What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?
The Albrecht Dürer print my granddad gave me when I was a child. He used to be a close friend of Dürer. They met when fishing in Africa where my grandfather stayed and became a merchant in a small harbour during the war (my grandma was worried, as she didn’t know where he’d gone). A few years later, he was found in Antwerp. This print means a lot to me.
What do you wish you knew?
That my granddad was not my real granddad, and that this is not the real stuff, and that my priorities are not yours, and how not to lose your passport ever again, that four times four is not 21, that my mother was the sister of my auntie’s cousin, and that she said she would do this questionnaire for me so I can take a bath …
If you could live with only one piece of art, what would it be?
I would have to choose Triomphe de Moules I (Moules Casserole) (The Triumph of Mussels I [Mussels Casserole], 1965) by Marcel Broodthaers. But before it becomes a work of art, I get to eat the mussels. And for dessert, I will have the one with a bit of pink on the right, a few lines of grey going toward the bottom, some bright red in the centre where a face can just be guessed at, thick green on the right and flashes of grey. It’s my favourite by far.
What should change?
The colour of roads, the taste of celery, the tropical weather in England, bigger fruit, ageing sooner, less fishing, more chocolate, more smells, cats looking like dogs, the norm of the norm, birds carrying messages, planes turning into trains, wearing nice hats, four walls and a warm heart for everyone, that my granddad comes back, warmer studios for shivering artists, having wings so we could fly, smart-phones that stop leaks in the bathroom, running for the new, more time in greasy spoons, slower communications and that my new friend in Nigeria would contact me after I gave him my bank details for the few millions he said were mine.
What should stay the same?
Looking at a branch and discovering stick insects that look like the branch, bakeries in France, oysters in the sea, rain in the north, sun in Italy, gelato, the smell of the big pine trees in Rome, the smiles of strangers and the warm hearts of friends, the paintings of bottoms I have been collecting, long intelligent sentences, everything I haven’t seen yet.
What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?
Telling stories and decorating village squares, singing to animals. I’d maybe be like that bird that decorates his nest with red berries, shiny insect backs and flowers to attract females.
What are you reading?
I read a lot of short stories – Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Stefan Zweig, Donald Barthelme and some Roald Dahl. Also, a friend gave me a book of short fiction by Walter Abish, which is great.
What is art for?
To be shocked by what surrounds us, to make us question, to admire complexity, criticize, laugh, cry and taste delicious things ...
In 2011, Laure Prouvost was awarded the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in conjunction with the Whitechapel Gallery, London, uk, where she will have a solo exhibition, from 20 March to 7 April, which tours to Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy, in May. She currently has a new commission included in ‘Schwitters in Britain’ at Tate Britain, London (until 12 May). In 2012, she had solo shows at mot International, London; and Treasurer’s House and The Hepworth Wakefield, UK. Her feature-length film, The Wanderer (2012), for which she received a flamin award, premiered at the Rio Cinema, London, in 2012, and has since been screened at the ICA, London.
First published in Issue 153