Mumbai is her lab, nature her playground
French artist Soazic Guezennec works on the tension between city and nature, with Mumbai as her lab. As part of the India Design Week, she will showcase an architectural project with an imaginary fertile city where nature takes on the real estate world. Fiona Fernandez finds more in this exclusive interview
You live and work in Mumbai. Your creations have been praised for a deep synergy with ecology and the planet’s survival. How and why did this sensibility emerge?
I spent my childhood by the sea, in Bretagne, France. We would sail, go fishing, dive, and live according to the rhythms of the tides. So, I have always looked at nature as something which we should value, protect and also fear sometimes.
Could you tell us about the Utopian architectural project that you will showcase as part of the India Design Week?
I have created an artistic Real Estate Company “which gives nature the city it deserves”. After noticing the gap between the concept of the nature city plugged by the real estate ads and the reality, I have decided to take those slogans and design architectural projects which would reinstate nature in the city. To sell them using the same classical supports of communication that real estate does — like nature’s revenge!
For this project, you intend to work on an imaginary fertile city where nature is integrated instead of being phased out? Is this possible?
Luckily, I am not an architect or an urbanist who has to deal with the reality. I don’t pretend to give solutions or even make criticism. As an artist, I use imagination and dreams to reinvent reality. I hope that while seeing my project, people will question their vision of nature because the definition we give to nature determines our relationship to it, and how we treat it in our cities. What do we call as nature? Is it what the ads are selling us, a domesticated plot of land between four walls, is it the wild untamed entity by opposition to the culture, is it something scary, or useful? In the West, we have preserved nature by controlling it. In a city under construction like Mumbai, I see great opportunities to invent a new model with the right conditions for nature to develop itself freely, without fences.
What is the single-most crucial aspect that plagues Mumbai’s multiple, diverse ecosystems?
Greed. But this is not specific to Mumbai; it is true all over the planet.
As a creative person concerned about the earth around us, what will get the common man to help solve Mumbai’s problems?
People in power should be the first to be involved, by providing services, education and making laws with the right examples. Then, the commoner might take interest and follow. Art can play its role. It’s what I am trying to do, by exposing people to Utopia, make them dream of another vision, and maybe try to act on it.
You use different forms of expression: paintings, videos and installations; how do you dabble across these with similar intensity?
I am a creative person trained as a painter and a sculptor and I have never stopped learning. I am also familiar with the corporate world as I founded and ran a communication company for a few years. Medium doesn’t matter. Your words are more important. For this project, I wanted to make a parody of a real estate company, so I had to use the same media that you find in a real company, i.e. videos, models, brochures, etc. In the studio, I have shown a great variety of objects, drawings and sculpture, which I have collected as a preparatory work over three years. I wanted to show the process of creation, not the pieces. Some may seem less achieved, others are only the beginning of something, but they all have their importance in the process of creation. Look at it as a whole installation, not an addition of single pieces.
Why did you make Mumbai your home?
It was a family project. We wanted to live and experience abroad, so my husband started to look for a job somewhere on the planet, and he had an opportunity in Mumbai. Desire for change and chance brought us here, but when I arrived I felt that it was the exact place where I was supposed to be. For someone who works on the tension between city and nature, Mumbai is a wonderful lab; I am still amazed to explore it, but also happy to be able to escape in nature, sometimes!
Soazic Guezenne’s installations will be on display on March 8 at Studio X, Fort.