“I don’t believe in this notion of an artist belonging to a particular place—the categorization of being a Haitian artist or Chinese artist, for instance—but I can’t avoid the fact that we perspire, at varying degrees, the heritage of the land that we come from. As soon as I understood that some people, both inside and outside of Haiti, have certain expectations towards Haitian art and culture, expectations that are influenced by numerous social, economic, and political factors, I wondered how this could inform my practice.
From that point on, I felt that the only way to unlock the treasures of my heritage was to be more aware of it, to be more conscious of my relation to it, and to consider my heritage as an artistic asset. Being creative and inventive with my heritage proved challenging, especially when it is so easy to succumb to elementary and arbitrary interpretations of culture. In the end, I discerned that I did not have to agree with or fully understand these interpretations; I recognized certain conventions and stereotypes that were perceived as aligning to Haitian culture, like the voodoo doll, for example, and resolved to approach them to redefine this commonplace.
It is in this state of mind that Spooky came to me—a big iconographic voodoo doll head. I decided to play with culture like Yue Minjun did and exaggerate stereotypes and clichés, so much so that the initial perception becomes twisted or grotesque. This creates a grey zone where dialogue becomes possible, and the viewer learns to perceive again, overcoming previously held notions, and then consciously agreeing or disagreeing with whatever they are witnessing.”
– Manuel Mathieu in an update for ARC magazine, February 2013.
Manuel Mathieu completed his Bachelor’s in Visual and Media Arts at the University of Quebec at Montreal in December 2010. He began a Masters at Goldsmiths University of London in September 2013. His work has been exhibited in Haiti, Canada, the United States, France, and in several international fairs. His work has also been presented at the Museum of the Americas in Washington and will be shown at the Museum of Civilisation in Quebec in November 2013. Manuel was born in Port-au-Prince and lives and works in Montreal. You can view his work at www.manuelmathieu.com.