Antoine Catala

Theory of Mind

08. 04. – 13. 05. 2017
Opening 07. 04. 2017

AC_I6_s
Installation view

AC_Antoine_s
Cat-ala, 2017, TV, scrunchie, USB key, video, color, silent 30s loop (click to open video)
124 x 72 x 4 cm

AC_I2_s
Installation view

AC_I4_s
Installation view

AC_I5_s
Installation view

AC_After-Rain-Man_s
After Rain Man, 2017, TV, scrunchie, USB key, video, color, silent 30s loop (click to open video)
124 x 72 x 4 cm

AC_Bedroom_s
Bedroom, 2017, TV, scrunchie, USB key, video, color, silent 30s loop (click to open video)
124 x 72 x 4 cm

AC_I7_s
Installation view

AC_New-Feelings_s
New Feelings, 2017, TV, scrunchie, USB key, video, color, silent 30s loop (click to open video)
124 x 72 x 4 cm

AC_I8_s
Installation view

AC_Observe&Mimic_s
Observe and Mimic, 2017, TV, scrunchie, USB key, video, color, silent 1 min loop (click to open video)
124 x 72 x 4 cm

AC_Cat-Psychology_s
Cat Psychology, 2017, TV, scrunchie, USB key, video, color, silent 1 min loop (click to open video)
124 x 72 x 4 cm

AC_Rep1_s
Logo to Our Repressions, 2017, silicone, foam coated in epoxy, pump, tubing, valves, electronics
43 x 15 x 15 cm

AC_Rep7_s
Detail from Logo to Our Repressions

 

Trevor Shimizu:
Where did you grow up?

Antoine Catala:
In Tunisia, Nigeria, Australia and Singapore. After my parents divorced when I was 5, my mother moved near Toulouse for some time and then to Toulouse, where I lived with my mother and sister for the most part, until I was 23 years old.

Trevor Shimizu:
Tell me a little about the place, to give me a sense of the area.

Antoine Catala:
Toulouse is called the pink city, because the roofs are made of bricks, and from a plane the city looks pink –though I always thought that claim was dubious because the roof tiles really are red. It’s the 5th most populated city in France, with a massive student population and the home of Airbus, the airplane. It’s friendly and petit bourgeois, one of the most agreeable cities in France to live in, everything being a short walk away. I didn’t have the best time there though, I always felt like a misfit, being, for one, taller than most people there. Things got better after I met my friend Olivier in High School, I found a family of misfits. Toulouse is close to Spain, a 3 hour car ride north of Barcelona. It’s an hour drive to the sea and one hour away from the mountains. The streets are windy and narrow to create shadows that protects from the summer heat. There is dog and pigeon shit everywhere.

Trevor Shimizu:
What did your parents do?

Antoine Catala:
My dad was an engineer for an oil “measurement” company. He invented things all the time, for instance he patented gear while being on a trial job for the company, all the way towards the end of his life. Very inventive. I found out only after he died how inventive he was, as he never shared anything. He died when I was 24, he wasn’t even 50. My mother wanted to write, but she sold encyclopedias door to door for a while and finally settled for a civil servant position for the Ministry of Youth and Sport. She wanted a secure living to raise her two kids. We never missed on anything, but we were not rich. My mother was always anxious about money, though she would hardly ever talk about it.

Trevor Shimizu:
Who is your sister and what was your relationship like?

Antoine Catala:
My sister Sophie is 16 months younger than I am. Irish twins. Very complicit kids, a lot of trouble. My sister, like her mother, is whip smart and hilarious. My sister knew my brain better than anyone else, she would always finish my sentences, much better than I could. Now she has two gorgeous kids, we regularly chit chat on the phone, though sometimes not for months. She was always way more responsible than I am, and people often mistook her for the elder. My mother always said I was furious for a while after she was born.

Trevor Shimizu:
Who was your closest childhood friend?

Antoine Catala:
It depends at what age. Because we didn’t settle until I was 6 years old, I don’t have old, old friends. I remember two, Frederic Lejeloux and Vincent Bellmonte. Frederic’s parents ran a stationary, bookstore and lived in the center of town. Vincent’s mother was from Martinique, a cleaning lady. Vincent never really knew his father. Vincent still sometimes shows up at my mother’s home or work (she adopted everyone). Vincent is in bad shape now, I think he may be homeless and maybe mentally ill. He had a rough childhood.

Trevor Shimizu:
I’m not sure what you mean by Vincent still showing up at your mom’s.

Antoine Catala:
Years and years after I left Toulouse, Vincent would still visit my mother, at home or her work and they would spend time together, maybe have lunch or dinner. She is the one who told me about his degrading condition, how when she last saw him he seemed pretty distraught. My mother would get attached to all kinds of people, Vincent is not the only of our friends (my sister and I) who would visit her after we lost contact or moved out of Toulouse. I remember that one extremely cold winter, when I was 10 or so, my mother hosted a homeless man in our apartment, because she couldn’t bare to see him sleep on the street.

Trevor Shimizu:
What did you do together with your friends?

Antoine Catala:
Frederic, Vincent and I were all friends, though I would hang out mostly with them separately. We would play video games on Frederic’s brother’s Amiga or my Atari STE computer. In middle school, we had a role playing club like Dungeons and Dragons, but cooler. We were total losers.

Trevor Shimizu:
Were you teased?

Antoine Catala:
Yes. But I also felt that people liked me. They teased me to encourage me to be less uptight in a way. Quite French. Still it was painful.

Trevor Shimizu:
Did you read comic books?

Antoine Catala:
Super hero comic books. I would get one every plane ride and back to visit my dad who lived near Paris. I would fantasize about having those super powers, to help me overcome real life problems and be cooler.

Trevor Shimizu:
Did you watch a lot of tv?

Antoine Catala:
Tons, I was glued to the screen and never finished my homework in time because of it.

Trevor Shimizu:
Did you have any pets?

Antoine Catala:
Gloria, the cat, who we called “le chat”. A bright and very talkative siamese cat. And hamsters, but that was a horror show, because we never took care of them. Those were my sister’s. I can’t quite remember what happened to them.

Trevor Shimizu:
Were you a good student?

Antoine Catala:
Straight A’s. Repressed, very anxious. It all fell apart at 16-17. My grades significantly degraded.

Trevor Shimizu:
Did you have a girlfriend or boyfriend before you became an adolescent?

Antoine Catala:
I fooled around, doctor stuff, when I was a kid. I didn’t kiss a girl until I was 15. It was in middle school, in front of the whole school and the TA’s, there were TA’s in middle school, they were cracking up so hard and pointing and me and the girl, after the kiss. I never understood quite why. It was, still feels, incredibly awkward.

Trevor Shimizu:
What did you do together?

Antoine Catala:
It didn’t last long with Sophie. We would talk on the phone.

Trevor Shimizu:
How did you meet your first love interest?

Antoine Catala:
I was in love with Laurence when I was 6, she was a classmate in first grade. Then I decided that love wasn’t worth it and I stopped loving her for one reason or another. She never suspected anything, that I loved her or didn’t, for she and I never really talked. I ran into her a few years ago, I still had butterflies in my stomach.

Trevor Shimizu:
Okay, so back to these works. The narrative is presented as an unresolved loop. Is this relating somehow to science fiction or is this more like a psychological trauma loop?

Antoine Catala:
The main model is Charlie Brown. Little trauma loops, re-enacted like a dollhouse like comic strip. The other model is roman-photo, a type of comic strip made with real photos, often rom-coms. Amazing, under-exploited narrative vehicle. The science fiction comes from the realistic CGI quality of the images and the slow movement. I should add all those environments were re-created from memory. It’s at once real and fake, I use hi-tech yet expose deep human troubles.

Trevor Shimizu:
Not all of them remind me of a looping trauma, but there’s a nice humor to them as well. Your character, for example, is always shirtless and in his underpants. Am I supposed to laugh when I look at him?

Antoine Catala:
The dress code is a loosely borrowed from Mike Smith’s Baby Ikki.

Trevor Shimizu:
I was wondering about the After Rain Man piece. What is that about?

Antoine Catala:
I specifically remember sitting around the kitchen table, when I was around 13-14 years old, right around the time Rain Man came out.  I told mum and sister, without any preface, that I thought I was autistic (whatever it implied to me at the time). They cracked up so much that they had tears in their eyes. I was convinced at the time, and maybe still am, that I was emotionally impaired. That compared to my mother and sister, I was incapable of reading other people’s emotions: I couldn’t understand other people’s thoughts nor feelings. So I set out to learn how to do this. I remember specifically deciding to physically mimic other people’s manners, so as to physically enact what they thought or how they felt, like an actor going through the motions to understand what thoughts it triggered.

The work is about this journey to learn feelings, a journey I am still on. As a foreigner living in New York, I don’t feel people express their emotions the same way as in France. It’s something a lot of foreigners share about the U.S.. I see a parallel between me as a teen, my position as a foreigner and the notion that new communication habits developed with symbiotic technologies like smartphones have deep impact on how people feel about themselves and the world.

Trevor Shimizu:
Is there a play on image and text with the cat piece? What are you looking at on the computer?

Antoine Catala:
I am not sure I understand the first question. I am playing video games. I think a strip poker game, where a girl would get undressed when I won. Really erotic, pixelated nudes.

Trevor Shimizu:
I guess I found this image a little erotic. The way the cat is on your lap and there’s something on the computer that might be porn.

Trevor Shimizu:
What do you think about Scientology?

Antoine Catala:
I am not very impressed by L. Ron Hubbard, he looks quite disturbed and nasty.

Thank you to Enayet Kabir, Thomas Lauria, Trevor Shimizu, Andrea Solstad, Shabd Simon-Alexander, and Nicholas Woodward.