French artist seeks to create a universal comfort zone
Betrant Peret as a DJ at the Esperantopolis 2011, a cultural event featuring a variety of arts, held at the French Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City last month
A space, an atmosphere where art interacts with life in a way that everyone is comfortable, no matter what his or her background, no matter what the person's age, no matter what the person's relationship to art Esperantopolis 2011 aspired to create this space.
Betrant Peret, his partner Sandrine Llouquet (a Viet kieu artist), and Sophie Gambart of the French consulate organized the multi-art exhibition at the French Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City last month.
The show brought together works by some 20 French and Vietnamese artists, including graffiti, photography, installation art, plays and hip-hop performances.
Event-goer Mai Thao discovered "many strange things at the unique cultural event," including a fashion show of "remakes" by a Vietnamese designer.
"I was also moved by the graffiti by Seth. The French artist's talent amazed me," she said.
"The story of the Vietnamese lady in his painting somehow expressed people's feelings about changes caused by urbanization."
For Peret, the show succeeded in one of its key aims, because the audience seemed to feel at home.
"Esperanto used to be a utopian language in the early 19th century. The ambition of that language was to be universal"¦ and polis, in Greek, means the city," said Peret, explaining the title of the exhibition.
"That is what we had in mind"¦ Could we consider art and art events as this universal zone?"
Peret said he together with the co-organizer, Sophie Gambart, wanted to create an event with high-quality art for everybody without assigning any theme or topic to it.
"To me, it's really important for everybody and anybody, from the xe om (motorbike taxi driver) to the director of a gallery, to feel comfortable in the environment of esperantopolis."
It was not the first time Peret, a graduate of France's Ecole National des Beaux Arts de Bordeaux, had tried to create this universal space.
He has organized many events and exhibitions "in the spirit of esperantopolis," mainly in France, but also in the US, Germany, Cuba, Singapore and other countries, before he came to Vietnam.
As an artist and an art event organizer with more than 20 years' of experience, Peret said he's always been interested in the relationship between a venue and the public.
Any venue has potential for displaying art work, while art has to adapt to the venue, which allows the venue to generate its own public, he said.
"I would say that painting or organizing an event is nearly the same to me, it's a question of composition, a question of how to invest, to use a delimited zone."
"I like the public, any public, to be able to feel happy and comfortable in any location"¦ then art becomes part of the environment and the public, too."
The 40-year-old artist had earlier developed the idea of an "Art Total" that blurs the borders between art and life, creating "ephemeral and utopian moments."
Over the last four years he has felt that his shows in Vietnam have been reaching an increasingly larger, mixed audience of both Vietnamese and expatriates, and that there is a greater expectancy for such events.
So he aims at an Esperantopolis 2012 which is "bigger, stronger and longer."
Asked about his journey to Vietnam, Peret said that after he and his partner Llouquet had completed a lot of projects in France, they decided to come here to start doing "some exchanges between the two countries and the two cultures"¦ to try to be part of the exciting adventure an emerging country like Vietnam can provide."
He is also a founding member of the artists' collective, Mogas Station, which brings together French, German, Japanese, American and Vietnamese artists.
"The energy we can find in Vietnam is super strong, that is the fuel we need to go on, in life and art."