Emilie Pischedda (31) and Valentin Souquet (33) are a couple, and the doting parents of a little girl. They’re also the founders of Brussels’ art collective ‘Projet Digilence‘. Represented by Brussels’ The | Anyspace | Whatever gallery, these artsy multi-talents can do everything, from photography and performance to painting, sculptures and installations. Originally from the South of France, the pair were drawn to Brussels in 2008 by its buzzing art scene. They have worked together on a number of projects all over the world and have completed residencies in Mexico and Kasakstan, while always encompassing into their work the historical, social and political context of the location. Emilie and Valentin’s art has been shown in such renowned spaces as Jardins du Musée d’Orsay in Paris to Berlin’s Transmediale. Their latest endeavour is a soon-to-be-opened studio, a big space to be shared with other artists in Brussels’ Dansaert area. They’ll also be participating in the upcoming contemporary fair ArtBrussels.
Why is two better than one?
E: When you work as a two-piece, you have more energy and are more productive than on your own. You motivate each other and have more power for work.
V: It gives you more confidence, you feel stronger. Also, you have fewer doubts. Being an artist means choosing to doubt all the time, but if you can share them with someone else, you can erase some of these doubts.
Isn’t two harder than one?
E: When you are together for such a long time, especially as we are not only a work duo but also a real couple living together, there is always the danger of losing a bit of your own personality. And of course you have to be able to compromise when working in a team.
V: This kind of fusion has its advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes it’s scary how similar we’ve become. If someone has a conversation with Emilie and later with me, it will be the exact same conversation because we think so alike. That doesn’t have to be a disadvantage though. It’s also the reason why our duo works so well – we are really on the same wavelength.
Does 1+1 always equal 2?
E: It’s important to remember sometimes that we are 1+1, two individuals. The good thing is that our work is quite complementary, in the sense that we don’t do exactly the same things. I’m more into photography and Valentin does more sculptures and paintings.
V: It doesn’t equal two, rather three. The real number three is actually our daughter, who is also involved in our art – we always try take her with us and she already participated in some performances, for example. And of course you can consider Project Digilence as the third entity that we created together.
E: It’s hard to explain sometimes how the equation works, because part of our singularity gets lost in the duo or collective. People often ask us who does what. It’s always Project Digilence, it doesn’t matter how the work was divided.
Do either of you ever wish it was just 1? (Be honest!)
E: It’s very important to be alone sometimes, to reaffirm who you are and rediscover aspects that you maybe forgot about due to compromises you make in the duo.
V: Yes, you have to use your brain alone sometimes, rediscover certain aspects of yourself, and think about how much the duo actually brings you.
E: When you take a step back it makes you reappreciate the duo again. It’s hard sometimes to separate our love and work lives, it’s a sheer impossibility, actually. But we can have a constant exchange about our art, which is amazing.
Is 2 better than 3? They say never 2 without 3…
V: Our duo is definitely the basis, the foundation of it all, even though we work a lot with other artists and curate group shows, for example. Once I did a big sculpture that I constructed by myself, but inside it I showed the work of many other artists. The boundaries are blurry sometimes.
E: Sometimes Project Digilence reminds me of a hip-hop crew. The concept is quite similar. But the duo is without a doubt the motor, the driving force behind it. We are the ones who initiate things and who make decisions. That would be much more difficult if we were three. But for some aspects it really helps to be more than two; actually we are going to sign a contract for a huge exhibition and working space on Friday, something we are only able to do because we teamed up with some friends from Nice who are just settling down here in Brussels. And when you have a football field, you don’t want to play on it all by yourself.
Do either of you ever feel alone, even when you’re two?
V: Sometimes I’m alone in my studio and get blocked and can’t advance. Doubts grow and I feel frustrated. In those moments I feel alone and really need Emilie, an exchange with someone, to be able to continue working.
E: There are days where we don’t really interact much. But it’s also very healthy to be able to share the silence without feeling uncomfortable.
Can you remember a life without your +1?
E: That’s really difficult to answer because we met when we were so young and have actually never worked on our own really. We were a duo from the beginning. We met when we were still students, and from then on we’ve always worked together. I have no idea how it would feel to do it alone. Being with Valentin from such an early age has really structured my life in a way.
V: Yes, as we were already a duo before even getting out of school, we don’t know what it’s like. We never really thought alone. Actually we went from being 2 directly to 3, because we had our daughter at a rather early stage of our relationship, and now we are discovering the 1+1, our individuality. Everything’s reversed somehow.
Is it all 50/50?
V: Some things are 70/30, others 30/70 and so on, but in the end it all comes down to 50/50. We complement each other. I for example do less communication, Emilie cuts less wood.
E: Yes, I’m more involved in creating our contact network, writing project proposals, and the diffusion of our identity as Project Digilence.
V: But even when I work on a sculpture alone in my studio, it is always us, because it’s based on our idea, our concept, that we have developed together.