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Jonas Guigonnat

Creative Pieces FILTERED RECOLLECTIONS - October 2018 Jonas Guigonnat

I Remember, Thus I Create

Written By Jonas Guigonnat

The ability of the human mind to be triggered by remembered sensations never stops astonishing me. Memory is often seen as a question of remembering “images” and “thoughts,” but all of our senses are playing a role. Most of the time it is a strong, subconscious activation.

Take the creative process as an example and you’ll realize how much past experiences are often the driver behind your capacity to create. Each sense plays a part, from what you heard, or tasted, to what you saw, or even touched.

Never underestimate the power of your memory. Even great temporal distance doesn’t seem to restrict the influence of the experiences and feelings we remember.

Twenty years ago I discovered graffiti and practiced it earnestly for about 5 years, but from that point onwards the feelings and sensations related to it never left my mind. As every graffiti artist, or “writer”, experiences it, my obsession for graffiti is never very far away, even when it feels like a lifetime ago.

 

Shapes of the streets

Everything began with what was to be seen: letters, letters, and again letters. They quickly became a source of obsession and modified the way I saw the creative process behind calligraphy. The style calligraffiti fascinated me at once, to the point I was dreaming of it.

I worked for hours trying to create shapes which transmitted the same energy, the same vibration as the pieces I saw on the streets. The feeling of being able to create my “own” letters motivated me to always do better. From that point onwards, every type of letter I saw could slip into my brain and find its way to the next piece of paper, and finally to the next wall.

Nowadays, even though I don’t practice actively, I still look for the perfect letters almost subconsciously. Any piece on the subway, on the street, or on the highway makes me want to take the cans and spray my letters out again.

 

One of my pieces from April this year at a legal spot in Amsterdam. Photo: Jonas Guigonnat

Sounds of the past

My vision is thus playing a crucial part in this process, but my ears have also their part to play.

The noise of spraying cans still hooks me, the sound of pens scratching paper has never stopped haunting me, and the cacophony of Paris by night calls for me to paint its walls.

The sounds of every season bring me back to a place and time where I was writing something on the streets. Rain on scraps of steel, a subway taking its last ride, the silence of a sunny day or birds singing early in the morning – all of it triggers my will to create, even before my consciousness itself is aware of it.

 

Tell me what you smell, I’ll tell you what to create

Then there is also a multitude of triggering smells. Particularly the one of ink and of paint from a spray can, which awaken my obsession with the same force.

The same way noises play with my perception of the present, smells can also, out of nowhere, bring me back to a street in Paris in the early 2000s. The smell of wet leaves on a dark November day, of hot asphalt in the summer, or of a dry cold winter. All refer to moments of inspiration or of despair, either way pushing my creativity.

Touch and smell also have an influence, but it is a lot more subtle and difficult to grasp when it comes to the visual arts. Nonetheless, some feelings, like the one of grabbing a can, also push my mind to look for inspiration in the past.

 

One of my pieces from April this year at a legal spot in Amsterdam. Photo: Jonas Guigonnat

Holy adrenaline

When it comes to graffiti, if there is one bodily feeling above all others that I would choose, it is the adrenaline flowing through my body. Every writer experiences it as an addiction and as an important factor in this specific kind of creativity.

Taking risks is necessary if you want to exist in this environment. Otherwise, you would not be able to understand the essence of writing and will instead practice it like any other visual art.

But what makes graffiti unique in the eyes of thousands for almost 50 years (the discipline as such is said to exist since 1969) is mostly the fact that vandalism cannot be separated from the artistic process itself, once again, giving a feeling never to be forgotten.

 

One of my pieces from April this year at a legal spot in Amsterdam. Photo: Jonas Guigonnat

Creative network

The complex network of feelings recorded by my mind allows me to be creative in a very particular way. Not even my own will has as much influence on my capacity to express myself through art.

Without remembering what it feels like to create, there would be no creating, or at least not consistently. It also means that every time there is creation involved, the connections between the remembered sensations allows it to take form, to become real.

We exist through our memory as much as we create through it.

FILTERED RECOLLECTIONS - October 2018 Jonas Guigonnat

Collective Memory’s Greatest Trick: Making Us Believe That It Doesn’t Exist

Written By Jonas Guigonnat:

Human beings allow themselves to give a lot of importance to beliefs and if we look at the history of religions, philosophies, social behaviors or political concepts we can clearly see that we allow ourselves to have faith in anything. As it usually seems when it comes to our species of habits, this network of information, this ‘datacenter’, that we call memory plays a crucial part in the way we choose what to believe. There is another dimension to memory. One we tend to forget because it is too abstract to grasp completely, but which, nevertheless, plays a huge role in the way people find their place in the community and the way they interact with other individuals, or how they see other societies. This ‘collective’ dimension of memory ads a twist to our capacity to translate processes into ideas. In other words, most of our intellectual interpretations of the world don’t belong to ourselves, but to a collection of past memories which are omnipresent in every aspect of human societies.

Collective memory seems to play a huge role in our subconscious and pleases our mind when we are looking for intellectual comfort, for what seems ‘usual’ and ‘normal’ to us. The best way to block processes, to overshadow them instead of accepting the uncertainty of a development which isn’t under our control, is to trust this collective memory. We are creatures of habit, but also creatures of comfort. A phenomenon which supports both gives us the feeling that we are safe. Sorry to come so soon with bad news, but there is no such thing as real safety.

Are we doomed to be manipulated by our own beliefs?

If we try to look closely at the state of our current ‘western’ societies it seems that we do are condemned to follow patterns which are nothing else than illusions. In times of emancipation, as much for women as for (ethnic) minorities, we are generally surprised when confronted with the way of thinking of older generations. Until 1945 racism was quite a normal way to consider ‘others’, even in the most democratic countries. Segregation in the United States was still just another aspect of daily politic until the early sixties, and expressions of antisemitism in Europe and in the US were still occurring well after 1945. That some people nowadays still are able to think that way really astonishes most of the younger generations, but it should not be such a surprise. Each generation’s belief is nothing more than the result of past intellectual choices.

Photo by Jørgen Håland

The choices which have been made in the last forty years comforted us into the idea that what we call democracy was the right way to see the world. There is, of course, no universal definition, but the word itself depends exclusively on positive intellectual associations. If you ask someone from a western country what he thinks about democracy, you’ll hear words as freedom, human rights, prosperity, rule of law or social equity. Those are the concept within which democracy is presented and taught. But what if we look at what makes it possible? Wouldn’t we find children making our clothes and mobile phones for one dollar a week? Or African countries where most of the economy is in hand of foreign companies? Wars for oil and natural resources? Do we not find systematically ‘western’ involvement in every bloody conflict of the past 75 years? Asking those questions is already giving the answer. But thanks to our collective memory we still do believe that ‘our’ way is the greatest factor of progress in history.

Collective memory tricks us and goes many times far deeper than what the media shows us or what politics tells us when election time arrives. The way western societies reacted in the past five years to sexual harassment scandals and the creation of the Me Too movement make it seem as if people were surprised to hear what was happening to women almost at every layer of society. If looking for a culprit, collective memory may be here, once again, the one we are looking for. In that particular case, it is not just a question of decades of intellectual choices, but of millenniums. As the great philosopher, writer, and feminist Simone de Beauvoir explained it in the second half of the last century, there is no point in history, as far as we can find sources, where men were not dominating women. To emancipate from something of that scale is just about the most difficult task one can think up.

As confusing and abstract as it can be, what we collectively believe makes us understand the world the way we do. But that doesn’t mean that free will has no part to play. It’s just that it needs to be shared and put into changes, which are taking time and deserve people to be patient. We should continue to forge our own beliefs, but without forgetting what the past tells us about our capacity to create any form of belief. Because memory seems to be what forges us, it becomes the only tangible proof of our existence. Which in the case of collective memory means that we do not only exist as individuals, but also as collective consciousness. One more reason to believe that we all are human beings. nothing more, nothing less.