Poetic Re-Evolution: Reality Sandwich Interviews Jodorowsky and Montadon

Sophie Pinchetti interviews filmmaker and artist Alejandro Jodorowsky and his wife and artist Pascale Montandon for Reality Sandwich (originally from the magazine, THE THIRD EYE):

Created by four hands, a third artist is born. The artistic communion, first drawn by Jodorowsky and then infused with colour by Montandon, levitates between fantasy, tragedy, humor and spirituality — all of which recall the essence of mysticism and symbolic theatrics in Jodorowsky’s films.
Sophie Pinchetti:  Your collaborative work seems to converge around spirituality. Where does your interest come from? 

Alejandro Jodorowsky: Spirituality is abstract. True art leads you to the discovery of your spirit. It’s not the quest, it’s the application, the practice of spirituality.

Pascale Montandon: In the same way I was simply going to say that it is a way of being in the world, a way of living. And obviously when you do an artistic work, the material of work is oneself. So the deepest questions are posed naturally, and when you work with someone else, you go on to the questions around your relationship, of sublimation. I think that in every artistic work, questions are not asked before. It’s almost like the work itself makes you discover what it is that you are working on.

AJ: There is an attitude: either you are a merchant, or a person seeking glory, or you are a true artist. If you are a pure artist, your search will be ‘What is art?’ ‘What is pure?’ Pure is a thing that is absolutely, totally itself. In the artistic work process, starting is difficult because it requires an awakening to consciousness. At the essence of art is the research of art, search in its purest state.

PM: Absolutely.

AJ: This is where I admire Pascale because she explains less. I’m quite literary, I love poetry. So to seduce Pascale, I started to draw, to create something with her. I introduce things that are exotic, but at the same time, with the way the world is now, it’s sometimes necessary to express things that are not just purely paintings — we can express ideas. But only for social, humanitarian or personal reasons — we make that sacrifice to make things impure because people need to be brought to conscience.

How do you elaborate your series?

AJ: We started by having fun, didn’t we? I propose a drawing to her, if she likes it, she will paint it in colour. If she doesn’t like it, she refuses.

PM: I never refuse anything [laughs].

AJ: We are lucky. She never refuses anything, but she should [laughs].

PM: The particularity of this work in common is that half of the work arrives. Alexandro does the drawing and gives it to me. I wouldn’t do it for anyone else but him. Because at the same time, it’s the taking of possession of a universe, of appropriation in some way. It’s a formidable experience. The colours arrive like in a dream. Now that the work exists, it’s like a child – it’s time for it to grow.

What are the themes of your works in collaboration?

PM: He was drawing the ‘Fábulas Pánicas’ years ago in Mexico for El Heraldo de México. His drawings become mythical, but it’s one of the least well-known parts of Alexandro’s work. He is known mostly as filmmaker, and writer, but I dug them out of his old boxes. I found incredible grace in all of his drawings, a unique writing. It made him want to start drawing again. But in a completely private manner, just for himself. Then he started proposing that I do the colours — that it would become a collaborative work. It was neither him or I. It became like the creation of a third artist. I had never thought of my work in terms of theme, my work has a very abstract personality. Alexandro comes with his phantasmagoric, psychoanalytical universe — he brings me all this — and in this way it induces a work of colour that I had never conceived of. It nourished me. But it is Alexandro that gives the “traction” point, like he calls it, because he is the first to draw. Me, I follow his story, I reveal it but he is the one who gives the cue.

AJ: We can really say that plastically you are my master. I learn from you, I follow you humbly. I am your disciple. It’s a discovery. Every time I do a drawing, I have an immense curiosity to see what you are going to do. I am surprised every time.

PM: I’ve always felt that coming into art was like a religion. I did it in quite a radical manner, almost austere, like a prayer dedicated to the world in a subliminal sense. With Alexandro, there is something with his aura, that acts directly in a frontal manner.

AJ: In my biography (The Dance of Reality) there is a chapter called ‘Theatre as a Religion’. Every artistic thing I have done, I have undertaken like a religion — first it was dance, mime, then theatre, cinema, poetry…

What have been your experiences with symbolism?

AJ: I started using symbols when I was four or five years old in fairy tale stories. I learned to read when I was four — I read all this fantasy literature. My parents were atheists but gave me an erotic book for when I would be older. They would tell me ‘You will grow up, then you will rot, and that is all’. It was desperate. So I started using symbols my whole life. The Tarot came later. After surrealism, I did the Panik theatre movement in Chile, then happenings in the Sixties, I never stopped. All of this is the product of a long trajectory — Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, seduction, the Kabbalah, alchemy, my symbolic cinema…

PM: I don’t know where it came from but as a child, I always had this kind of fantasy that you are born as a closed book and existence makes you reveal things that you have within yourself, that you already know in a certain way. I have always felt this sensation of being guided. I saw everything as signs. I don’t believe in fate. The meeting with Alexandro, I knew an encounter like this one was going to happen. The artistic approach developed like this for me.

Do you see art as an expression of the sacred, of spirituality in a sacred sense?

PM: Yes, I think that in every artistic aspiration, artistic work, artistic approach, there is something that has to do with our relation to the sacred. The sacred, not necessarily to do with a religion from which we came from, but to do with our relation the world, to the invisible, to the impalpable, to the cosmic forces of the world — call it what you will — I believe it is profoundly about this connection.

AJ: I believe profoundly in the human being. I think that our time has a sickness. Art has the goal to bring us back to consciousness, that means spirituality. So I say that an art is only an art when it can heal. I have done it to myself, and to others. Healing means to bring us to a superior degree of being. This is the goal of art. When art is sincerely critical, it awakens. But it does not make you move forward. But the goal of art is not only to show what is wrong, it’s to also show what is good. Art of value changes you for the better. Not the one that provokes a revolution — that is not the aim of art, that is the aim of politics. Art is not political or politics. We must not confuse them. Art must take one to beauty, outside of criticism.

In many ways, authenticity is missing today — and it has to do with the consciousness.

PM: Absolutely. Today, contemporary art has become sociological, communicative, political, almost like marketing coups. And finally, with this constant search for the coups, the hits, the form, we have lost the deeper meaning, the relationship with the sacred, and spirituality. Contemporary art is like a game of mirrors. But it is ultimately reductive. Art must not just be a representation of what is society.

AJ: I saw a photo of a racecourse car stuck to the wall. This is the sickness of the game. When someone signs their name, they kill art. Everyone is in the readymade, accumulations of objects. But that is a critical, political attitude. A true artist is not ‘anti’, he is pro-painting, pro-poetry. He is pro, not anti.

PM: For this type of action, it had value once, when it was done for the first time.

It stagnates.

PM: Today, it’s commonplace in all galleries and museums around the world to see an art that is denouncing and militant. But something that goes towards the sublime, towards the search for pure beauty, this has become subversive and increasingly rare. We don’t authorise ourselves to do something of that order anymore. We have lost that sense.

AJ: Because there is the crisis, the war, the pollution, it’s all part of the symptoms of the destruction of our civilisation. Either you make a cadaver, or you make a butterfly. There is the attitude — either you do everything so that things will die, or you do things for a mutation. I am working for mutation.

I am thinking about that phrase that you wrote – ‘Not revolution, but poetic re-evolution’.

AJ: This is where we are. An artist is not a politician. He is not a Che Guevara. We need to bring things back to the way they are. Obviously with Marxism, the Cultural Revolution in China, the revolution in Russia, it was about the people, the voice of the people. And so to speak about pure art in such a way, it was bourgeois, it was to be an assassin — to speak of the superiority of the human being, all that. But what did the Cultural Revolution really give China? Contemporary China is a completely capitalist society. I am not going to create a tree that will please China. I am not going to create a tree that will please the Americans, to the exaltation of the dollar, of violence. I refuse. It is time to create a tree that exalts the human spirit. I say ‘I’…But it is ‘we’ isn’t it?

PM: All the revolutions broke with something that was obsolete or condemnable, but to establish something much worse. If people do not change, nothing can change.

AJ: What we need now is a spiritual, mental change, a total change. Politics have expired. Economy has expired. Religion has expired.

PM: For us, it’s to make the message of love heard, that beauty exists, that the sublime is the way.

Read the full interview here.

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