“I write images.” Writer and artist Simon Johannin on his latest publication and upcoming part in Après la pluie

After spending some time working in France, Simon Johannin (1993) is back in Brussels this month to present his second book Nino dans la nuit, cowritten with his partner Capucine Johannin. Having already made a remarkable appearance on the literary scene as a bright young author, this latest publication is to be seen as a new, original kind of creative duet. It combines and evolves in a reactive game based on forces of this inventive pair. As their work is not to be separated from any form of visual art, they practise photography and use it as raw material.

The Johannin couple are down in Brussels to inaugurate the brand-new group exhibition alongside Lara Gasparotto, Antoine Grenez and Rémi Calmont at C12 tonight. As part of the downtown nightlife space’s one-year birthday celebrations taking place all weekend, Après la pluie blurs the dark and nightly boundaries between photography, text and fanzines, and will be on display till Saturday 2nd March.

You published your first novel L’Ete des charognes in January 2017. What are you up to nowadays?

Well, I’m mainly working on promoting Nino dans la nuit with Capucine.

Can you talk to us about your approach in general?

To give you the principal axes, I would say that my work involves the pursuit of poetry and fragility. It’s simply a way to tell others how I see things in my own perspective.

How do you actually work on a piece?

I don’t have any sort of agenda when it comes to working, as I work “whenever I can” – otherwise working wouldn’t make sense.

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

Every single element of my work hails from life experiences. I can safely say that there’s absolutely no difference between my everyday life and work – they’re basically the very same matter to me.

 The visual is a crucial part of your work. What do you find inspiring about it?

Capucine’s photographs are very often the starting point of an idea. Like her, I feel inspired by similar experiences, the people surrounding us, our close ones. What I observe on the streets definitely occupies a great part of my work; it’s a key component of my writing. It’s also crucial to let things flow calmly, to not overthink or force things.

Which Belgian artist do you look at for inspiration?

Plastician Rinus Van de Velde‘s works have made the biggest impression on me ever.

You’re playing a part in Lara Gasparotto and Antoine Grenez’s photography exhibition Après la pluie at C12 this week. What would you say connects you three artistically?

All three of us have spent quite some time wandering around in the night, and each of us has brought their own personal fragments and footprints of those moments. What also really brings us together is the exhibition itself, as it provides us and others the space to gather, and the occasion to reunite with friends.

What is the combination of photography and text to you?

Writing, to me, is absolutely necessarily related to images. I write images. So in a way, it was coherent for my images to correlate with the works of photographers I enjoy on a mutual theme.

Collective fanzine by Lara Gasparotto, Antoine Grenez, Simon Johannin & Rémi Calmont

You released Nino dans la nuit, co-written with Capucine, earlier this month. What is it about?

It’s a post-adolescent novel that plays out stories on the difficulty, wrath and rage of living of those in their 20s, trying to create something for themselves with nothing. It touches on most topics that are relevant to us: love, friendship, the awakening of political consciousness.

What motivated you to write a second novel? What would you say is your opinion on art nowadays? 

It’s simply what do. Writing is what we’re into; we write books. After L’Ete des charognes, it was only natural for us to work on a second one. We wanted to evoke things that resemble us. We want to treat our time the way it deserves to be treated and to talk about the people around us.

Contemporary art doesn’t exist, it’s today’s art. I find that comprehensible artwork are increasingly hard to find as they’re scarce. This statement illustrates what our time is made up of – it’s filled with fraud. The more privileged should surrender their seats to the more competent, within the art sphere but also any other. Outside of the art community, I feel that institutions are taking creativity hostage. We kind of flunk beautiful things; it’s a shame.

Nino seems to relate to your affection for Belgium. With so many projects taking place, or about to take place in Brussels too, what is your relation to this city?

Nino is more about the reflection of a life experiment; Belgium is one of the territories the protagonist wanders through. We come back to Belgium often as we have a bunch of good friends here. There’s a certain low and ambient tension in the air – it’s quite fascinating really, and it’s left behind substantial memories.

The group exhibition Après la pluie assembles the mediums of photography, text and fanzines, and will be on display at C12 till Saturday 2nd March.