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A heterogeneous universe STRANGE WORLDS #FRANCE Paul Borrelli
Eric de MA’A: Dystopia and cyberpunk enrich your literary worlds. Why is it difficult for the majority of writers to imagine the future without cataclysms? We remember the great Romanesque representations of the future produced in the twentieth century: most of them are dystopias highlighting the consequences of disasters in the twenty-first century. For example, Huxley, Orwell, K. Dick, Gibson, and yourself, in The Cat's Shadow, when you speak of animal extinction caused by a military conflict. Is this a natural continuation of your research on the present time?
Paul Borrelli: Predicting the end of humanity is not a posture for me, you just need to observe how Homo "sapiens" behave. The Wachowski brothers compare them to a virus using up all the resources of its environment, then, unable to behave any other way, the virus moves to start again somewhere else. I quite agree with this description. Overpopulation and capitalism, which are important themes in my novels, are the causes. Indeed, if we push the logic of capitalism to the maximum, we see that it does not simply meet the population's needs, it actually creates them and it floods the market with more and more polluting products. Thus, individuals are over-solicited and they consume without question, since everything encourages them to.
A boss, a "decision maker", does not see trees, streams or animals when he walks in a forest. No, he sees square meters, unexploited, and therefore lost. He could use them for buildings, factories, highways. Immediate profitability is his goal. Capitalism is not moral, it wants to devour everything since its only logic is profit, to the detriment of any other consideration. This way of life makes us, indeed, a ruthless virus. The more we proliferate, the more numerous we are, the more we destroy. In fact, we consider the most far-fetched solutions like living underwater or colonizing Mars, rather than solve the problem at its root. So, to imagine a world where most animal species have disappeared, that's not a writer's posture, that's what awaits us in reality. Often, what I describe is not a definitive state but the paroxysm that precedes the collapse, the situation where the crisis is maximal, or at least where it is smoldering. For a long time, I thought I would have time to die before seeing all that. I'm afraid I'll be in the middle of it all when it happens. And in my opinion, it will be bloody and painful.
Eric: Your apocalyptic allegories and visions are also transposed into the visual medium with your digital paintings. I noticed that they always have a door, a gate or an exit in the center, but that it is always closed, deformed or inaccessible. Given how these places are deserted, even destroyed, one feels, as you say, the impossibility of surviving. This idea of inevitable and cyclical devastation reminds me of another digital project, ZoomQuilt, where we can see a lot of destroyed capitalist symbols, including Donald Duck pierced by a fishing hook and Minnie Mouse with crazed eyes. The only difference between you and the creator of ZoomQuilt is your philosophy of the end. In one case, we can not escape the terrible reality ahead of us. In the other, the post-apocalyptic world is cyclical. Hence the question: if we have no chance of surviving the consequences of our actions, what is there after the last cataclysm, according to you? Is there only emptiness, like in the first 13.8 billion years of our universe's existence?
P. Borrelli:I believe that life is strong enough to resume, as long as we don't self-destruct in a nuclear holocaust. But even in Chernobyl, some animals have adapted to such extreme conditions. Who knows what life forms would emerge in such conditions?
You talked about my digital paintings. I like these doors very much, closed or ajar because, indeed, they are mysterious. We can clearly see that there are lights on, smoke coming out of vents, oozing black liquids, like tears of tar, a manifestation of some sort of torment. We do not know if we can come across humans or who knows what else. In fact, I want to avoid creating a story. As a writer, I stage stories, however, through digital painting, it seems important to me not to represent someone, because then, one could think the person in the painting is seeking for a way out. And it would turn the scene, filled with this "disturbing strangeness", into something easier to define, something familiar, when actually it should be beyond words, in the unspeakable, like a dream. Starting from the very prosaic reality of the streets where I photograph, I come to this fantasmatic, surrealist universe, where something is going on, but what? To each their own imagination.
I lost my mother in June 2017 and I had some tough moments when I would speak to her, ask her for help. One evening, I felt a presence. At that moment, a smell of perfume appeared in my room. I rarely wear perfume, and when I do, I use it at the other end of the house. All those who have left this world before us, are they present, floating somewhere? And are we only aware of this manifestation at certain times? I do not know if there is life after death. That's why I find the notion of accomplishment very important. I do not care about being rich, having power. But the day I die, I would like to feel like I have made the most of my potential.
Eric: You create masks and terracotta sculptures, and you stress the importance of the Mayan culture that has fascinated you and pushed you to develop your universe. Unlike the customs established by Christendom in the Western world, the Mayans believed that even people who committed suicide were sent to Paradise. For them, the soul was linked to the body. Strangely enough, only family could communicate with the soul, feel it after its departure. Their pantheon and the notion of reincarnation also played a crucial role in the vision of death. Which aspect of this extinct culture has guided you in your latest creations and your vision of death, exactly?
P. Borrelli: I am not interested in the Mayan or Toltec culture themselves, but in their statuary. True, they had scientific knowledge about astronomy, and a whole system of divine representations, but this culture was based on human sacrifice. I prefer to stand back, have a more naive vision of the phenomena they believed in. Fascinated by magic, the urgency, the hallucinatory aspect of these statues, their power, I would say that by keeping a distance, not trying to understand or explain too much, one is all the more sensitive to their power. Through my anachronisms, I sought to bring forth a part of this powerful magical side. The Samourai Music series features people using objects which could be weapons or instruments, we don't know for sure. Note that beside antique patterns, decorative cultural invariants, there are always bottles of gas, welding glasses, hand grenades. Human imagination is a powerful tool to explain the presence of these elements.
P. Borrelli: I am very hard on my ideas when they come up: in general, I bombard them with criticism and I only start working if they withstand it. Most of the time, I find objections and this embryo of an idea does not go further. With visual arts, I have a process that leads to a constant flow of new works, but in literature, a novel is worthless until we've written "The End". It's like we haven't done anything. So now, I am rather reluctant to write again. I finished a huge novel based in Germany and Poland between the 1920s and the early 1950s. The Holocaust and Nazism are therefore in the foreground. This book took eight years of work, it was a true Way of the Cross filled with suffering. Currently, I have lots of sculptures and digital paintings which were started at the same time. No doubt the time scales are different to those in literature. For me, when the visual arts speak, words are not necessary.
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