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Interview to Camille Gamero-Truong (b. 2000), lives and works in Paris. 

I met Paris-based multimedia artist Camille Gamero-Truong in the early morning - Bonjour, hello, ça va, and you? - we hesitate between French and English, a fact that feels staged, given that her work revolves around language barriers and alternative modes of communication. After the interview, she laughs at my notes, scribbled in three different languages: “Quite meta!”

Camille is currently assistant to artist Ugo Schildge at POUSH residency in the district of Aubervilliers, where the artist has offered her a tiny alcove to use as a studio in exchange for her help. I climb up the stairs of this Harry-potterish space to find Camille sitting amongst stacks of papers, piles of books, drawings stuck on the wall and cardboard sculptures. We speak for hours, but no time seems to pass at all. Camille tells me a story that feels like a novel. Coming from a background in Cinema Studies, she studied a year of Fine Arts at Université de Bourges, and then moved on to collaborate as an assistant for scenographer Dimitri Robert-Rimsky, a turning point that pushed her towards embarking herself in a self-taught and self-developed artistic career. Her practice is all about communication, or the lack of it. She is interested in “the link between words and spaces and narrations,” which she explores through installation pieces, sculptures, videos and drawings, giving voice to inanimate objects such as furniture, food, and other domestic items that silently refer audiences to the uses, symbolism and relationships established around them.

I follow her words closely, moving from past to present, from thoughts to materials, to jokes to relationships; stringing anecdotes about family dinners, Vietnamese TV series from the 90s, holes in the wall, poems in the air, love letters to beds and more.

Hello Camille! So, first things first. Why did you decide to change from Cinema Studies to Fine Arts? Has your previous cinematographic training influenced your artistic practice, and, if so, how?

I decided to go to Fine Arts because I wanted to be free to change from a medium to another. I have always liked the possibility to change what I’m doing. But Cinema remains first in my heart, so I try to bring techniques from it to all my work. I even did a movie credit based on objects that surrounded me as actors of my own story.

In the past years, you have worked in several collective ateliers, such as Dimitri Robert-Rimsky’s and now POUSH, as an assistant to artist Ugo Schildge – Quite hectic! Do you find it stimulating to be constantly surrounded by artists from diverse backgrounds?

In reverse, these spaces are really big and artists are not always in the ateliers, so it feels almost lonely sometimes. But it definitely nourished me to meet all those practices, their diversity and versatility. I realised how many forms an artwork could take. Working for a conceptual artist, and after that a formalist one, also helped me understand a lot.

Before becoming a visual artist, you were already a writer. How does your interest in writing materialize in your 2D and 3D pieces?

Writing is the foundation for me. That’s how I work. Dimitri used to scream at me because I was always writing my projects instead of doing drawings or sketches! Yet, even if I have a sketchbook now, to be honest it’s still full of words. I’m interested in the mutations of narration and language, trough writing, dialogue and sound.

You commented that during the time as an assistant for videoast Dimitri Robert-Rimsky you learnt about how the architectonic division of space affects the relationships taking place within it. In what ways? How have you translated these impressions within your own work?

Super funny! I actually understood it by making the walls of Rotolux. I had never been handy before, so I was impressed by everything. From using a hammer to discovering that some walls were made of a material as fragile as plaster. How easy it was to cut it, even though it’s aimed to separate spaces and intimacies, inspired me to do my work “The hole”. It’s a performance where I simply make a hole in a plasterboard. My goal was to create an alternative way of communicating without words.

You love Taïwannese-malay director Tsaï Ming-Liang’s films, as well as Mumblecore movies. Can you speak to us more about these references, and others that you like? Why did you enjoy them so much?

In terms of cinema, i have an attachment for low-budgets movies. When I found out about the cinematographic movement Mumblecore, I was immediately drawn to it, because it tackled subjects that I could relate to : conversations and questions made by people in their twenty-somethings about life. I’ve been inspired by how their conversations shaped the staging of those movies. A pattern I recognized in Tsai-Ming Liang’s filmography, but reversely. Here, words are transformed into silence, the deambulations of actors making a new language based on their lack of communication. The Mumblecore movies are assimilated through improvisation, casting friends from real life.

However, the “real” aspect in Tsai-Ming Liang movies happens through the passage of time, because there are few dialogues, as life can unroll. That’s why I love them, they contained a raw sincerity.

In your latest sculpture, you created two “Chinese baguettes” decorated in French styled goldening, referencing the Asian restaurant where your grandfather used to work in Paris, “La Baguette d’Or”. Was this mix of symbols from multiple cultures meant in an ironic way?

In my childhood, I went a lot to this restaurant and have always been confused by it. Indeed, it was called “Asian restaurant,” but served dishes from Vietnam, Thailand and China. There are a lot of them, as I’ve seen them all around Paris. I wanted to talk about this labelling that reunites those different cultures under a same word, following the story of my grandfather. After his immigration, this cooking job was his first one in France, and I thought how ironic it was to cook the dishes from his country blended with other ones but with the same consideration. As if it didn’t matter that much.

So I materialized the name of this restaurant with a sculpture of baguettes. I choose the utilisation of the “french style goldening” to recover it, in the manner of a second skin. The one of a migratory country on a native one. This piece spreads itself across cultural identity’s confusion. To finish, did you know that baguettes have different shapes in Asian countries?

In another one of your latest installation pieces, you sculpted hundreds of grains of rice in ceramics, that you showcased in a performance. What attracts you about this organic and edible material? Why did you decide to manually craft it, afterwards mixing it with real rice?

I feel clay as an intimate material. You can shape it with the warmth of your hands, there is something that just reminds me of origins. I was obviously inspired by the “Sunflower Seeds” from Ai Weiwei. I liked the process of a small thing getting lost in a multitude. Furthermore, I enjoyed the idea of copying entities that are so little that you can’t easily distinguish which one is true. Nevertheless, the performance of sorting the ceramics from the real rice implied the question of legitimacy within mixed ethnicities.

Apart from food, inanimate objects often appear in your work. What attracts you about furniture and other domestic items? Are you interested in their symbolism?

In my work, I tend to explore the narrative potential of spaces, matters, objects. The domestic space appears to me as a scenery of your own story. Thus, the artefacts inside them embody a part of it. From this point of view, I made a projection screen with moving boxes of my own. I considered those boxes as a talking material. They keep memories from a past life, in a past space you’ve occupied. You can sit and watch it as a movie on this screen. 

Your drawings are full-on colourful experiences! Can you guide us through the making of them? Why do you merge the shapes so closely, creating such packed scenes?

Drawing is a part of the creations that I do as escapism. I’m mostly interested in colors. I want them to interact with each other within flat colors full of vibrance. The scenes I draw are filled with characters in latence. I reunite in them my interest in space and communication. I like to set a scene of random life. Multiples patterns come back, but the lamp is central. It helps me to focus a discreet attention on some details, interstices.

Before we finish… Could you describe any wild dreams or projects you have in mind for the future? Would you like to continue mixing different mediums in upcoming pieces, or explore any new paths?

The next project I’m really excited to execute is a karaoke. I’m Vietnamese and Chinese, but I also grew up with the family of my stepfather, who is Spanish. I was surrounded by different languages ,but I never learnt how to speak them. It’s an angle that affects my visual research throughout my mixed-ethnicity, and that I always wanted to explore. How you can be familiar with a lang

uage without knowing how to speak it. I record memories of those languages spoken across my family, but I also approach them with songs or musical TV shows. So I wanted to create a karaoke with the voices of my grandparents. I would like in the future to make my work evolve through sound, songs and subtitles.

Words and Pics by Whataboutvic

RATO AO SOL is a Luso-Spanish platform for the emerging arts, founded by curators Francisca Portugal and Whataboutvic.

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