Questions for Jean-Gabriel Periot


Everything is political. Private is public. Would you put your name under these MAY 68 slogans? Do you feel the sentiment towards that époque, towards art of that period?

Everything is political: Yes. Private is public: Yes. But this one is too complex to fit is so few words. I like also "A revolution is not a spectacle! There are no spectators! Everyone participates whether they know it or not!" or "never work!" And about art, there is this manifesto from Godard for the Dziga Vertov group that he created: 1 We have to make political movies. 2 We have to make movies politically.

What I'm jealous about 68 is that, at those times, there was the feeling that it is possible to change the world. And even the artistes tough they could help to change this world with their arts. People then were not afraid to try, to do, to act. Now, we're so frightened. So "petit bourgeois" that we are not able to really do something.


Could you march on the street in defense of something? What would it be?

I did, and continue sometimes. But, in fact, I don't believe in demonstrations. Even if I was not in, and probably not able to be in, I think that the riots in the French suburbs, in Athens, in Iran etc. are a better option than pacific marches in the streets…


Do you consider yourself an artist and a leftist at the same time? Can good art really be politically engaged?

Yes, I consider myself as artist and leftist, as an engage artist. But I'm not naïve. I know that I have myself a certain "petit bourgeois" way to do art. I do political movies because I can't stand to do nothing, but I know that movies never change the world. To make movies is a way to do nothing and to keep a certain good conscience. I am also aware that "political art" is only a part of the market of art and cinema. We are so much in the spectacle society that there is nothing to really do with art and cinema today. The people that have no choice act. I don't act.

For the second question, my personal answer is no. For me there are two options for art and cinema: politic or poetry. As audience, we need political contents but also imagination.

How about being an artist and gay – what does it change? Have you ever encountered prejudice?

I don't really care about to be a gay artist. To be a gay artist is just a part of being a political artist. Just one topic I am interested in because I'm gay.

I think that whatever the precision of the social questions (gay, racism, feminism, ecology… ), they will be solved only within a global political evolution. It's one of the tools of capitalism to separated topics and people.


How do you feel about your body? Do you perceive it medically, as a work of art, sexually or as a tool?

I don't really know… I'm not really fit in my body!

I could be hypochondriac. So then for me, my body is the place for illness, for death… Except during sexual activities. Then it is really something else. Perhaps the only moments when I could fit within my flesh.


Why do we fear our real bodies so much that we treat them as plastic mannequins, that don’t smell and don’t breathe? Why can’t we bear our imperfections?

We are humans, animals, so we will die one day. But in this society, dying or being ill is forbidden. Capitalism can't stand the idea of death… and we are the children of it.


What’s your attitude towards pornography? Do you watch? I saw two movies relating to that subject. One was very funny (Rain), one poetic (Lovers).

I have not really personal opinion about pornography. I am not a consumer of it. It's not belonging to my sexuality. But, it could be for others. I could perfectly understand.

About the representation of sexuality, I think, as the sexuality itself, it is a place for liberty. And could be a place for political questioning. The only thing I could point negatively is that I not really understand why almost of the porns, hetero, gays or whatever, are quite all the same. The mainstream porn production is like a Mc Donald for sexuality. It is really a poor place for differences and desires. That it is, for myself, in opposition with the multiplicity of the sexualities.


Your films often look like music videos. Why did you choose that form ? Do you have some favorite music videos? How would you call your films – video art, shorts, manifestos?

I do my films as propaganda movies, even if I am more in questioning than answering. So I make them to be shared with the maximum of audience. To not use language, but music, helps there. In fact, I construct my movies as piece of music. I like the music because in music you could be in the same time be use abstract forms and political contents.


In the description of Undo you write: “Today’s been sad, tomorrow won’t get any better”. You don’t see the world as a place worth living, do you? How can we “undo” the world if we can, or is it only a nice metaphor?

There is always a kind of naivety in politic. We all refer to the past. Even when we talked about 68' for example. But if, on some points, yesterday was better, in some others it was worth. We don't have to compare now to yesterday. We have to be present in our own world. And we have to find our own answers. We need to know about history to understand today, but we can't construct ourselves on an idealized past. And in fact, yes, the world I live in is really a devastated one. I have the chance to live in France, in Europe, to have some money, a flat, to be able to make movies, but people die to allow me to live this life.


We are winning, don’t forget is a sad acknowledgment, that we are all pretending, wearing an armor of artificial happiness. Is it really possible to get through this shield and really understand another person, feel the empathy? Can documentary cinema do it?

Cinema can't anything there. What we find in movies is not the others but our own ideas of who are those others. Only reflects. Not reality. I think that we all make a mistake when we talk about "understand the others". We are naïve when we hope a worldwide human understanding. That idea is a false idea. We even are not able to really understand our neighbors.

We will be able to go further when we will realize that we are all different and that it is impossible to really understand each other. It is when we will quit this naïve and false optimism that the real exchanges will be able to happen. We have to make our own mourning about the "others as the same as us" to be able to create real exchanges between all of us.


How can we manage to cope with the unstoppable stream of images flooding our minds and eyes day by day? How can we defend ourselves?

Just close your eyes.


You work on images, among these are the images of war. Which images we remember the most? What is left in our minds from Holocaust, Hiroshima, Sarajevo? Why some events are separated from official memory – like the lynches of women who slept with German officers, that you show in Even if she was a criminal…

If I worked on those events, it is that I am quite convinced that we are not living in a pacified world. In Europe, we are quit saved actually, but for how many times? Our richness will help us to decrease more slowly than the poor countries, our richness will protect us some times, but if we continue to live as we do, we all know that it is only a question of time.

What I can't manage to understand is why some horrible events of the past don't help us to created a peaceful world. Anyone who listens to the survivor of the Nazi camps, of Hiroshima, of Sarajevo could know the price of life. But it seems that no one care about it. Capitalism is built on lapse of memory. But as citizens, as human beings, we could confront ourselves with those ruins. Even if it is painful, difficult, not understandable…

My own confrontations with Hiroshima survivors, or with people from Sarajevo, gave more price to my own life. I can't complain about my little problems after listening them. It's not the idea of accepting what happen today because what we are confronting is less painful that what they lived. The idea is that we have to positively act, and now more only react. And, because life is fragile, we have in the same time to enjoy it and to protect it.


Can violence and destruction be beautiful? The diving bombers that you show in Under twilight move with elegance and in perfect harmony. Is it ethical to look at violence that way?

It was the question of that movie. But I don't answer to this question in it, I never did. I find myself that destructions and violence could be beautiful, and I am afraid to that. We are so used to see fiction films, series, video games about wars, destructions, death, that now we have a blurry view on the reality of those destructions. And, in a way, with the exponential diffusion of images, all of them are more or less felt as fiction. In this movie, I wanted to confront myself to images that are beautiful, but that are images of death. Those planes, they just were used to drop bombs, to kill people. I need to make a movie about this double movement of those images: they are beautiful and they are empty of their own reality. I don't want to criticize or analyze those images, I just wanted that to question the morality of those images and of the use of them.


Karolina Sulei
Exklusiv magazine, 2009