Victoire Thierrée, born in 1988 in Paris. French artist working around military subjects. She started working on military subjects early in her artist career as a Beaux-art student in Paris. After graduation in 2014, now she works in her studios between Le Bourget and Pantin.
JKS: How did you start? What was the inspiration?
The beginning is actually a bit funny… I was in the second year of Beaux Arts in Paris. I was with this guy who lived in Caen, Normandie, a city in west of France. One day, I went to see him there and he broke up with me. I took my car and drove to the beach. I was alone and I started to follow bunkers around the beach. I started taking pictures of the huge bunkers of the "Normandie Wall". Ended up spending 3 days there, and started reading about this subject, like the French cultural theorist, urbanist, and aesthetic philosopher, Paul Virilio and his beautiful book "Bunker Archeology".
And then I started to read more military tactics, contemporary strategies. At the same time I was also going to Air Shows in France, Army Fairs (Le Salon du Bourget and Eurosatory) and doing researches on military drones.
I told myself, as an artist I need to do work on this subject. I started like that. I thought I have to go to US to see the airplane and air show; to know who is behind the Army and Industry. I wanted to take a picture the F-117 Night Hawk, the first military stealth airplane used by US Air FORCE.
Black Diamond, 2013, gelatin silver print, 52 x 78 cm.
I was on the road alone, did this one month. When I came back to France it was more clear. Yes, I need to do this work.
JKS: What was the first action after you made yourself clear that you want to do this?
I started to call the French Army from a Beaux Arts de Paris’s corridor.
“Hi I’m Victoire, I’m a 2nd year Beaux-art student and I want to go to your military drone base to take pictures”.
I took a train and, arrived in base at 6pm. They asked “Did you bring your dinner?” and I said, “No”, they replied “Okay because dinner is finished”. I went to the back of the kitchen in their base and took food from there. I was alone in a small room. It was my very first night in the military.
Harfang, 2012, gelatin silver print, 100 x 130 cm, French Air Force military base of Cognac (Charente), France.
JKS: Are they usually supportive? Wouldn’t it be easy to communicate with people who are dealing with highly classified information.
They are usually supportive and also that’s because I’m being very precise on my requests: what I want to do what I need to see and to shoot because I’m doing big research before making a call.
In addition to that, If you follow the rules it’s okay, don’t run away at take off, climb on the fighter airplane and things like that (Laugh). It takes time to be trusted by these people and to be free, but I’m an artist I want to what I want to do.
IL #4, Don’t get caught in the dark serie, 2016, infrared photography (taken with an infrared military camera), inkjet print, metal frame made by the artist, 30x45cm.
JKS: Do you find this subject is interesting because it’s rare and not many done it before or because of it’s aesthetic, use of it, technology or?
I’m not a big army fan, I think it’s an important world to work on as an artist I want to show this world through my eyes and sensibility. It talks about violence, esthetic, politics, technology, strategy… our current life is linked with it and many people are working in this industry, it’s a huge subject to discover further.
Taxinomie, Mask serie, 2017, metal, 30 x 18 x 8 cm.
JKS: Do you think it’s important as an artist, who is working on military subject, to show society the impact of military and our current situation and problem or it is a separated matter?
My last show in Paris was called "Lisser L'espce" literally translated into "The Smooth Space" This concept was created and used by the Israeli army during recent conflicts where they don’t used the concept of “street”, "wall" or "border" anymore. They go into the first house with a tank and the soldiers made holes through houses on miles for the soldiers, they used the private spaces as the battlefield. so the space of battle is really wherever they decide to start. I think it is interesting to show and talk about the strategy, the weapon, the airplanes or camouflage… which created in military conflicts and to try to understand why.
JKS: Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has a similar view as you, he once stated, “I hate violence, and I think that violence is meaningful if you see the impact of violence on victims. I don’t want to make a show of violence. When I use violence in a movie it’s just to express the power, the impact of it”.
JKS: What’s the hardest part of doing work on this such an unique subject? What is the next step?
The hardest part of doing Art from this subject is to make a good work from this subject that doesn't look like a plain military object but which leaves question in this world. I more and more want to make sculptures and installations with materials that only exists in the military and space world. I’m doing a lot of researches and meet Industrials to see what they are developing and building nowadays and the esthetic of the materials and objects that come out from it. I want to challenge myself how far I can go in this world that I didn't know at all few years ago. I don’t have any military in my family. Now I want to go the deepest and the furthest I could in this very restricted world.
Studio, December 2017, Paris (France).
JKS: Has anyone ever said no to you? Tried to stop you?
Yes, people from big industrial companies who are selling armory. But they usually don’t say cold "No", so I never stop asking.
F117 A, 2017, 136 x 100 x 21 cm, Steel, Epoxy paint.
Victoire Thierrée's exclusive art works will be soon available on TheArsenale for collectors including F117 A, steel sculpture inspired by the F117 Night Hawk, the first military stealth airplane designed by US Air Force in the 1960s.
If you are a collector and have additional inquiry, please contact the editor [email protected]