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A Conversation with Violaine Lochu

episode 41
Nov 4 2022

Violaine Lochu tells us about her fascination with voice, which led to her art, and how this materializes in her performances and installations. She also talks about her thoughts on being a woman in her field, her work process, and all the forms her art can take.

About our guest

Violaine Lochu (b. 1987) lives and works in Montreuil, France. Her work is an exploration of the voice as a vector of encounter and metamorphosis. During long periods of immersion in specific environments, she collects different sound and visual materials from which she creates performances, sound installations, videos and publications. Her practice is transdisciplinary. It evolves in the field of contemporary art, experimental music and sound poetry; creates bridges between the present and the past, as well as scholarly and popular universes; and is nourished by encounters with human and non-human entities, as well as through texts belonging to the field of human sciences. Encounters and collaboration are at the heart of her approach. ViolaineLochu was the winner of the Aware Prize in 2018 and the Performance Prize of the Salon de la Jeune Création in 2017. She was also nominated for the Bernard Heidsieck Prize – Centre Pompidou in 2019.


Galerie Analix Forever

Modular K, portrait, une vidéo performance de Violaine Lochu, Céline Régnard (maquillage), photo © Rachael Woodson

Sweet Idol, performance, Production Palais de Tokyo, 2020 photo © Cécile Friedmann

Picasso Portrait

Futur Intérieur, série de trois dessin 50x65 cm, encre et collage, production AWARE, 2020

UrbanOmen, cartographie divinatoire, encre et collage, 55x65 cm, 2017

“It’s important for me to say that my art is not just me, it’s a team. And it’s all the people who want to show my work as well”

Meat Me performance 2019, photo © Cécile Friedmann

Exhibition view

Orpheus Collective, installation, production la Pop, 2020, photo © Nicolas Giraud

Moving Things, installation performée avant activation, Villa Arson, 2020, photo © Cécile Friedmann

“I do the performances because it’s a personal engagement. It’s a way to give back. It’s a way to transform, to create a new story, to create new sounds”

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Violaine Lochu shares her fascination on voice and how she uses it for her art, a transdisciplinary practice which takes its roots in encounters with humans and non-humans and voice recordings. She talks about her process, her discipline and emotional connection to her art, her views on being a woman artist, and speaks about her upcoming exhibition at the Galerie Analix Forever: MblaHah.

Conversation Highlights:

  • How Violaine uses voice in her art
  • The role of improvisation, and an improvised performance night
  • Being a woman in the arts for Violaine
  • Violaine’s upcoming exhibition at Galerie Analix Forever: MblaHah

How Violaine uses voice in her art

Violaine’s work is an exploration of the voice and language. During long periods of immersion in specific contexts, she collects sounds and visual materials, from which she creates performances, sound installations, or video installations. Collaboration is very important for her, as other artists, musicians and choreographers are essential to her work.

She tells us where this comes from: she studied classical music when she was a child and had bought an accordion when she was 18 years old, which is when she started to sing. She started to travel to Central Europe, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Italy. “I’m very interested in Yiddish songs, Italian songs, and Bulgarian songs,” she says.

Violaine transitions to the importance of the collective aspect of her work. “It’s important for me to say that my art is not just me, it’s a team. And it’s all the people who want to show my work as well,” she explains. “Because when you’re an artist, you need the curators and the galleries. Artists are not alone.”

Violane started traveling with her accordion, and started to sing at 21 years old. She brought that singing voice into her art. Violaine is fascinated by female voices, and responds to it very emotionally. “I think there’s something when you start to scream and sing the way you want. For me, it was freedom. It was to be in contact with something deep, but it was not so easy. Because you have to find your way,” Violaine says.

“With my voice, I’m using a language that everyone shares, the song I used to sing comes from a millennium of traditions. I think a good singer forgets himself,” she explains. “My work is about that,” she adds, “my voice is a collective, it’s what it means to be a woman and to use your voice today in our culture.”

Violaine Lochu gives us a glimpse of her process: she’d interview people and record their voices, she’d recorded babies in the nursery during the period of one year. “And sometimes I use the interviews to create sound installations,” she shares.

She gives us a lot of examples of how she applies her work: “Last year in the Musée Picasso,” she says, “In the South of France, (...) I went around to meet people around this museum and I asked them about their trauma. It was interesting because a lot of people had lived through the Algerian War, as French soldiers. (...) And after we’ve recorded these voices, I create a sound piece. At the museum there were four performers, special ones, they looked like healers and priests, and they sang what people told me about their traumas. Singing was a way for catharsis, a therapy. It’s therapeutic work. It’s a performance installation, it means that when you enter, you see a kind of material archive of this installation with all the elements of the performance. You have a film, not a video recording of the performance, but really a film.”

Violaine’s work is layered and complex, human and visceral. It is always around performance and voice, but it takes different forms and shapes. She reveals why it’s important for her to do this: “Everything is connected in my work,” she begins, “it’s difficult to explain. But I do the performances because it’s a personal engagement. It’s a way to give back. It’s a way to transform, to create a new story, to create new sounds.” Violaine goes on to tell us about how she also uses sounds of animals, like during a performance centered on whale sounds.

The role of improvisation, and an improvised performance night

We tell Violaine about having seen her perform an improvised performance a couple of years ago at a restaurant for a book opening, and she goes on to tell us all about it, leading to her elaborating on the role of improvisation in her work process.

First, she laughs as she says “To be honest, it’s the only time I’ve done an improvised performance in front of an audience. And I’ve done it because Barbara asked me, and I love Barabara, so I can do a lot of things for Barabara.”

Violaine then goes to explain that she works with improvisation every day at her studio. She improvises based on her recordings. “I record myself every day,” she tells us. “And so day after day, I keep something from all of these improvisations. So, improvisation is part of my daily practice, but for me it’s a way to go to something very specific. It’s a tool. It’s an exercise more than an end.”

She circles back to the improvised performance night, highlighting how that was an exception, “because of friendship”.

Being a woman in the arts for Violaine

It doesn’t take long for Violaine to answer the question about her thoughts on being a woman in the arts. One day, she got a prize. “And so when I got this prize,” she continues, “all the journalists came to ask me what it meant to be a woman artist. (...) I think it was the beginning of my consciousness. I asked them why do you have to ask me about my art as a woman? Because I feel like I am an artist. Okay, maybe I am a woman, but I’m also white, I’m also middle class. I was very surprised about this question.”

Violaine’s work is feminist, not in the subject but in the way she tries to create a safe space and listen to people who don’t always have the opportunity to be heard.

“It’s very interesting to be a woman,” she stresses, “but sometimes, of course you have to fight. More than a male, for sure. It’s changing now, but ten years ago 80% of artists in museums were male. So it meant you had to be very good and very lucky to be at the same level. Now I understand that it was not normal.”

Despite all this, Violaine expresses that she is excited to live in these times when there is more and more consciousness. “But we have a lot of work still,” she adds. In her view, the work started a long time ago in the arts, passed on to us by our grandmothers.

Violaine’s upcoming exhibition at Galerie Analix Forever: MblaHah

“I’m happy to be in residency for the week with Barbara Pola in Analix in Geneva,” Violaine says with enthusiasm. “In MblaHah, M means yum, yum. Bla means bla, bla, bla. Hah is for ha ha ha. Eating, speaking, and laughing.”

There is a story behind the idea of this exhibition: when Barabara Pola proposed to Violaine to do the exhibition, she shares having been going through a rough time. “I was living through a dark period,” she says this and chuckles. “You know, sometimes when you’re an artist, you feel empty, and you don’t have any desire to create anything new. So she proposed to me, but I was asking myself what could I do? I felt sad and had no ideas. So I started to drink and eat out with artist friends and speak about my problems, and in the end during these dinners, we spoke of everything, and it really helped me feel better. Because I realized I wasn't alone and that it was normal to have these periods without inspiration. (...) MblaHah is about the joy in the practice of art,” Violaine concludes before going on to tell us about what she’ll do:

“I’m organizing a dinner with artists from the Galerie Analix Forever, but also with artists from Benin, because I often go to Benin in Africa, and some Parisian artists. I record these dinners, then I’ll make some drawings from these recordings, because I’m very interested in how when you’re in a collective, in a group, you think together. During interviews I ask artists to express themselves, to express their experiences about their emotional relationship with art. Then I’ll make a song, like an opera, with all these artists’ voices, and during the opening day I’ll make a performance on laughing.”

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