arne Quinze about Camille – a wooden installation that symbolically connects the left and right riverbanks of Rouen

Photographs by Denis Decaluwé
Art and architecture are unanimously considered as extremely serious disciplines. Yet in Arne Quinze’s world they usually turn into two joyfully inspiring forces that, juxtaposed and combined, offer people a creative and interactive playground. In the last few years, the Belgian artist has been working on many public installations, creating structures of entangled wooden sticks under which people can walk, think, meet and dream. Quinze is currently completing a new 120-metre long wooden installation, entitled “Camille”, in Rouen. Every summer the French city on the River Seine organises the Rouen Impressionnée festival, comprising an exhibition at the local Museum de Beaux Arts featuring Impressionist paintings by renowned artists and contemporary public installations in town.

Quinze is paying homage to Monet with his exhibition Les Jardins at the Abbatiale de Saint-Ouen, featuring his new works inspired by Monet’s Water Lilies, while building “Camille” on the Boieldieu Bridge. Located in the heart of Rouen, the bridge has a strong link with the Impressionists since Camille Pissarro often painted it, while the title of Quinze’s installation is also a tribute to Claude Monet’s first wife, Camille Doncieux

Solid, yet at the same time fragile and volatile, “Camille” incorporates elements of Alberto Giacometti’s thin and elongated sculptures and Alexander Calder’s suspended abstract mobiles in its structure, while representing the embodiment of Quinze’s beliefs in a society in which all individuals communicate and interact one with the other. Erasing the divisions between the left and right sides of the river, “Camille” represents a link between the Impressionists and modern art, and a benign spirit connecting people, sparking a dialogue and generating social interaction.

Dazed Digital: How did you get involved in this project?
Arne Quinze: The city of Rouen asked me to build something for Rouen Impressionnée, a contemporary art festival with a link to Impressionism. When I saw the bridge for the first time, I immediately knew this installation would have been perfect since it would have connected the riverbanks. All my sculptures are about bringing people together and here in Rouen the Seine divides the city in two parts.
 
DD: In which ways can “Camille” help people getting together and how does it create juxtapositions and contrasts with the surrounding landscape?
Arne Quinze: People who will pass under the installation will stop and chat to each other about it and, after that, they will keep on talking about their city and their lives. That’s how they will get together and become connected one to the other. The bridge is located in a central place that it’s normally a vital traffic artery so the installation is already affecting the lives of many people. Camille is a direct confrontation you can’t escape, you will see it not only if you want to cross from the left bank to the right bank and the other way around, but also if you are far away from it. The view is fantastic and intense when you enter the city and Camille appears right in front of you. Contradiction is a keyword in my work and, while this modern artwork is completely different from the old cathedral, churches and houses in the city, I see it as integrated in the surrounding landscape. Rouen is trying to take things a step further, aspiring to play a leading role in putting contemporary art in an urban context and generating a debate amongst its inhabitants.

DD: What does the orange colour decorating the bridge represent?
Arne Quinze: Each wooden slat in Camille represents a human being and all the entangled sticks symbolise the fact that we are all linked to each other. The orange is a reflection of the contradiction I find in people. This unnatural colour also creates an interesting juxtaposition with the natural colour of wood.

DD: How long is it going to take to build the bridge and how long will it stay there?
Arne Quinze: I’ve been working on the installation for two weeks now with my tea, and there's also a communication team updating the blog constantly and working on a book about this project. We worked a lot on preparations, researches and studies before starting to build the bridge and the city services have been a huge help in making sure this project happened. The installation will stay for two months, and I guess the best thing about it is the fact that the bridge will be closed for car traffic. Only pedestrians and cyclists will be able to cross the bridge, hang around it and experience the sculpture.

DD: Can art and architecture help connecting people and making our society a better place?
Arne Quinze: Architecture and art are a way to start discussion. When architecture and art take a place in a public place everyone is confronted with it and has an opinion about it. In this way, it goes further than only putting something on a bridge, it is about people reacting about the installation and getting linked by it.
 
DD: What kind of feedback did you get from the local people?
Arne Quinze: At first, people weren’t too happy to get their lives disrupted by us building the installation. They are used to crossing the bridge and now have to go a bit further to do it, but when we explain what’s going on, all of a sudden they start getting curious about how the sculpture will turn out in its final phase. Someone even asked why it’s only going to stay here for just a few weeks… that’s a good sign!
 
DD: From a structural point of view, which has been the most difficult part of building Camille?
Arne Quinze: Constantly trying to keep the sculpture in balance. That’s hard on a bridge. It’s the first time I build an installation on a bridge. The impact of the wind is much bigger than when you’re building on firm ground.
 
DD: You recently created new works based on Monet’s Water Lilies, what fascinates you about this painter?
Arne Quinze: I could go on talking about Monet for hours! I’m absolutely fascinated by this artist and by the way he painted. His paintings about his gardens in Giverny are mystical and mysterious, but also experimental and he kept studying on them. He could dive into a subject and paint it over and over to make it look exactly like the vision he had in mind. Monet was one of the first abstract painters, he was keen on experimenting and creating a new art movement.  

DD: Will you be working on further public art installations in the future months?
Arne Quinze: There are quite a few projects scheduled for the next few months: in August my first metal installation will be featured in an exhibition my gallerist Guy Pieters (www.guypietersgallery.com) is organizing in Knokke. After that I’m going to Shanghai to install a sculpture over there, then I’ll be setting up an exhibition in Munich entitled “My Home, My House, My Stilthouse” at Thomas Gallery while also working on sculptures in Montenegro and Moscow.
More Arts+Culture