A con­ver­sa­tion between Hanne Hage­naars and Julie Béna

Hanne Hage­naars: The main char­ac­ter of your work Rose Pan­to­pon, a char­ac­ter men­tioned in William S. Bur­roughs’ Naked Lunch. Naked Lunch is a con­tro­ver­sial book, Bal­lard called it a cry from hell’. How would you char­ac­terise the book? What do you like about the book Naked Lunch?

Julie Béna: I took the Naked Lunch as a start­ing point. This title’s chap­ter under the shape of an inter­ro­ga­tion Have you seen Pan­to­pon Rose?” real­ly stayed in my mind, cause it was quite unusu­al a chap­ter-ques­tion mark, as in a way if it would be direct­ed to the reader.I’m work­ing very instinc­tive­ly when I’m writ­ing a char­ac­ter or catch­ing some names, words or expres­sions, so as I don;t like to char­ac­terise my char­ac­ters, I pre­fer not to char­ac­terise a book, which is in a way for me, would cat­e­gorised it ( and I have also prob­lem with cat­e­gories, as you might feel from my prac­tice). What I like main­ly about books, it’s the free­dom that they allow you. To imag­ine what­ev­er you like, to close them when­ev­er you want, to let them con­tin­ue in your mind with­out the pages to turn.I remem­ber a book I read when I was 12 years old, I had this amaz­ing sou­venir from it, a crazy and sub­lime sto­ry, full of sen­sa­tions, fogs and col­ors. When I re-read it 10 years lat­er, I realised that, in fact, I total­ly imag­ine the sto­ry. What stayed in my mind, what I remem­ber the most was not this book, it was mine. The one I cre­at­ed due to the sen­sa­tions I get form it.

Hanne Hage­naars: William S. Bur­rough wrote about his book: The net result of Naked Lunch will be to make peo­ple shud­der at their own lies, will be to make them open up and be straight with one anoth­er.’ Do you recog­nise and under­line this inten­tion? Your exhi­bi­tion offers us a show-based’ mean­ing­less world, full of triv­i­al­i­ties and cock­tail con­ver­sa­tions. Is your work meant to func­tion as a mir­ror? I do recog­nise the plas­tic char­ac­ter of the world around me. Could I see the show as a mir­ror of a world ruled by media?

Julie Béna: It’s fun­ny that you quote, cause I’m nev­er read­ing any biog­ra­phy or quotes or analy­ses of books. Also, I’m always a bit sus­pi­cious with quotes cause they are always excerpt of some­thing, so I’m miss­ing the whole thought… At the moment, I pre­fer to think what they let me think by what they wrote.What iI apply for others,I also apply it for me in a way. I’m not here with the ambi­tion to change some­thing in the life of peo­ple, or to believe that I will unveil the truths or the lies.Regarding the exhi­bi­tion, I’m not sure with the two movies and the pieces, that I’m propos­ing a “ mean­ing­less world, full of triv­i­al­i­ties and cock­tail con­ver­sa­tions”. I have noth­ing against these char­ac­ter­is­tics, and for the first movie, there is part of that of course, but it is to reveal some­thing else.Meanwhile I do not think their con­ver­sa­tions are non-sense or only triv­ial. I do think (or believe!) are actu­al­ly quite deep and trag­i­cal. Of course, if you just passed like this, grab few min­utes, that’s what you might get, but I’m not sure you’ll get that after the 34 mn. How­ev­er I’m con­scious time and atten­tion are one of the most dif­fi­cult things to get these days… Any­way I do not do things imme­di­ate­ly catch­able, pieces are request­ing atten­tion and this is a choice. Yet, if the pieces let you think that you can catch them at the first sight, I would say maybe it’s just an appa­ra­tus, because what it looks is not always what it is.

Hanne Hage­naars: Bur­roughs’ work was about decon­struct­ing the hyp­not­ic effect on human nature of pow­er and he deeply want­ed to cre­ate tools that would allow the indi­vid­ual to think for them­selves. What tools can we cre­ate today to allow the indi­vid­ual to think for them­selves? In my opin­ion is indi­vid­u­al­i­ty the most impor­tant char­ac­ter­is­tic of art. How do you work with the notion of individuality?

Julie Béna: Could you devel­op more what do you mean by think for them­selves”? and what is indi­vid­u­al­i­ty” in your ques­tion, cause I don’t want to mis­un­der­stand. Thanks!

Hanne Hage­naars: I got the idea that truth is an impor­tant con­cept in your work. But in con­trast to the peri­od when Bur­rough wrote his book, we now live in a world where the con­fu­sion about truth has invad­ed every­day life. What tools do we have to dis­cov­er what is real and what is fake?

Julie Béna: From my side, I would say that I am more ques­tion­ing the doubt, all this uncer­tain ter­ri­to­ry between two points. For my sto­ries what is true and what is not, is at the end point­less. Nev­er­the­less, point­ing this ques­tion of truth in the last video ( have you seen Pan­to­pon Rose? The one-per­son show), recalls the sit­u­a­tion of the spec­ta­tor and cre­ate a doubt from herself/​himself, relat­ing to what he/​she sees. Mean­while it will also dri­ve him/​her to con­cen­trate on this cer­tain uncer­tain­ty. And this uncer­tain­ty, this shad­ow zone, this giv­en for a tak­en, it is real­ly what I like to work with. Again what you think it is is maybe not as it looks like. But to say the truth”, I must say that dur­ing the redac­tion of the text of Have you seen Pan­to­pon rose? The one-per­son show” I read a lot about the truth and the fake, as a long time ago I read an amaz­ing book about sto­ry­telling, and how sto­ries from oral­i­ty to books, to cin­e­ma, to tv, and final­ly to adver­tise­ments and pol­i­tics, total­ly screwed our views… don’t trust sto­ries! Ahahah 

Hanne Hage­naars: Bur­roughs called his great­est nov­el Naked Lunch, by which he meant it’s what you see on the end of a fork. He’s a writer of enor­mous rich­ness whose books are a kind of attempt to blow up this cozy con­spir­a­cy, to allow us to see what’s on the end of the fork … the truth. –J. G. Bal­lard. The text in your film seems to be a series of rather inane, mean­ing­less con­ver­sa­tions, also a sort of rub out the world’. No answers. What func­tion has this rub out of the world’?

Julie Béna: Ah! By the way, I have a long sto­rie with Bal­lard too! I was total­ly turned upside down when I dis­cov­er around 20, the tril­o­gy: Con­crete Island/​Crash and High Rise.Concerning the rub out of the world”’s sen­sa­tion, I guess it comes from dif­fer­ent fac­tors. But main­ly because, at that time, the base of my writ­ings was com­ing from what I was lis­ten­ing. Also because my eng­lish was almost inex­is­tant- I start­ed to speak real­ly late ( but I do not say I have a crazy eng­lish now, but it’s large­ly bet­ter aha­hah). So I trav­elled a lot with this project to catch dif­fer­ent lan­guages, expres­sions, sit­u­a­tions, way of liv­ing and to inte­grate them in my way of writ­ing this sto­ry. Rose Pan­to­pon is a char­ac­ter made by the sur­round. Dur­ing the first part ( the first movie- Have you seen Pan­to­pon Rose?), she is not speak­ing cause the Choir is speak­ing about and for her. Mean­while they are super hard with her, they do not like her so much actually).There is dif­fer­ent kind of rela­tion to the text in the first video, cause between Lon­don, Mon­tréal and Los Ange­les, there is dif­fer­ent cul­tures and pre­oc­cu­pa­tion. Who knew what was a birth stone out of L.A? Per­son­al­ly, before some­body asked me about my birth­stone in L.A, I had no idea. Burroughs.I was catch­ing a lot of words, expres­sions and tak­ing notes in my phone. From this, I was writ­ing. So it is my kind of cut-up post Gysin/​Burroughs.

Hanne Hage­naars: In your work truth and fan­ta­sy have a piv­otal role, it is as if fan­ta­sy and imag­i­na­tion could cre­ate a sort of solu­tion. Nar­ra­tions escape into the irra­tional and sur­re­al. Do you see the world as a sur­re­al place, but what is the best way to escape the mean­ing­less. Doesn’t the irra­tional and sur­re­al’ make the con­fu­sion even more intense?

Julie Béna: Fan­ta­sy, imag­i­na­tion, dream, drugs, sex, cock­tails, escape.The empti­ness is my biggest con­cern. Cause my prob­lem with mean­ing­less, is that in french, there is a lot of word for it, and they are pret­ty dif­fer­ent- mean­ing­less with­out pur­pose or with­out sense?And some­times nei­ther one or the oth­er is bad”. But for me the empti­ness is real­ly the hor­ror, the vac­u­um. Cause you can’t do any­thing against vac­u­um, cause you can’t real­ly fight vac­u­um, it’s just a vacuum.Speaking about that, I think the ani­ma­tions called Miss None and Mis­ter Peanut, doesn’t exist for noth­ing, cause they are in a way two char­ac­ters rep­re­sent­ing empti­ness. Miss None, it’s miss noth­ing and Mis­ter peanut is an adver­tis­ing logo, but also if you refer to the expres­sion for peanuts! It’s also noth­ing .http://​juliebe​na​.com/​i​n​d​e​x.php…

Hanne Hage­naars: These times in which fake’ (fake news) has got total dif­fer­ent dimen­sions, my opin­ion about truth and fake has real­ly changed. Off course every per­son has his or hers own per­spec­tive on what hap­pens, but some facts must be revealed. Pan­to­pon Rose, an incom­pre­hen­si­ble mys­te­ri­ous fig­ure, why do we need her in this world? Do we still need a mirage? Or is she a more real per­son­age than we would wish?

Julie Béna:But first, do we need her?

Hanne Hage­naars: Mr. Peanut, the alter ego of Vin­cent Trasov , 1971, is a fun­ny fake per­son­age. Then the alter ego of the artist grew into a kind of real­i­ty that fought in May for the may­or of Van­cou­ver. Could art still cre­ate con­fu­sion that is mean­ing­ful in today’s world?

Julie Béna: Con­fu­sion is every­where, so can we still cre­ate a mean­ing­ful con­fu­sion”? But what would be a mean­ing­ful con­fu­sion if so?I have also a long sto­ry with Mis­ter Peanut by the way…

Hanne Hage­naars: Pan­to­pon is a drug, that could be used instead of opi­um. Does this has any sig­nif­i­cance for for instal­la­tion? Are the sweet dreams, call­ing Pat­apon Rose’ a solu­tion? And is art the medi­um that give the sweet dreams?

Julie Béna: or is art a drug for artist or a religion?Hanne Hage­naars: Or should the instal­la­tion make me con­scious of the world as an ever chang­ing place, depen­dent on the rela­tion­ships between peo­ple, their per­spec­tives, and also influ­enced by the way we look at the past and the future, which is also an ever chang­ing field?I read in a review: It is as if we can­not get to know Rose because the Present is not and has nev­er hap­pened, recon­sid­er what is part of the past or the future.

Julie Béna: I love the wheel of for­tune. I hope this will offer me an answer to my questions!