The work of Aëla Labbé physically writhes as two “mutually enriching” artistries enmesh with contemplation, and the outcome is ironically definitive. There is hurling movement, there is passionate unrest, but across collections there exists a sense of somber control amidst a whirlwind of disorder. The mental tango is given a frame, introversion is personified. Emotions wrestle each other for space in the real world and like a wishbone splitting where it skinnies, the prevailing piece possesses magic for its beholder.
BTL: A large portion of your work is collaborative such as photographing album covers to live performances. How are you able to translate intangible art like music and dance into a visual language?
LABBÉ: I assume that the image is a dialogue between intangible art and visual language and not an illustration. I create atmospheric visuals; I suggest rather than affirm in order to allow for interpretation. I also must say that most of the time, people are asking me for pre-existing works.
Series taken while being involved as a dancer in Vicious Cycle choreographic piece by Jukstapoz company, Christine Gouzelis and Paul Blackman. Featuring performers Konstandina Efthimiadou, Aimilios Arapoglou and production assistant Marilena Dara.
Athens, GREECE 2014
BTL: How does your mindset and/or methodology differ when you interpret another artist’s choreography and that of your own?
LABBÉ: When you interpret, you speak for someone else and when you yourself are a choreographer, you ask yourself what you want to say and you use your own language. In fact, it is much more intimate.
Koufonissi Cyclades Island Greece
Self-portrait series, summer 2012
Brothers and sisters / enemies and friends
BTL: Many of your subjects include family members, specifically children. They all seem so in-tune with each other, carrying a congruent mood from picture to picture with unyielding harmony. How do you instruct them when shooting a collection? In other words, how do you mentally prepare them for a shoot?
LABBÉ: In a very natural way, and as a silent agreement. I give them a frame in which they can play. I am very close to my nephews and nieces—this intimacy and harmony in our relationship is the essence of my creative process.
children of the wolf
Jeanne, Malo and Eloa 2013
BTL: What is your process when shooting movement in terms of timing, shutter speed and composition?
LABBÉ: I would say I am an intuitive photographer rather than a technical one.
Visual artwork in collaboration with fluid radio uk for music artist
Christoph Berg's vinyl and cd versions of 'Paraphrases'.
BTL: What do you aim to capture when you shoot portraits?
LABBÉ: A presence, a state, an emotion.
In 2015, Labbé and her “alter-ego in life and in creation,” dancer-sculptor Stéphane Imbert, founded the french-based company, LUCANE. As a visionary offspring of their artisanal values, LUCANE generates multi-disciplinary projects such as installations, exhibitions, performances and choreographic pieces for theaters, galleries, museums, and/or outdoor spaces through collaborative efforts with other artists who are storytellers themselves. Their initiative aims to “break the boundaries between the different mediums; create a link between them; make duality and multiplicity a unity, a whole; to bring the visual to life; to embody; to give another meaning to art work, poetry and humanity.”
BTL: How did LUCANE come about?
LABBÉ: It is the result of our meeting and common inspirations, as well as our need for independence in a very specific time of our personal and artistic lives. We were searching for a space to fully express ourselves with all of our matters: dance, photography, and sculpture.
“Nature is an inspiration for both of us.”
As for the word itself, LUCANE is the french translation for “stag beetle,” thusly named for the male’s long and often branched mandibles that resemble the antlers of a stag. Stag beetles also have the particularity of feeding on the sap of dead trees to regenerate. Nature is an inspiration for both of us: trees and water are recurrent in my photographs and as for Stéphane, he uses wood collected on the beach or in the forest to create personages, totems, accumulations or installations in balance. As for dance, we use the elements air, water, and fire in order to generate different movement qualities. Recycling is one of our leitmotiv; we collect and accumulate old stuff, leftovers and any used material to turn them into new creations.
BTL: What void in the art realm are you and Stéphane trying to fulfill, if any?
LABBÉ: We do not pretend to fulfill a void in the art realm—very humbly, we wish to live from our art and share our vision.
BTL: What are you currently working on?
Between other things and specifically within the frame of LUCANE, I am working on DE LA CAVE AU GRENIER, a choreographic piece which will be premiering in theater in March 2019 and on MOSI.
MOSI, the Icelandic word for moss, is a photographic project we started in 2016 in Iceland. The project is created in collaboration with Stéphane and two of our precious confrères Bára Sigfúsdóttir, a dancer, performer, and choreographer, and Eivind Lønning, a musician and performer. We will soon be presenting a part of the series-in-progress as an exhibition as well as a performance played by all of us four. In fact, we aim to turn MOSI into a multi-disciplinary and multi-supported creation which will consist of an exhibition, a performance, a short film and a micro-edition.
BTL: Yay for short films and micro-editions! I’m thrilled to hear it will eventually be accessible to our American readers, and myself, that have to miss out on seeing MOSI live and in color. Can you tease us with a sneak peak?