A gentle vois and smiling face, Sylvain Couzinet-Jacques is friendly and reserved at the same time. His constant good humour is revealing: he is happy to be on board with us.
Currently artist-in-residence aboard Tara, Sylvain graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Marseille, and the National School of Photography in Arles. Focus on the artist.
How would you define your work as a photographer?
The photographic tool as I understand it is just one step in a sometimes long process of transformation. The installations I produce include both still images and animated ones, sculpture, light and sound. I consider image-making to be cross-disciplinary. It’s not always easy for me to describe what I do and what the final object will be. I try to go beyond the limits of the medium; I target the outside borders.
What do you think about Tara? How do you work on board?
Aboard Tara, nothing is obvious. How to describe the experience of being on board, living on the boat? How to explain the mission which is the real value of the schooner – the scientists who day and night collect samples of water and organisms contaminated by plastic particles? Being an artist-in-residence offers the immense privilege of observing, and imposes the simple obligation of evoking the whole experience. The Mediterranean Sea, its beautiful landscapes and calm appearance, the plastic and pollution, the scientific quest that must constantly be renewed and invent new paradigms. The sailors are totally committed to the expedition, and Tara is a unique boat. I want to honor the friendship that has arisen between us. I have to do something that will be recognized by them, that speaks of the Tara experience and the Mediterranean mission.
Tara is a tribute to slowness and patience. I take my time. A residency aboard this boat is obviously very special. This time of reflection that feeds one’s practice is a rare and precious thing. On Tara, it’s an essential part of the experience. I note the scientists’ methods; I listen to them describing microplastics, and the alarming state of the Mediterranean. The mission around plastic gives me the basis for my work on board.
I write and read, I take a few polaroids. Regularly I photograph the land as we approach, and the far-away horizons; I observe the samples collected. A project is slowly emerging in my mind, about plastic and imagery. I pay attention to my surroundings. That’s what it means to be an artist-in-residence aboard Tara.
You’ve been sharing the daily life of the crew for more than 2 weeks. What can you tell us about life on board?
It’s really a privilege to be here. I was quickly adopted by the crew, which greatly facilitated my place as an observer and photographer. The rituals of life on board are reassuring markers in a day and completely permeate my thinking: being on night watch requires that one be rested. This means shortening evening activites. This mental and physical set-up is influencing the way I work.
I must admit that I’m completely amazed. I’m trying to learn as much as possible about navigation. The sailors are infinitely patient with my questions, as are the scientists. It’s truly a pleasure to be here!
Interview by Noëlie Pansiot
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