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Mathieu is the typographic urban interventionist you should know


come from a small town called Le Mans where I lived until I was 18 years old. Then I moved to Rennes where I studied Hne Art at University while doing graffiti at the same time. When I turned 30 years old, I moved to Arles, where I live currently. My relationship to territory matters a lot regarding the way I relate to art practice in general” says Mathieu Tremblin. “I grew up in Province (i.e. outside Paris) and did not go to Paris to have a successful art career. For a French artist, I guess this is an important fact – also because a lot of foreign art amateurs don’t believe that French artists can make great artworks it they are not living in Paris... During the past decades, the capital of France became a kind of open-air museum, where all the creative initiatives from citizens or artists are spoiled by gentrification, tourism and commercial or conservative issues”.

“As in most of European metropolises, city management became more and more coercive bringing a lack of freedom and a lot of tension between people and power. This situation has, as a consequence, meant that most of the space is ruled by private interests which make it difficult to do spontaneous human scale interventions in urban spaces. Things are different in Province. Besides art-dedicated places, as an artist practicing in urban spaces, you can still find blanks on the map and undiscovered buildings and wastelands to invest in and make experiments. This also gives you the opportunity to interact with citizens or power in a non-profit way. And since the Internet, you can make art anywhere and give precise visibility to its inputs regarding context of creation through self-media, which allows you to skip the classical showing or selling your artwork to get fame phase. You just have to act local while thinking global” he adds.

Mathieu Tremblin was born in Le Mans in 1980, he and works in Rennes and Arles, France and works in Europe. Well, he literally transforms it. Inspired by anonymous, autonomous and spontaneous practices and expressions in urban spaces, Mathieu Tremblin implements simple and playful actions in order to question the systems of legislation, representation and symbolisation prevalent in everyday city life.

A founding member of the duo les Frères Ripoulain, since 2006, a member of Free Art and Technology Lab (F.A.T.), 2014-2015, a founding member of BIP (Bureau d’investigation photographique) collective Mathieu Tremblin’s work can be found in the Netherlands and Belgium.

“When I walk through the city, I’m practicing a kind of urban survey focusing on details which reveal relationships of power between users (urbanity) and city workers (urbanism) in order to get a complex view on how citizen are dealing with their surrounding, at a body or at a mind stage” he says.

“Then I try to input interventions in dialogue with this already-there situation which might become relevant within the context. My interventions are brief and unsigned forms in order they could be read as a random gesture done by any citizen. Mostly, my work appears as a comment on specific topic related to an observation I made or an experience I lived as anybody does when sharing point of view via Facebook status, photo-blogs or graffiti on the wall for example.

But as I experiment life through art, I want to make city playful, poetic and open to appropriation. I hope to provocate direct interactions and discourses without mass media filters. When you do art in urban space, it’s more like an invitation to share powers because at some point action becomes as important as reception. So I expect people at least to notice and even destroy my work — because vandalism is in itself a way to make (destructive) conversation.

I hope while promoting alterity and fighting against our control freak society model, it could perhaps brings them a new frame on looking at things. As Hakim Bey uses to say “In effect, chaos is life. All mess, all riot of color, all protoplasmic urgency, all movement – is chaos. From this point of view, Order appears as death, cessation, crystallization, alien silence” added this typographic urban interventionist of our era.”

Aptly named Tag Clouds this project transforms the urban landscape with words, demanding a better legibility.

“I consider “Tag Clouds” as a traditional graffiti fresco work. I mean I come from a local graffiti scene, and painting over a wall covered by tags to make something more complex – letters or characters whatever – is what writers do. But what is interesting is the final mural is dealing with writer’s ego – their names – direct communication – being known by anybody is what writers are searching for – but in the same time removing all alterity or identity – handstlyling is the real deal of writing culture – making it properly decorative and appreciable by any passer-by – which is also the purpose of a graffiti fresco, showing technical skills for decoration.

This work sounds like a kind of oxymoron, you could understand it as a way to “make dirty signature proper as institutional visual communication” sterilising wild graffiti writing by removing all traces of alterity and in the same time it’s “giving the opportunity to anybody to be able to read graffiti calligraphy and get in touch with it”. So agreeing with or being against the piece as a writer is a complex thing to decide because I’m half playing with tribute and normalisation of the local graffiti scene. As I just translate writers names at the same scale, they usually continue to play with blanks adding their signature between regular typography I painted with stencil. In fact, the project is giving a focus on some walls writers do not pay attention anymore because they seems to be filled with tags and mostly it generates new graffiti challenge instead of killing the energy behind it”.

A poet of urban typography in the flesh, Mathie Tremblin’s readable “guerrilla words” will tag our lifetime for sure.