If we might believe in the unique confession on his website, a subterfuge of biographical elements, the attempt to explain the character is absurd and futile. “A biography would be useless. The Turk was simply bored one night, listening by accident to the Passion according to Saint John of Johann Sebastian Bach, very loud in his headphones. There is nothing outside of this major event, nothing on this desire, this split. Since then, his entire work has been dedicated to what he felt during these eight minutes or so, devoted to the “most authentic and faithful retransmission of the Passion which was born on that night”. It is yet one of the only tangible most genuine truths which will come out of his words and his pictures.
Le Turk is a character, an entity of his own, a singular and erratic concept. Attempting to sum him up in a brief and exhaustive biography would indeed be illusory. His very pseudonym is a mystery, which he keeps on maintaining. Ask him about this stage name and you perpetually will get a different answer, as if this the imagination of the spectator or of the interlocutor was more important than knowledge, as if falsehood was a creative process, stronger than reality, the truth’s lie. Shaping and modelling falsehood, to get closer to reality, subliming artefacts to create aestheticism, here lies no denunciation, no other goal than that of the artistic ideal of beauty. Beauty or ugliness by the way. Truth comes from dystopia: exposing humankind, naked, as he is, in a collapsing world. Ugly, beautiful, dirty, disgusting, nasty, sublime, extreme, he is attracted to contraries, no moderation, everything is excess. Prostitutes, mimes, pimps, clowns, people who committed suicide, social outcasts, absurd and pathetic beings moving on a stage where aesthetics are intensified. As a mirror into the face of the world, a reflection of ourselves, where the holder laughs about the subject, the object, the spectator who can only be enthralled, disturbed, moved, as it is all about him. Here, the nude is an ideal of beauty, it is the human condition, the aesthetic of immorality in a post-century world. He is himself a character of his own photographs, an active actor of his own mental drama, Le Turk, authentic, faithful, ostentatious, in a sacred and profane painting, God, Jesus, Bach, Elvis, Duchamp… He creates the world, in his own image, passionately, mentally. Excessive, DIYer, painter, decorator, tragedian, Le Turk is the most patriotic of the French photographers. He finds the inspiration for his scenes in French history, in the circus, the cabaret, in the Pigalle fashion, in Parisian revolutions, the “Paris Commune”from the Christ to the Burlesque. His world is inspired from cartoons, Jeunet movies and Otto Dix or Jerome Bosch’s paintings. And even if his photographs are purely staged, they constitute nevertheless stolen life scenes, a captured moment, a conquered instant, made in cardboard, wood, polystyrene and other accessories. We met the Turk on the eve of his private viewing in an ephemeral gallery close to the St Lazare train station, in May 2015.
Here comes a young 30 years old man, a rough capillarity, decked out in a vest covered with decorations and military medals and an old pair of trousers with holes on his bottom. After a few questions where the man holds the mystery around his life and his work, always acting on a permanent theatre stage, we discover a charming character, brilliant, passionate, authentic and in spite of everything, genuine.
Where does this pseudonym “Le Turk” comes from, whereas you are certainly the photographer who is claimed to be the most French ?
You seem to give a new version each time ? And yet there is no lie! I tell the truth each time. I am going to give you the real version wish I very seldom give. In the end of my 18th birthday, I had to go to jail for a few months, and that was the nickname I had in detention. When you tell lies, no one believes you in the end !
Carpenter, photographer, director, what have you done before ?
I clearly don’t like doing DIY for the settings. I had to start. DIY is an obligation for me, I cannot let it be done by someone else. I did cinema before and I am seriously getting back to it.
How do you operate for the stage sets ?
First, there is the birth of a desire. Then, you tell your brain to be quiet and you do things. You try to shut yourself down and to let yourself be guided by your vision. At the beginning, you try to hold a hard core, do not let it go and you hold true to it. Afterwards, everything happens as if it was obvious, there isn’t 36 million choices. There isn’t any theory, the image, the set builds up little by little and when aesthetics are your only guide, there is no choice, I do things because they need to be done. Your set is created just like that, with you, despite you, like that.
So your photography is based only on aesthetics ?
Only losers would want to transcribe something more. There are many things to say. But then, the fact of knowing precisely what I want to tell, would be pretentious and also inefficient. Someone who succeeds in knowing what he wants, isn’t an artist, maybe an accountant, yes, or a philosopher. I don’t make books; when you write a philosophical essay, the back cover, the synopsis are going to explain what the writer wanted to put inside! But when you realise pictorial art, logically, everything is inside! It isn’t you, inside; it is something else, something that goes beyond you. If you don’t let yourself be guided and penetrated by something else, as we are very small, it is not worth starting photography to tell about your trip or your breakfast. There are many things around us and I don’t forbid myself to think about them, I forbid myself to make them guide aesthetics. Aesthetics go beyond the concept, it goes beyond the thought. And then you look at the picture, you distance yourself and realise that there are surprising things, like: I put that there… it’s a chronicle, I am making a chronicle of a collapsing world, falling apart. I am not the one thinking the world for itself !
- Meet Le Turk in Normal Magazine n°1 & n°6 -