Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Jean-Michel and I was born in Mentz, France. I studied multimedia art, art history and philosophy at the Academy of Fine Arts in Strasbourg and in 2006 I finished my studies in Pedagogy of art at Master Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Maastricht.
During my professional years so far, I have organised and implemented various artistic and socio-cultural projects. I have worked for exhibitions in the United states such as for the Present Company Art Space, New-York and Furthermorellc in Washington, D.C. however my base now finds itself in Heerlen, Limburg where my studio is located since 2008.
I enjoy the international aspect of my profession which allows me to work for exhibitions and artistic projects in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the region here offers this mobility, if an artist is willing and capable of expanding the proximity of his work.
I would characterize the medium of my artistry as inclusive. It includes a variety of visual arts such as photography and film, along with painting, text and conceptual essence. I put ideas before technique in my art. Aesthetics are paramount, it goes without saying, yet the importance of your work as an artist is measured also by the content and ideas behind the artistic product, the ability to transmit the invisible. For me, Art functions as a connector, as magic glue that can bring ideas, theories and mostly people closer and the artist has the role of the shaman who conducts the artistic ritual.
What do you consider your distinctive achievement?
If you ask me about my artworks, then the first thing that comes in mind is my wall paintings which are special due to the focus on detail and the delicate artistic process that was required. As a photographer, my uniqueness emits from the fact that I do not desire to immortalize reality but to capture the invisible, instead. When I use the term “invisible”, I refer to an aura, to an essence.
Except for that, I aim at the social aspect of my job and I base my artistry on the people and community art projects. Of course, I enjoy Art in all disciplines and I visit museums and art fairs often, yet Arts and Culture should be socially conscious and bring people together. Last thing I would say about me is that I learn and experiment even after all these years in the field.
What are you looking forward to?
Right now, I am really looking forward the development of my socio-cultural project: “De dans van Lies en Jan”, two chimney stacks about 135m high (442 feet). I built a concept around ” Lies and Jan” as a tribute to the mineworkers of Heerlen. During the first phase of the project, a bus will travel in several areas of Heerlen. Inside, the bus are tools like cameras, and a sound recording studio. I will work with students from Arcus College (High School). We will film and photograph discussions between mineworkers and young people. We will make a documentary about the process. For the second part, a 10 meters high sculpture in public space is to be constructed, “Lange Lies en Lange Jan” representing the DNA of Heerlen. We will see engraved portraits of citizens and mineworkers inside the DNA structure. The project starts in Spring 2018.
In general, I aim at learning more and investing artistically on innovative concepts such as: futurology, bio-technology, sustainability.
What advice would you give to other professionals?
Do not be afraid to dare and to go as far as possible to chase your potential and ambitions. You need to function as a professional and use the system in the right way. It is not easy and it needs time and good planning. But do not ever stop to believe and to produce. Produce art constantly because it is spiritual food that brings people together for a feast. In addition, you need to learn how to make the right connections and approach new network, along with basic rules of cultural entrepreneurship.
What challenges do we need to overcome to make cultural entrepreneurship more accessible?
My experience in the region of Limburg is the one of a foreigner. However, people have strong connections and networks are concrete here and mostly borderless Euregional networks. Nonetheless the art world needs more support and share of knowledge in order for artists and professionals to come closer and for new initiatives to be born. The Creative Hub Euregio and The Artist and the Others support the notion of bringing people from the local art scene closer and this is a practice that should be developed more. We need to work together, based on solidarity and not competitive feelings. I provide my assistance to anyone who needs it and I expect help when I need to, based on that.
Do you consider yourself a European artist and professional?
Well, I am born in France by a Hungarian mother and an Italian father. I work and reside in the Netherlands. I could definitely say I am European even if I disagree with some of the narratives. I generally consider myself citizen of the Earth and my work international.