“It’s about wonder and interaction.” The sunrays and playful practice of art duo Répondeur Automatik

Marilyne Grimmer (1979) and Susanne Weck (1978) form the components of Répondeur Automatik, a duo who make site-specific art grounded around forms of play, creating live or minimalist works that incite and welcome the viewer. Their current show Dr. Sun at downtown Brussels’ Hypercorps is a light installation that embodies about 98% of natural sunlight. It might add some light to your dark winter woes, or act instead as a minimalist sculpture. Find out more about their collaborative process and their different art histories.

At its core, what is your work about? 

We’re interested in creating playful and inviting settings – settings which trigger interaction and let the visitors live their very own experiences. By “inviting” we understand to appeal to the senses; to the body first and foremost. We like to propose a direct access to the work. There’s no need to know much about contemporary art codes or be highly educated in order to be attracted to our installations.

Nevertheless, we look for ways to get different layers into our artworks. For instance, Dr. Sun could merely be a minimalist light installation, but it also works as light therapy, altering your serotonin level in these dark winter days. We were interested by the setting of the shop window in the centre of the city. Also, people who are just walking by get caught up in the strength of the light flooding out of the window. Still, this doesn’t imply “kidnapping” visitors. They’re free to take it or not. But it’s their presence, for one or some minutes, that will give meaning to the installation.

What is its starting point and statement?

The starting point of every installation is the place where it is realised. We work in situ, and every installation is specific to a particular place and context. Then it’s about wonder and interaction. 

Can you talk to us about your approach in general?

Beating around the bush for a long time, and then just doing it.

How do you actually work on a piece, from start to finish?

We develop an idea, mostly in regards to an open call or a given space, and then we start to look for ways to make it happen. For the Hypercorps show we were interested in the proposed format: to develop something which would be visible 24/7, in the darkest month of winter. We were also interested in looking for a way to connect the inside with the outside. That something could be happening even when the space is closed.

So we came up with the idea of “Dr. Sun”: a light therapeutic installation with 22 full spectrum neon lights, 98% faithful to sunlight (81,400 lumen) that illuminates the street – and a continuously meandering black ball.

How does collaboration change the way you work?

We share responsibility, which is reassuring. We don’t always agree but that disagreement forces us to look further until we both think, “Yes, that’s it!” Collaboration then adds extra layers, adventure, surprises and frictions.

Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your artistic practice?

Susanne: FMSW, my long-time artist collective, inspired by Fischli & Weiss and Roman Signer.

Marilyne: Meeting people from different backgrounds and nationalities during my studies in London and Paris. This includes museums and exhibitions, such as the Serpentine Gallery or Elizabeth Hall, where I discovered the work of Bruce Nauman during a retrospective in 1998.

What are the challenges you face as an artist working in Belgium today?

Having to communicate in three languages.

How do you see yourself fit into the country’s contemporary art scene?

We feel more like free-floating electrons.

Talk to us about the people around you, your local scene. To what extent does it inspire and influence you?

Marilyne: I’m sitting in between many chairs (I also work as a scenographer). Theatre, performance, visual art, participatory social projects, the French-speaking scene and international scenes. There’s not just one scene. It’s confusing and inspiring at the same time.

Susanne: I work as a guide in museums and as a coordinator for an audio-visual workspace, and I enjoy the various approaches in “reading / narrating / showing” the world.

What does success look like to you?

Being able to realise the things you dream of doing, together with people you like, presenting it to people who might be intrigued, but also having enough spare time for playing and not having to worry about finances.

To you, what role should contemporary art occupy in the community?

Art is wonder, salt and pepper. We need this free space for experimentation and reflection, without the need of direct purpose, a way to develop a certain sensitivity towards the world we perceive, to develop imagination out of its everyday barriers, to open up spaces and to trigger questions. Art should be a trait d’union, a link.

On a more personal note, how does your everyday inform your work?

The everyday somehow sets the frame. As two people, the most difficult is somehow to match our everyday rhythms. And travelling!

And what do your parents, your family, think of what you do?

Susanne: They are the most fervent groupies. As an acquaintance once told my father, “At least she didn’t study singing.“

Marilyne: They have always supported me but live too far away to actually see what I do. This year, for the first time ever, my family will come to spend Christmas in Brussels, and I’ll take them to Hypercorps. I’m curious as to what they’ll think of our installation.

ARE YOU LOOKING FOR ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS? (Click on the GIF and then click again)


Répondeur Automatik’s exhibition Dr. Sun is on display at Hypercorps in Brussels until Saturday 5th January 2019.