Florian Monfrini

Posted: June 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: interviews | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Tell me about yourself.
My name is Florian Monfrini. I’m 24, French and I live in Paris at the moment. I am finishing my studies at HEC business school. So I guess I’m not coming necessary from the ‘normal academic artistic way’.

I spent some time looking at your blog – Life in Stickers. There is one in particular I’d like to talk about: the one referring to Basquiat’s early work SAMO©.
Was it some inspiration for the project?
At first, the project was born in the US, as I spent like 8 months in L.A.
I planned to travel during a month and a half with a friend, crossing the US with a car and one of my friend wanted me to do some kind of blog in order to follow us. I said that I would try to find a cool way to document our lives. I was inspired by diaries and this kind of web stuff at the time: all the kind of people who are building something with web identity like Terry Richardson with terrysdiary.com for example. I thought I could probably find a cool way to document our lives and keep a good record of the time we spent there.
At the time I was thinking that it’s kind of cool to take a picture of everything you want and kind of highlight it by putting directly in it what’s in your mind. So the project was born a little bit randomly, putting a sticker in places I liked and take a picture of it. I was also thinking about the fact that the sticker remained on location, so people can see the same thing or maybe look at it in a different way. It was like mixing a web diary with street art and facebook status probably.

That is the reason why it’s called a post graffiti diary.
Yeah. It’s not really graffiti because there is no graffiti techniques or colors, it just keep the essence of expressing something in public places. So I thought that it’s something different from graffiti, influenced by it but mixed with web dimension, blog and something more about interior feelings – as post-punk vs punk-rock.

By the way, I’m wondering: is it illegal?
Probably. I’ve been looking at people that have been doing art stickers – which is a part of street art – and I guess it is, technically speaking.

Do you pay attention to other people possibly looking at you when you put a sticker somewhere?
Most of the time not. I just put a sticker, take a picture and I go. I’m not staying to see if people are looking at what I just did. When I started the blog while in the US, I was visiting places that were not so crowded. Now in Paris, it’s different but I never tried to go back and found out if the stickers are still there. I think they are staying, even if some of them are probably just ripped off.

Leaving a sticker in a place: is it a kind of appropriation?
Yeah, probably. It’s not a big appropriation, it’s just a little piece of paper stuck somewhere. So it doesn’t appropriate the whole stuff, it’s just giving people a way to look at something at a precise point. Sometimes it’s a basic thing. The fact that I put the title directly in the picture makes it slightly different than a photograph with a title aside. There is more appropriation in what I do I think.

Was the use of the English language obvious?
Not obvious because I’m French. When your native language is French, you could think about using French for a blog. But the thing is, that the sticker is not so big and you can’t really express big things with only a few words in French – you need a lot of words. So I was thinking about doing the blog in English. And first of all, the blog was born in the US, and if I had put French sentences there, nobody would have understand then.

Let’s talk about how you use humor in the blog.
I don’t know if it’s funny or humorous, is it ?

Some of them are quite funny.
I don’t see much of them as funny. Maybe they got some humor sometimes …

The one entitled Christo’s American Workshop is quite amusing…
This one is interesting. Because it’s a diary, you got time to talk about humor, or sadness, or anything else. Sometimes I think ‘it’s gonna be good to take this picture because this is gonna have some humor, it’s true’. But I don’t want every sticker to be a kind of joke. Some are very sad, some are not. Because it’s pretty much like a diary. It depends on the current mood.

Do you think the blog could be considered as your portrait?
Yes and no. As a diary, and like most of the web diaries, it’s not so much about the real life of people. You take a part of your life in picture, so it’s not the whole diary. I don’t think it’s so much a portrait. And I’m not on the picture, I never took myself so it’s very impersonal at the same time. It’s not the kind of blog with pictures of me in this party or on the beach. I’m just taking photographs of what I’m seeing, the world in front of me through my eyes and with my stickers – and my statements.
For Christo’s American Workshop, I was first thinking ‘wouah this stuff looks like Christo’s in an American style’, because there is this huge American flag on it. So this is how I see this building. And there is not so much interesting stuff going on in the picture, because it’s just a building under construction, but the sticker crystallized the situation : me, the building and what was in my mind.

We previously talked about Basquiat. And I remember something he said about SAMO©: ‘SAMO© as a means of drawing attention to insignificance’.
What was your idea with the stickers at the beginning? To draw attention on the mundane?
Yeah probably. I think it was about taking pictures of insignificant stuff such as your glass of wine or your glass of milk and make something cool about that, because those things are part of your everyday life. You can take a picture of an insignificant stuff and make it beautiful or interesting just by putting humor, sadness or a state of mind in it. It was about taking pictures of very random things. I have another series with B&W analog pictures, it is called ‘The Subtlety of the Nothingness’ which probably means the same thing.

Did you know Jenny Holzer’s work?
A little bit.

She also uses ideas and words displayed in public spaces.
There is a link there. Probably about ideas, what you have in your mind, what ideas you have about insignificant stuff. That’s probably the backbone of the blog: making ideas visible.

Do you think the use of text allows you to deal with every possible subject? (such as sexuality, gender, death…)
Yeah. There is some post about death, love and any kind of subject: poverty, sex, friends. It’s called Life in Stickers so it deals with any kind of emotion basically. I don’t think there is some kind of limit doing that…

I agree with you. And the use of text gives you the opportunity to deal with those subjects without actually showing them in some obvious way.
Yes. That is what I do. The sticker is suggesting something, some kinds of ideas. And the image on the background is just a support. I didn’t want it just to be some kind of Eiffel Tower’s pictures with a sentence like ‘how cool is that, I’ve been there’. I wanted to suggest ideas. To suggest what is happening in my head, what images come in my mind when I am, at a precise moment, in front of something.

Are you familiar with the work of Miranda July?
No, not at all.

She’s an American filmmaker. She directed Me and You and Everyone We Know. She also writes texts and essays and she has a predilection for displaying little notes in exhibition rooms for example. The notes are always hand-written in black on white sheets. By doing that, she is addressing the viewer directly in some kind of intimate connection. Your work is sharing that with hers I think.
On a different note, what is a typical day of work?
I have a daily job at the moment.
Usually, I’ve got a camera in my bag, with white stickers and a black pen. Sometimes I carry a notebook where I write statements or thoughts. And sometimes I just walk and I start wondering what I could possibly do with the place I am. It’s not like a daily job, it’s just a blog (laughs).

We mainly discussed your blog until now. I know you’re also a photographer – and many of your pictures are not necessarily included in the blog. What type of camera do you use?
For the other work, I have a medium format Lomo Lubitel 2 from 1966. I bought it through eBay Ukraine while I was in the US. The other one is a Nikon FM2 Reflex from 1989 or so. It’s a 35mm.
For the blog, I was using a Nikon D300 at the start. Then I was using a very cheap compact camera. And now I’m using another Nikon Reflex. It’s always digital. There are only two stickers that I did on a film: one is titled Blowing until When and the other is The Curator is Nowhere to be Seen.

How long does it take for you to take a picture?
Five seconds (laughs). I don’t spend so much time. I find the place, I choose where I can put the sticker. I always put the sticker on the right side of the picture because I think it’s easier for people – at least European or Occidental people – to read it. You start by the left with the image and then to the right with the statement written on the sticker. Coming from the environment to the statement is better I think, because I don’t alter the process – the viewer can have the same mind-process as me – first look and then have feelings or ideas

What are your current projects?
Keep doing some paintings, and a little bit of the blog. Also keep doing photography, something not related to the blog, probably more studio stuff. For the moment I have a job and I have to finish school. Then I’ll see how I can manage that I’ve been doing a business school and I also have a kind of sensibility and will for art. I’d like to mix all of this and find some interesting project to work on.

You seem to be into the ‘DIY’ (Do It Youself) thing. Do you process your photographs yourself?
Yeah. I used to process them myself. Right now I’m not developing them myself anymore – I don’t have a good space to do it proper. So I don’t develop the film but I’m doing the printing on my own in a rental lab. That’s probably the better part in the process because developing a film is kind of boring. But printing the stuff is really interesting, it’s somehow quite similar to the painting because you think about the exposure you got, you think about the contrast ‘should I put more or less contrast in that part of the picture? What’s the final layout I want ? What type of emotion ?’ To me, printing is more creative than developing the film.
When I was doing the road trip in the US, I developed films in the motels rooms, that was fun but right now, I just prefer to give my pictures to the lab.

What is your favorite occupation? (Proust’s questionnaire)
I’d say painting. I like painting a lot. Because the technique of my paintings is very basic, with all the squares, it makes me feel relaxed. It makes me think about the people doing Japanese gardens with the rake, because everything has to be delimited and organized. You have to focus on it while you’re doing it. It’s the same with painting. You’re focusing on something delimited by you, your canvas and what you want to express or give to people

You have a genuine interest for Art History and Contemporary Art especially. If you could own five works of art from the 20th century, what would they be? (Rob Pruitt’s)
David Hockney’s Pearblossom Hwy. #2
Nan Goldin’s series The Ballad of Sexual Dependency
Anselm Kiefer’s Die Milchstrasse
one Mark Rothko’s
one Jackson Pollock’s – not from the dripping era, I’d prefer an earlier work: Male and Female

What is your favorite legal drug?
Red wine!

What do you usually do on Sunday evening?
Painting (laughs).

What epitaph on your grave? Did you think about a sticker?
No, I am not a total sticker addict (laughs). I don’t know something simple but with several meanings like ‘Here stay my bones’.

That’s a good conclusion. Thank you.

Florian Monfrini lives and works in Paris