DOWNTOWN 500 ZINE, FOUND THE RED & WHITE BOOK AT OUR GOOD FRIEND STEFFEN´S PLACE, ON A SPONTANIOUS OCASSION; PASSING BY FOR AN AFTER-PARTY, MEETING UP WITH THE CREATIVE CREW FOR SOME BOB MARLEY & CHILLED COMPANY… WE GOT MUNCHED LATER OVER FREDERIC’S BOOK OF “COMMUNIST SPACE ODYSSEYS”. WE WERE RARELY HACKED BY THE BRUTALITY OF THE CEMENT-STRUCTURES, AND THE PRISMATIC JOURNEY THROUGHOUT THE PAGES; ITS PERSPECTIVES, THE FLOAT, IMAGINARY COMPOSITION AND THE EXTENT. THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE WAS LITERALLY ACID.
THE PICTURES BY FREDERIC CHAUBIN ARE POKING TO HIS IMPRESSIVE AND CHIC MIND, WHICH IS CONNECTED TO HIS WELL-ORIENTED EYE FUNCTIONS. THIS AWESOME GUY IS DEFINITELY WORTH CHECKING OUT!
HIS LONG SI-FI QUEST IS NOT ONLY A TRIBUTE TO GENIOUS ARCHITECTS AND THE ABANDON SOVIET STATE, BUT IT IS ALSO A MIND-BLOWING EXPERIENCE WHICH UNDERLINE THE DISCREDITED GLORY OF THE NEGLECTED AND HIDDEN TREASURES. FREDERIC IS A SKILLFUL GUIDE OF THESE EXTRAORDINARY “COSMIC COMMUNIST CONSTRUCTION”. HIS MOTIFS IS A MUST SEE FOR THE CONSCIOUS LOVER OF ARCHITECTURE AND PHOTOGRAPHY.
WE DECIDED TO FIND THIS GUY TO GET A PERSONAL ART CHAT WITH HIM ABOUT HIS SHARP WORK.
DOWNTOWN 500 ZINE IS GLAD TO INTRODUCE
THE RARE AND ONLY FREDERIC CHAUBIN, AND HIS ANALOG ARTISTRY
DT 500 ZINE: – Fred, what have you done? Awesome dimensions, and every image in your book is like a motion picture. A work of laurel! You seem like a big “somebody”, what is your background?
FREDERIC: – I unsuccessfully studied law for years until I started asking myself if I was mentally disabled. Law was not my thing. So I turned the back to it. Later on, by chance, I got the opportunity of managing the editorial part of a magazine. I had always dreamed of producing a personal vision, combining my pictures and my words into a personal work. And there it was, I could achieve this goal through specific features related to Architecture.
DT 500 ZINE: – Ha-ha, such a right thing to choose! Where do your personal visions come from? How did you grow up?
FREDERIC: – This is one of my earliest memories from my childhood. Maybe it’s just a figment of my imagination:
“I am 4 or 5 years old. On a boat sailing around Port Dickson, in Malaysia, I unexpectedly catch a glimpse of the huge caudal fin of a fish, maybe some sort of whale, standing above the surface before diving into the deep. Then the sea is calm again. No one has seen it except me.”
– The grown-ups don’t really care. So I have to keep it for myself. I’m left alone with the frustration of not sharing this fabulous vision… This is why, now, I keep track of what seems extraordinary to me.
DT 500 ZINE: -Many creative people are always talking about their childhood’s flashbacks as the source of inspiration. The idea that we should behold the child inside us, do you practice this one? How often do you recall the memories from your childhood?
FREDERIC: – According to Waldo Emerson:
” we spend most of our life building our own house until the day we get locked inside. We start framing the world and then the world frames us.”
“But children still ignore doors and fences. They explore. They bypass reality. In some way, they are super-heroes. Childhood is a time of super-heroes confronting a world of giants. This state of mind, the ability that children have to marvel at things, is what you need to stick to. If not, Art turns into a social commentary or commonplace.”
DT 500 ZINE: – Yes, modern art has a tendency to turn, as you just said, into a social commentary… Downtown 500 Magazine is living exactly for that reason….Fred, you have a mint mind, and you have probably a huge space of experiences, how does a photography get started for You?
FREDERIC: – It starts with an emotion brought by the sight of an object or a subject. My aim is usually to manage to frame this emotion. It’s difficult to say if you catch or build the result.
DT 500 ZINE: – Interesting! What was your actual object of immediate emotion from the first sight? Do you remember your first picture framed?
FREDERIC: – I was probably around 8 years old. I took some pictures of a bullfight. When the film of my tiny Kodak Instamatic camera was processed I discovered with surprise that the characters had a very small size, they seemed lost on the print. They didn’t look so far when I had photographed them. For the first time, I was facing the effect of a lens distortion.
DT 500 ZINE: – Funny, so after a bullfight and other creative discoveries, how do you actually choose the right object to shoot? Let’s talk about dramaturgy…
FREDERIC: – It’s a combination of the building’s visual strength and the dramatic potential of its background. My favorite set is about a Construction recommended to me by the Snøhetta architects. It’s a summer-house located on Norway’s southern coast, a cabin built in the sixties by Bengt Espen Knutsen for his own purpose. At a distance, it looks like a couple of matchboxes left on the ground, hidden among the rocks. It’s some kind of modest perfection.
DT 500 ZINE: – Yes, Bengt Espen is our own funky cubist, our rare genius! Talking about the modest perfection, is there anything that supports your creative process?
“I try to get closer to the edge, into a disorienting state of mind.”
DT 500 ZINE: – This disorientation of mind can be a bully sometimes ha-ha, but such a joy anyway, yes! Fred, you had a dream job, you were chief as the editor of Citizen K Magazine… one of the biggest magazines in France, did you quit for the above-mentioned state of mind?
FREDERIC: – I’ve quit Citizen K in 2013. At the very start, twenty years ago, it was rather thrilling to be the editor-in-chief of a cutting edge magazine. It was a brand new World. The creative challenge was exciting. But then, gradually, the magazine grew bigger, each time more conventional, until it ended up being totally enslaved by the fashion brands. Then, you don’t care about the readers anymore. You care about meeting the expectations of the brands. You only care about figures, about getting good marketing credentials. Nothing really fulfilling. For me, it wasn’t the place to be anymore.
Hakov Hakobyan – © Erevan modern art museum
DT 500 ZINE: – You are one of a kind, a witty guy. Let’s move to courage, can you define the quality of courage? And what is Your opinion about the breakage of traditions?
FREDERIC: – I think that courage is the ability to put oneself deliberately at risk. It happens very seldom to me, as I’m not very brave. When it comes to change the rules, I don’t believe there is many traditions left to break. These days, newcomers mostly recycle or customize.
DT 500 ZINE: – Let’s talk about your ”CCCP” project, it is obviously a journey to look through! How did you come up with this idea?
FREDERIC: – Just by chance. Serendipity! I just happened to notice these buildings that no one had really documented earlier. I just had an acute eye and grabbed the opportunity. Then, the rest went on like a treasure hunt.
DT 500 ZINE: – A treasure island? Are you a pirate or an adventurist? You must be traveling a lot judging by your work, you have to have many stories behind? Pls, tell us one:)
FREDERIC: – I wanted to feature in the book a picture of the Leningrad harbor terminal lost in the mist, in a way that would recall Caspar David Friedrich’s romanticism. To do so I had to risk myself on the frozen waters of the Gulf of Finland. On that winter day, the temperature was minus 28 degree Celsius. After two or three shots, the lens was blinded with condensation and the shutter release went blocked. I couldn’t feel my fingers.
” The Russian guy at my side suggested that we’d go and ask the Saint Petersburg Coast Guards help. After a thirty minutes walk, we arrived half-frozen at their headquarters. The local officer invited us in for a drink. It took us a full bottle of whiskey and an hour of drinking binge before he drove us back on the ice with isothermal clothes and his over-craft. Thank God, the few pictures I had taken previously turned out to be good because the last ones were totally out of focus. “
DT 500 ZINE: – You should have a fascination for Soviet architecture, why?
FREDERIC: – the Soviet Union tells the story of a utopia that turned into a dystopia, a fascinating disaster. This is what makes it aesthetically so attractive to people.
DT 500 ZINE: – You have seen a lot of work by architects during your story building, who is your most inspirational one?
FREDERIC: – The mighty One. The Creator, or whatever you may call him. His imagination, free spirit, and accuracy have no limits.
DT 500 ZINE: – Le Corbusier dreamed of destroying the old buildings in Paris and rebuilding it in a modernistic way by high-blocks, what do You think about it? And how do You value the actual realization of Le Corbusier’s ideas in the Soviet land?
FREDERIC: – Le Corbusier is a controversial figure either blamed or celebrated in accordance with the trend of the day. He is the guru of Modernism worshipers. I’m not one of them. I don’t believe in the Messiah. Modernism was the main dogma of the last century, a mindset that belonged to the West but suited also perfectly Soviet Ideology. This rigid system gave birth to worldwide forests of inhuman beehives. Now we have to cope with the outcome. I don’t feel any nostalgia. And Thank God Paris has been preserved. I’m reluctant about any system in which individuality gets drowned in some dubious collective values.
DT 500 ZINE: – What is your theory about metaphysics in the Soviet architectural ensemble? let’s talk it that way...
FREDERIC: – I believe that shapes speak. The most over-sized and dramatic buildings erected in the USSR had an obvious symbolic meaning. One of their aims was to express the transcendence of power, the strength of the Soviet Empire. To some extent, they expressed some kind of “monumental theology”, they were the shrines of the Marxist profane religion. Later on, when everything started falling apart, in the late seventies and eighties, some local architects started trespassing against the rules, trying to shape their way out of this Orwellian world. There was a huge crave for fulfillment. Hopelessness had been the mood until then.
” An artist of that time used to express this state of mind by painting beheaded crowds crossing urban locations, streets, factories, railway stations. But all of a sudden you didn’t have to break the rules anymore. They were crumbling. These architects had to invent new shapes. They hadn’t been taught how to do so. This is how some kind of DIY metaphysics took place illustrated by the weirdest architecture of the period.”
DT 500 ZINE: – After your personal touches of the abandoned State, what is your version, what made it reasonable that Soviets did manage so far ahead in progress in such a wide social scale?
FREDERIC: – This energy was fueled by the competition with the Western World.
DT 500 ZINE: – Fred, what is the purpose of architecture?
FREDERIC: – Literally to bring a shelter to people. But in a more understated way, it frames culture and ideology.
DT 500 ZINE: – Ha-ha! You seems like a really aesthetic man, do you draw or paint sometimes? Who artists inspires you today?
FREDERIC: – A very long time ago, I used to draw storyboards. Sometimes I grab a pencil. But discovering other people’s work is more thrilling. This is how I feed my brain. The favorite is always the latest on the list. Last summer it was Romualdas Silinskas, a leading architect of the period I’m focused on. I discovered his erotic drawings. Right now it’s Kamo Gyanjyan, a “cosmic” Armenian artist who also used to work in Soviet times. I’m collecting their works.
DT 500 ZINE: – Kamo is a genius one! Let’s speak a bit romantic, You live in Paris, a city with quite a passionate history, how has Paris influenced you so far?
FREDERIC: – French people love socialite practices. I’m not really into it.
” I move more or less every three years from one district to another. It keeps me from getting fossilized.”
DT 500 ZINE: – What projects are you working on these days?
FREDERIC: – More Architecture and Nude Art photography, anything that moves me.
DT 500 ZINE: -It was a pleasure talking to you Fred, but the last one before The End, any exhibitions? Where can we experience more of the “laurel wreath” of Frederic Chaubin-today or tomorrow?
FREDERIC: –There should be an exhibition about “CCCP” in Moscow next spring and one in Paris later on!
DT 500 ZINE: – Merci beaucoup Frédéric!
INTERVIEW BY ARTUR SOPIN
AD BY ANDREAS RØD
ARTISTS KAMO GYANJYAN,Romualdas Silinskas, Hakov Hakobyan – © Erevan modern art museum