Charlotte Lagro

Maastricht, Netherlands

Charlotte Lagro (°1989), born in Maastricht, makes video installations in which various works have a reciprocal relationship. They are multimedia installations, but start from video or photography. When Charlotte was fifteen her parents gave her a two megapixel camera. Immediately she was sold to photography, she did not want anything else. Charlotte comes from a family of artists so art has always been a prominent aspect of her life. “It’s a language with which I grew up with. So for me it’s a natural language to work with.” However, when Charlotte was younger, she wanted to study psychology. “In retrospect it actually makes sense, because in a certain way my work is about psychology and human behavior, and about how people think.” 

Charlotte’s work shows her interest in the people surrounding her. “I always try to include people into my work. As such I ask people to perform in my work, preferably people without experience in performance whatsoever.” Charlotte’s work is inquisitive in the sense that she makes use of interviews or a recorded monologue that functions as a voice-over. But sometimes there is no speech at all. “I want to show a human face behind abstract ideas and abstract knowledge. Sometimes I take that literally by putting someone in front of the camera and film that person. It then may look like a documentary, but it is more free form, more performative.”

An example of this is a video in which we see a mime artist perform in Auschwitz. It is about how we deal with our history and about what is appropriate to show and what not and how it is bound to a certain time period. The mime artist, who is of Hungarian-Jewish descent, is a friend of Charlotte. “We had talked a lot about his own and his family’s past. I had also blended images of the making-of of Jerry Lewis’ film with the images of the mime artist. In 1972, Jerry Lewis, an American comedian, made the film The Day the Clown Cried. The film is about a clown who is arrested during the Nazi regime in the second World War after he had made a joke about Hitler. He was sent to a concentration camp. However, the film was never released because of the criticism it got for dealing with such a loaded subject from the perspective of a clown. It was a display of poor taste. Now, the film lies in some safe, while a lot of film enthusiasts would love to see it.”

In 2015 Charlotte was invited for Skowhegan, a prestigious residency in Maine, in the United States of America. Yearly they invite 65 artists of which are approximately two third Americans, and one third international artists. “There were maybe six or seven European artists. The residency covers a period of nine weeks and focuses on mutual exchange of knowledge and experiences. It is not a priority to make artwork, however you do have a studio where you go to every day.” Part of the program were visits to different studios with known artists, lectures, film screenings, performances and the so-called group crits, which is when a group visits your studio to criticize your work and to help you. “All at once you get so many different understandings of and new perspectives on your own work. In this sense Skowhegan is unique. I learned about the subjects and issues of my generation, such as identity politics, commentary on contemporary culture, dealing with family history in a post-colonial world, sense of community, cultural differences between Europe and America, among others. We also talked about the emotional dimension of art and how you could use irony in your work. I found it inspiring and I am still in contact with the other participants, I even work with them. A few months ago Annesofie Sandal invited me for an exhibition in Copenhagen and not so long ago Mathilde Ganancia and I organized a video night together in the context of my exhibition during BIP Liège.”

“Sometimes my work can be read as a statement, like my armpit hair shaved in a triangle, put right in front of the camera. But I actually always search for a multi-layered narrative.”  Charlotte views her work as discussions in which multiple perspectives are brought forward and in which she consciously seeks openness without giving a definite answer. An example of this is the video The Art-shaped Hole In My Heart in which Charlotte’s focus of attention is a special refrigerator standing in an old farm in Skowhegan. She invited artists and art critics to examine the fridge with her. One by one they appear in the scene to look at the fridge from all sides and they wonder out loud. The actual subject of the video is not the fridge but the individual approaches and interpretations of the fridge by the participants. As such the refrigerator becomes an analogy for art in itself. The fridge transcends its status as an ordinary object and becomes the central subject of a layered and in some ways comic reflection on aesthetics. It is also not about Charlotte even though she is the one who set up the work. “I try to let the work receive as many influences as possible, more than I can give it myself.” In creating and capturing her subject Charlotte searches for insights that transcend the here and now and herself. “Anne-Françoise Lesuisse (artistic director BIP Liège) described it beautifully in the catalogue of BIP: The work of Charlotte Lagro functions as a setup of a network that continually evolves, in which dimensions are added to each other and tunnels created between different places, times and contexts.”