White ceramic tiles with black joints were French sculptor Jean-Pierre Raynaud‘s signature for most of his artistic production. In 1969, the artist started his research on space designing and constructing his own house at La Celle Saint-Cloud, France.
As he considered the first built edifice banal, the artist soon started to call into question the parameters of a living space. Reporting to be unsatisfied with the “conventional” configuration of the house, he started a journey which lasted twenty-four years destined to deeply transform and reinvent his domestic space, entering what would eventually become the central trajectory of his whole artistic career and creating a building that would coincide with his own self: “The goal is not to make works of art, it is to live the artwork as a goal.“.
J’ai voulu construire une maison, mais comme la maison de tout le monde, c’est-à-dire une maison pour habiter avec ma femme. (…) J’ai vécu quelques mois dans cette maison. C’était une expérience nouvelle pour moi, et là, j’ai compris que je ne pourrais jamais m’adapter à un lieu, entre guillemets normal. (…) J’ai senti qu’il fallait que je remette en question tout, une partie de mon existence en tout cas (…) J’ai commencé par divorcer, ça a été la première chose. Je me suis dit : « il faut déjà réapproprier le sens de mon corps, de ce que je suis. Jean-Pierre Reynaud
I wanted to build a house, but not as the house everyone may have, that is to say, a house to live in with my wife. (…) I lived a few months in this house. It was a new experience for me, and there I realized that I could never adapt to a” normal” place . (…) I felt that I had to call into question a part of my life anyway (…) I started by divorce, that was the first thing. I said, “I already have to reclaim the sense of my body, what I am. (translation from French by Socks)
The obsessive construction of the house’s interiors, whose walls, floors, ceilings and fixed furniture were all coated with white 15cm x 15cm ceramic tiles (from Garches) with black joints, seemed dictated by the purpose to produce an absolute space, controlled by a regular grid, and at the same time to cover it with a material which is part of the collective memory, as the mass-produced and humble tiles are a recurrent presence in most people’s houses. A simple serial device is destined here to control a complex space.
In 1988, Raynaud began to progressively metamorphosise the house into a bunker, turning it into his own means for sheltering and protecting from the outside world. For six years he inhabited the house all alone, naming the rooms as sectors of a defensive architecture (“crypte“, “tour“, and so on). Seen from the outside, the house appeared as painted in camouflage-army tones and protected with barbed wire.
From 22 to 26 Mars 1993 the last chapter of the Maison in La Celle Saint-Cloud started as Jean-Pierre Reynaud operated the final destruction of the house. The artist later placed the rubble into a thousand steel containers to transform this work in a further and last installation, later shown in the CAPC, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bordeaux.
« En 23 ans, la maison a connu cinq stades successifs. Et je tenais beaucoup à en assurer moi-même les métamorphoses. Quand j’ai pris conscience, en 1988, qu’elle était réellement terminée, cela a été un choc terrible, comme l’aboutissement d’une recherche, la fin d’une vie. Je n’ai pas voulu accepter que ma relation avec elle prenne fin, aussi, durant quatre ans, j’ai réfléchi sur le sens de cette ” oeuvre ” qui m’échouait comme si je devais en être le gardien jusqu’à ma mort. J’ai réalisé qu’étant unique elle méritait plus d’audace et d’égard que cette architecture parfaite, figée qu’elle était devenue – ce qui est le propre des objets d’art -, il me fallait lui faire subir un sort exceptionnel, digne d’elle. Je décidai de la métamorphoser, de l’emporter ailleurs, de lui faire vivre une expérience absolue. Pour cela, elle devait se soumettre à une ultime transformation : la démolition ». Jean-Pierre Raynaud, 1993. (Via)
“In 23 years, the house has experienced five successive stages. And I very much wanted to lead the metamorphoses myself. When, in 1988 I realized that it was really over, it was a terrible shock, as the culmination of a search, the end of a life. As I did not want to accept that my relationship with the house was terminated, for four years I have reflected on the meaning of this “work” that failed me as if I had to be the guardian until my death . I realized that being unique, the house deserved more audacity and respect than what had become this perfect, frozen architecture, – which is characteristic of art -: I had to let it undergo an exceptional fate, worthy of it. I decided to transform it, to bring it elsewhere, to make it live an absolute experience. For that, the house had to undergo an ultimate transformation: its own demolition. ” Jean-Pierre Raynaud, 1993.
Explore the different rooms of the house. (Archive.org mirror of an old site, no longer online)