Imagine you receive the message that your boss would no longer like to employ you. Yet there are still those dreaded ten weeks of notice. What would you do? Complain, make passive-aggressive comments about your boss, maybe polish up your CV a little? French artist Stéphane Roy decided to take this experience differently, by creating an art project around his personal experience. The result is a series of artwork titled 10 weeks that ranges from paintings to Tinder profiles, and from critical to hilarious. We sat down with the artist to chat about this project, art as a dialogue and painting with his own blood.
Day 1  Introduction Stephane Roy 10 Weeks YouTube Printscreen.jpg
Could you introduce yourself, who are you and what are some of the driving forces of your work?
My name is Stéphane Roy. I was born in Lyon and am currently living and working in Brussels. I am a young artist and aspiring curator dedicating my life to researching the human complexity through art. Art has always been a part of me, and just as much as I need food and water to feed my body, I need art to feed my soul.
You use an extensive variety of mediums (installation, photo, performance, etc.). What are the perks and pitfalls of this?
My brain produces a never-ending flow of ideas. How these ideas are executed just comes naturally with this flow. I don’t overthink things too much and prefer to work based on my feelings. As a child, I expressed myself a lot by drawing. I continued my self-expression by painting on city walls. After that came the video performances done in public places. That was a very important time of my life, and I like to see it as the moment where the seeds started to really germinate and continued growing later on.
I continued experimenting and trying different ways to express myself and lost myself in photography for a couple of years before coming back to my roots and focusing again on a wide range of tools, including installations, sculptures, painting, performance, etc. I do not really choose the medium. As I said before, it’s the idea itself that provides me with the way of expressing and defining how to make the concept in my brain become real. I notice that it’s sometimes problematic to be able to execute the work as I have it in my head simply because I don’t have the needed skills for the execution.
At the moment, I try to do as much as possible myself anyway, and this way of working drives me to learn a lot. But my skills are limited, so I will consider working with professionals if necessary to be able to execute the idea exactly as how I have it in mind. For some projects so far I have already asked for assistance and it has definitely helped me achieve my goals; I think that an artwork doesn’t necessarily have to be the merit of a single person, but can also perfectly be the result of teamwork.
Why do you find it important to present art that creates dialogue or invites the viewer to interact?
I believe that art is one of the most honest and personal ways of communication, no matter which medium one uses as a tool for expression. Unlike oral expression, art doesn’t have the limits that language has. Also, art provides a fantastic opportunity to carry on a message, to project something, to transfer, to deliver, to live an experience in so many different ways: emotionally, intellectually, physically. Expression through art is basically unlimited and, therefore, a powerful tool for communication.
Between humans, there are so many differences and restrictions that keep us from being in dialogue with one another. But through art, there is the possibility to communicate with someone who doesn’t share the same language, culture, beliefs, etc. It doesn’t have the boundaries and restrictions that we experience in daily life. Art is able to connect people no matter their differences. This unlimited power is what I find so amazing and intriguing.
Dialogue and conversation are efficient ways to learn from each other. It’s an exchange of information and energy, and they can even go further and inspire, make grow, and add value. Art is an important way of self-expression to me but it also allows me to learn about human behaviour. Human behaviour and psychology are things that trigger me very strongly; I'm eager to learn more about them. As a child and teenager, I observed the world quietly and kept myself busy creatively in my own home. It was only about ten years ago that I started to practice art more actively and moved from a passive observation to reflective actions while engaging dialogues in different ways. Since then, the germinating seeds grew bigger and became a wild garden.
“Art is able to connect people no matter their differences. This unlimited power is what I find so amazing and intriguing.”
You mention Hans Ulrich Obrist and Ai Weiwei as some of the inspirations for your work. Have there been any more people that have majorly influenced you? If so, who are they and why?
I draw inspiration a bit from everywhere and there are many artists and thinkers that help me evolve in my own work through their actions and reflexions. The list is very long and diverse, probably as diverse as my taste and interests are. I visit a lot of exhibitions, follow a lot of artists online, read a lot of articles, and also read and buy a lot of books. I want my life to be a constant process of learning. I actually had the chance to meet Hans Ulrich Obrist. He impressed me on different levels and can certainly be considered an inspirational person to me. His restless activities and his critical thoughts are something I deeply appreciate. 
This series of Conversations that I’m conducting is some kind of meeting point between my personal artistic work and my curatorial activities. The idea came up out of my frustration. I couldn’t remember many interesting conversations I had with a lot of people, so Conversations is a way to save, collect, and archive them; I turned something temporary into something permanent. 
One of your interactive works, named The Laboratory of Anger Management, invites the viewer to destroy a decorated container room. Cameras and the people outside the container can watch what they do. Once inside the room, does the public act in a surprising way?
For this participative installation, I used furniture and objects from the streets, trash that people dumped. That way, everything was served back to those citizens in the shape of an installation, which has the appearance of a home environment. To enter the room, people must follow a ritual: first, they have to sign a release form, and then, put protective gear on. Finally, a baseball bat is given to them with some detailed instructions. Once inside the room, they can destroy everything they want during a limited period of time. Participating in this installation is completely at odds with the main rule of most museums and exhibitions: “please, do not touch”.
Everything is indeed filmed and the installation gives a clear view from the inside to the outside. This is very important. The place of the viewer and the reactions are essential to my work. The first installation happened at Palais de Tokyo in Paris after the terrorist attacks. Back then, everyone was kind of nervous – you could feel the tension in the air. Then, it happened in Austria, just some time after the elections, which created a lot of tensions in the country. In both cases, I noticed people really needed to out their aggressive feelings by going totally crazy. But despite the violence present in this installation, it also seems to have a liberating effect. Both in Paris and in Austria, most people had a smile on their face and felt some kind of relief and happiness.
Once inside, most people do the same thing and smash as much and as hard as they can. Some people react differently though, like one person in Austria who didn’t use the baseball bat and didn’t actually destroy anything, but started yelling at the furniture, losing his mind in a pretty funny way. I loved the different reactions and the feelings that people experienced while participating, and I think it’s a nice experiment to explore human behaviour in a specific situation.
Would you say irony is an aspect of your work, especially of 10 weeks?
Irony is definitely a returning aspect in a lot of my work and certainly in the 10 weeks project. I wanted to bring a serious subject in a more light and accessible way by doing a lot of small projects that often deliberately do the opposite of what people might expect. 10 weeks is a deeply serious subject, and being fired and treated in a very unfair way has had a big negative psychological impact on me – something I’m sure a lot of people in similar situations experience as well. After some time, I decided to stop feeling bad and turn this whole negative experience into something positive and creative; that’s when I started the 10 weeks project.
Day 6  Hey.jpg
Nearly all of your work is very research driven, yet 10 weeks is spontaneous and experimental. What were the biggest differences you noticed with this new way of working?
10 weeks is similar to the kind of process I used to follow. It has a sense of binge creativity, an intensive workflow that tries to avoid as many limits as possible by focusing mainly on the realisation and achievements of the initial ideas. It follows my life philosophy of ‘l’urgence de vivre’ (the emergency to live), meaning here that when I have an idea, I just go for it right away. With 10 weeks I recovered an important restrictive element that I had lost since my studies: the deadlines, the constant race against the clock. Ten weeks is a short limit of time that goes fast. After ten weeks, I was going to lose my job but I would also have to finish the 10 weeks concept.
Since I finished my studies in 2012, I had been looking to find a nice job. Unfortunately, this didn't seem easy and I ended up being unemployed for several years, with some temporary jobs once in a while. But in summer 2016, I finally found a decent job and thought I had found a long-term engagement along with stability. I asked my girlfriend to marry me soon after that and we saved up everything we could for our wedding. In November 2017, we got married and left on a short honeymoon, which was also my first proper holiday off from work since I got hired. I couldn't be happier at that moment.
Unfortunately, on the first day after coming back from the honeymoon, I was shocked when my boss announced me he was planning to fire me. This triggered a lot of feelings but also a huge storm of ideas and creativity. With 10 weeks, I somehow found an earlier version of myself back again, kind of how I used to be ten years ago – very creative all the time. And I must admit I missed that version of myself.
Let’s talk about Day 28 of your 10 weeks project. You created a Tinder profile and asked people the question: “If there would be any job I could do to make your life better, what job would it be? What would you hire me for?” What were some of the most interesting responses you received? And the naughtiest?
I received tons of answers in a very short time and couldn’t believe how many people actually went into it. When I first had the idea, I was afraid that I wouldn’t get many reactions, or at least not the ones I hoped for. But people were very responsive, sometimes really opening themselves up with an impressive degree of honesty and spontaneity. The naughtiest responses were mainly explicit sexual demands. Only a few were actually rude.
Most people asked for help with daily tasks like cooking and cleaning, like being some kind of assistant to take care of the things they didn’t like to do so much themselves. Also, many were asking for company, and I got the feeling that a lot of people are facing some form of loneliness in their lives. Even though most of the people had similar reactions, some were very different. Sometimes they shared their own thoughts in a philosophical or even in a spiritual way. Some were even trying to engage in a dialogue and asked me questions in return. 
On Day 44, you created a t-shirt stating: “I heart my boss”, the heart being painted in your own blood. Please tell us more about this. What was your motivation behind this work?
The concept is actually very clear and simple: it’s a sarcastic version of a classic t-shirt that so many people wear to express their love for something in particular. Apart from the message, which couldn’t be less true for me, I decided to add an extra dimension to it by painting the heart with my own blood.
“My former workplace doesn’t deserve the credit to be the main subject of this work. It goes far beyond that. I simply used a specific situation as a starting point to develop a whole process around a universal topic that many of us are familiar with.”
10 weeks is now finished. What were the reactions to this project in general? Did you receive feedback from anyone from your former workplace?
Reactions in general so far are positive and encouraging. People appreciate the originality, the risks but also the ways it was expressed. I have gotten a lot of feedback and support from the public through the social networks, but also from artists, curators, collectors, and professionals – both from the art business and institutions, and from other fields. As we speak now through this interview, I must also thank you and your team for your interest in this project of mine!
I also received nice and supportive feedback from my former workplace and colleagues. My boss saw it as well. I took that opportunity to make clear that 10 weeks is not a personal vendetta, a revenge against one particular person. My former workplace doesn’t deserve the credit to be the main subject of this work. It goes far beyond that. I simply used a specific situation as a starting point to develop a whole process around a universal topic that many of us are familiar with.
What did you conclude from this project? Did you gain any relevant insights?
Yes, many! First of all, this was an incredible adventure, so rich and varied in content. I have learned several things even though I believe this is just the beginning of something bigger. The first day I started, I had thirteen projects written on paper; by the end of it, I had ninety-six. I only executed fifty of them and respected the ten-week time frame that I had set up, but I definitely plan to realize some of these other ideas in the future as well. I would like to turn this project into a book and an exhibition, displaying everything related to it.
The most important one: has anyone hired you after it? Are you an employee again? At least, did you get any job interviews?
Well, actually, I never had that many job interviews in such a short time in my whole life. But I do not think this is thanks to the 10 weeks project, honestly. I’ve been hired already and will sign my contract in the coming week! I’m very glad and thankful that things went so quick. I’m even considering to write a thank you card and send it to my former employer. After all, he is the one who triggered all this and I'm grateful for that in a strange way.
But, and this will probably be the perfect conclusion: I am my own strength, I create my own opportunities, I am my own example. There was a moment I felt completely lost after I got fired, but eventually it was exactly this feeling that encouraged me to turn the whole situation upside-down, making my weakness become my powerful strength.
Day 10  Burning Computer Low.jpg
Day 11   Hello Im Fired.jpg
Day 21   the Five Stages.jpg
Day 26   Selfportrait Trash Series .jpg
Day 28   Tinder Me   1 Question 100 Answers.jpg
Day 36   Le Poids Du Monde by Stephane Roy V2.jpg
Day 37   Selling Services 3.jpg
Day 47   I Need a Job 1.jpg
Day 47   I Need a Job 3.jpg
Day 47   I Need a Job 8.jpg
Day 49   My Professional Funeral.jpg
Day 50   Stonegrave .jpg