When Liza sang to Joel Grey that money made the world go round it indeed encapsulated the essence (in just one sentence) of millions of words that have tried to explain our evolution in history. It’s not too daring to say, Darwin 1 point but perhaps Minelli 2. However, while money can, indeed, buy so many pretty things, all of them probably, there still is a not too banal place where some other things grow. That’s why we love to interview artists. And that’s why we love very much Camille Soulat.
Our art heroine gave herself a year to explore without thinking in bills or paying any rent, without a mortgage to feed every month. And while we are convinced, exquisitely, that our coming-of-age rituals go through those tons of invoices to be met, artists always show us a better way. Let’s take a pen today and write over a dollar, in this goddess we now trust.

And Camille’s poetic 2018 was in her own words one of the most formative years of her entire life, “it allowed me to try things without judgment and with nothing to lose” she says. And we are so grateful for that, and so is The Ballon Rouge, the space in Brussels where she is presenting her latest solo-exhibition, Suburbcel. Soulat uses the past to talk about the present, and plays with a nostalgic universe of pixels, renders and over-saturated colours to evoke a time where faxes spat out the positivism of the 90s. We asked her about her references, and Marguerite Duras is one who reigns among others within her personal Olympus. And we can imagine, indeed, a broken fax machine singing over the paper the unconnected moans of The Lover. Or as Camille says, creating these intimate but distant images, clinical and fleshy unapologetic statements; “She puts the metaphysical into mundane things and subjects”.

And the name of the exhibition take us to a place where apparently nothing really happens. Suburbcel as a geographical state of mind. The suburbs as a boundary. And undoubtedly this topic has written millions of books, plays or movies, because there is something about it that greatly perturbs us. From Blue Velvet to Gummo, the calm before the storm. Camille says that with the name she wanted to evoke the frustration of coming from the suburbs, the provinces, far from where everything seems to be happening; “it echoes envy and exclusion”.

But maybe, could these outskirts be the place where a trained eye can find great topics? Has the Internet forever broken the well-established geographical hierarchies? I don't know, we don’t know, nobody does, because the Internet is just happening. Nonetheless, Camille Soulat has found the way to use this very recent nostalgia, this new-born internet vintage imagery to build her own discourse as an artist, or as she says, ”what we consider low quality images sometimes make things more intimate, less staged, raw, they evoke a simpler time”.
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Hi Camille, I couldn’t be more excited to do this interview with you for METAL! I’m such a fan of your work. Please give us a few words to describe yourself. Who is Camille Soulat?
My name is Camille, I grew up in Auvergne in an industrial little town in the Massif Central. I studied web development and tried to work in this field for a little while but I wasn’t really passionate nor very good at it. In 2018, I gave myself one year to focus on more personal and not-so-lucrative projects; I was a bit lost and had the opportunity to not pay rent during this time. That year was really formative for me, it allowed me to try things without judgment and with nothing to lose.
And how would you define your aesthetic universe? Where does it come from? Where does it go?
I am really attached to storytelling, most of my references come from movies and books. I feel like my universe could feel a bit nostalgic but in reality, I am really not that attached to the past. It’s more like the past has left enough time and space to be fully digested so it's easier to take it on as a subject, it's very lazy of me in a way.
I am also fascinated with the spaces in between, because I think either there is no between or everything, at the end, is. Before we really dig into your last solo exhibition at Ballon Rouge, can you tell us how you manage to evoke internet nostalgia so beautifully with your art?
I like my images to be both very intimate and clinical, fleshy and uncharacterised. I am a big big fan of Marguerite Duras’ work, and her writing really influenced my way of approaching my projects. I love how she talks about very personal experiences in an unapologetic yet distanced way. She puts the metaphysical into mundane things and subjects.
One of my recent art epiphanies comes from the Paul Schrader 80s movie Mishima : A life in Four Chapters. I am really fascinated about the way the author Mishima has staged his own life, prophesying about his future in pictures, and seeing a movie about his way of narrating himself is very meta. The film is beautifully articulated, floating through Mishima’s key moments like a fantasy epic.
Furthermore, can we already call an image from the Internet vintage? Are we stepping into the borders of a post-wifi-society?
For example I really like low-quality Internet content, it’s always the best and the funniest videos online. The pixelated renders and the over-saturated sounds play a big role on the comical and poetic aspect of it all and it’s probably due to nostalgia, the low quality makes things more intimate, less staged, raw, they evoke a simpler time : the discovery of the Internet. Blingee gif image montages are also some vintage internet things that still influences me. Back in the day, social media interfaces were more customisable, people had the tools to create their own little space from scratch, using some very basic html copy and paste codes, and sometimes it looked really insane, which is always nice. The homogenisation of the online interfaces today is really politically meaningful, it reflects how the citizens are supposed to conduct themselves in public spaces.
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Yes! Now it’s time to talk about Suburbcel, your exhibition in Brussels at Ballon Rouge. First off, I am really curious about the name, how did you come across the term? What does it stand for?
Suburbcel is an invented word that comes from the contraction of the word Suburb and the term Incel, which designates the members of an internet subculture of men that are claiming to be unable to have a romantic or sexual partner, despite their desire. I wanted to move away from this definition by associating it with the word Suburb to evoke the frustration of coming from the suburbs, from the provinces, in any case far from where everything seems to be happening. It echoes envy and exclusion.
How can the Internet be linked to the rebirth of the suburbs? And has it forever broken the official discourse (and tension) between centre and periphery?
I feel like it definitely opens gates, brings more power and creates new communities. But it’s still a one way toxic relationship.
Do teenagers live out their normative aspirational dreams through their Wi-Fi connection? Does it give them the opportunity to navigate their possible fears as outcasts?
As a teen I discovered online riotgirl bands and the emo scene. I wanted to be part of it but it was impossible to find extremely slim pants in the shop in my hometown. So I had to buy kids pants whereas my sister who was into metal had to find her extra large baggy in the men's department. We were getting side eyes from our peers, but in the meantime were rocking on our online blogs. The dichotomy between online and the palpable world can be harsh at times.
Or on the contrary, has the Internet opened up a brutal space to legitimise other kinds of voices?
Our ugliness and our beauty.
How can you so exquisitely reach that awesome mix between naivety and sinister with your works? What's going on inside your mind?
It’s probably because it's what comes out of me the most naturally. As someone that is easily bored it forces you to find excitement in ugly things.
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I want to talk about one of your pieces, one I think is really iconic, I’m talking about In between states where nothing happens. This art work is a small bench and it really blew my mind. I’ve been always obsessed with some street benches I would see in hidden parks or spaces that weren't really meant to be walked on and I always thought who put that bench there, what for? Made to sit on, made to hold someone but mostly empty throughout the hours. And somehow, I feel you caught that poetry. What did you want to express with this piece?
To talk about another movie again, I recently watched The Man Who Sleeps by George Perec. It’s a black and white movie about a young man wandering in Paris, he decides to have no more interaction with the world than is needed to minimally sustain life in an automaton-like behaviour coupled with a strange clarity of insight about the world around him. In one scene the main character is sitting on a bench in front of an old man, he is envious about the old man's impassiveness, motionless as a sundial, untouchable. It’s funny but I feel a bit rebellious when I take the time to sit alone on a bench to do nothing.
For me the street benches are one of the only public devices that remain evoking a sense of owning a city as a user. With this piece I also wanted to evoke the feeling of escaping greediness, failure and hope.
A rusty bench in a hidden park could be an expression that something, sometimes should happen but it normally doesn’t and it is ok, it’s not about the big events but the waiting for them what really matters. Do you agree?
Being patient and curious are very important qualities to me, at least to have a serene life.
And now let’s get less intense. Can you tell us about your collaborations with brands such as Jacquemus and Bimba & Lola? Are fashion brands the newest and most powerful art patrons? How can they support young and emerging artists?
It’s really nice to be able to collaborate with people in other fields, it brings [new] breath to my own practice too. There are completely different challenges when you have to correlate two worlds. It also helps me to be able to live from my passion, which is always surprising.
And finally, what else are we going to see from you this 2023? Apart from Suburcel, do you have any more exciting projects coming up?
I will definitely do more collaborations in music and fashion, and I am currently working on the writing of a fictional documentary project, and besides this will do some other shows too.
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