Les Ignorants: Two Sides of the Same Coin
With a shared obsession with the organic and an instinctive relationship with raw material, the two distinct practices of designer Lionel Jadot and photographer Serge Leblon are united under a common thread in Spazio Nobile Gallery’s latest exhibition.
“What we finally do, out of desperation … is go on an impossible, or even forbidden, journey or pilgrimage, which from a rational point of view is futile: to find the one wise man, whomever or wherever he may be; and to find from him the secret of eternal life or the secret of adjusting to this life as best we can.” ― Herbert Mason, “Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative”
Earlier this year, designer Lionel Jadot and photographer Serge Leblon started on what is now “Les Ignorants” (or, in English, The Ignorants). In this duo-exhibition, which contains sculptural and photographic work that inform one another, humankind’s quest for immortality is the concept surrounding low-tech objects turned ephemeral human structures. TLmag caught up with the duo to learn more about how the concept behind the show developed, and the myriad of inspirations that this work is based on.
TLmag: So, first things first. How did this exhibition come about? It’s not an everyday exhibition where we just see the works of two distinct makers, but a collaboration between the two of you.
SL + LJ: The idea to present together first came from Lise Coirier, the founder of Spazio Nobile Gallery. After the initial meeting, we quickly decided that we wanted to work towards a real collaboration on a shared subject that combined our inspirations as well as our shared references in comics, literature and cinema. For example, in this work we are formally approaching the ready-made, transgressive upcycling, Frankenstein, the film ‘Crash’ by Cronenberg, the film ‘One Week’ by Buster Keaton and the epic of Gilgamesh. Combined, these are all influences that are part of our common imagination.
TLmag: Sounds like you both are on the same wavelength – did you learn anything from working with each other?
SL + LJ: Before our first meeting, we didn’t know each other that well – but as soon as we started talking we realised how much we had in common. It’s been an amazing collaboration, one in which we were constantly in sync about how the work can further develop without ego coming in the way. We’ve found that we both work in a very organic, even empirical way in which chaos is a basis for permanent reflection. It all fell into place quite easily, and very naturally.
TLmag: The title of this exhibition is called “Les Ignorants” or “The Ignorants”. Who are the ignorant, and what are they ignorant of?
SL + LJ: Scientists and Big Tech corporations want to create a society in which immortality is the ultimate goal. At the same time, we see companies like Neuralink who want to connect our bodies to the network – reaching for a new kind of human/computer connectivity. Despite their knowledge and intelligence, it seems that they cannot begin to imagine the consequences that the things they can have for people – not only within our respective fields but for our freedom. We are all completely ignorant of the results and the dangers of these unnatural developments.
TLmag: Looking closer at the images and resulting works, the machines in question don’t necessarily feel as though they are high tech upgrades – as one would imagine – but actually feel quite the opposite. The images are dark and mysterious, and the works look used and bulky. Is it meant to seem more dystopian?
SL + LJ: Yes, exactly! We wanted to keep this burlesque spirit, to highlight the final pointlessness of this mad race to increase humans, humanity, at all costs. We are in derision and drama.
TLmag: The works in this exhibition are completely made out of raw materials, Low-tech objects or scrap. What is it about these materials that draw you both to them, and how did they inform the overall story in the image-making process?
SL + LJ: The selected materials are modern but are decommissioned from their real functions: car headlights, hookah pipes, Indian wooden balls and medical resin for plastering. Lionel’s entire work has been completely based around salvaging and diverting materials for the last 30 years. Mixing these materials up, and imagining futuristic prostheses together formed the basis for this exhibition. Our vision of this future transhumanism is to take it out of its usual cold and sterile environment. We wanted an imperfect, real, world where low-tech, artisanal technology was made from the scraps of humanity’s past.
Because this subject is anchored in the future vision of our way of life, increased but limited, this is the reason for Lionel’s adornments are connected to a cable: we cannot go very far. In turn, Serge’s photographs add a dramatic dimension to the work: it’s disturbing and exciting to see these objects come to life. We shot in an old abandoned theatre in Brussels and really wanted to stay true to what was in front of us. There was no extra lighting than what there already was, our models were chosen off the street and we even asked them to bring clothes they felt most comfortable in for the photoshoot. We tried to be honest, really trying to avoid pushing any traditional ideals of beauty or aesthetic onto our images or our models.
TLmag: The universe of these works are inspired by the filmmaking movement and manifesto dogma95, but also have a sense of humour that is reminiscent of Buster Keaton’s. In works like “Gilga” and “Uta”, these quite contemporary subjects are linked to nearly biblical tales. Those seem like two quite opposite worlds to combine!
SL + LJ: We’re talking about space-time, science fiction and parallel universes: we like to tread through muddy waters, lose track of time and imagine a universe made up of multiverses. It may seem like two opposite worlds colliding, but the reference to the Epic of Gilgamesh in the titles of these works is linked to the fact that this story shows that humans have long been on this quest for immortality. The story of Gilgamesh, who was this hero-king from Uruk, is also even more fascinating once you know that it’s one of the earliest surviving works of literature in human history – and the first of it’s kind (that we know of) to engage with the quest for the meaning of life.
If we ever were to succeed in the quest of everlasting life, the only precious thing worth having is life itself. All the material aspects that we concern ourselves with today fade to the background. That’s what we liked so much about this concept: it’s two sides of the same coin. Maybe, just maybe, this immortality would mean that we would take better care of our relationships, of our environment – because it wouldn’t always be somebody else’s problem to deal with. We’d have to think about what “forever” would look like for ourselves and of our planet.
Lionel Jadot and Serge Leblon’s duo show ‘Season XV – Les ignorants’ will be on view at Spazio Nobile Gallery (Brussels) until November 8th, 2020.
Cover Photo: Le Combat from ‘Les Ignorants’ by Serge Leblon, 2020 / Photograph / Format photo: 45 x 105 cm / With frame: 50 x 110 cm / Framed and signed by the artist / Ed. 5+2 AP