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  • (Applause)

  • (Applause)

  • I am a papercutter.

  • (Laughter)

  • I cut stories.

  • So my process is very straightforward.

  • I take a piece of paper,

  • I visualize my story,

  • sometimes I sketch, sometimes I don't.

  • And as my image

  • is already inside the paper,

  • I just have to remove

  • what's not from that story.

  • So I didn't come to papercutting

  • in a straight line.

  • In fact,

  • I see it more as a spiral.

  • I was not born

  • with a blade in my hand.

  • And I don't remember papercutting as a child.

  • As a teenager,

  • I was sketching, drawing,

  • and I wanted to be an artist.

  • But I was also a rebel.

  • And I left everything

  • and went for a long series of odd jobs.

  • So among them,

  • I have been a shepherdess,

  • a truck driver,

  • a factory worker,

  • a cleaning lady.

  • I worked in tourism for one year

  • in Mexico,

  • one year in Egypt.

  • I moved for two years

  • in Taiwan.

  • And then I settled in New York

  • where I became a tour guide.

  • And I still worked as a tour leader,

  • traveled back and forth

  • in China, Tibet and Central Asia.

  • So of course, it took time, and I was nearly 40,

  • and I decided it's time

  • to start as an artist.

  • (Applause)

  • I chose papercutting

  • because paper is cheap,

  • it's light,

  • and you can use it

  • in a lot of different ways.

  • And I chose the language of silhouette

  • because graphically it's very efficient.

  • And it's also just getting to the essential of things.

  • So the word "silhouette"

  • comes from a minister of finance,

  • Etienne de Silhouette.

  • And he slashed so many budgets

  • that people said they couldn't afford

  • paintings anymore,

  • and they needed to have their portrait

  • "a la silhouette."

  • (Laughter)

  • So I made series of images, cuttings,

  • and I assembled them in portfolios.

  • And people told me --

  • like these 36 views of the Empire State building --

  • they told me, "You're making artist books."

  • So artist books have a lot of definitions.

  • They come in a lot of different shapes.

  • But to me,

  • they are fascinating objects

  • to visually narrate a story.

  • They can be with words

  • or without words.

  • And I have a passion

  • for images and for words.

  • I love pun

  • and the relation to the unconscious.

  • I love oddities of languages.

  • And everywhere I lived, I learned the languages,

  • but never mastered them.

  • So I'm always looking

  • for the false cognates

  • or identical words in different languages.

  • So as you can guess, my mother tongue is French.

  • And my daily language is English.

  • So I did a series of work

  • where it was identical words

  • in French and in English.

  • So one of these works

  • is the "Spelling Spider."

  • So the Spelling Spider

  • is a cousin of the spelling bee.

  • (Laughter)

  • But it's much more connected to the Web.

  • (Laughter)

  • And this spider

  • spins a bilingual alphabet.

  • So you can read "architecture active"

  • or "active architecture."

  • So this spider goes through the whole alphabet

  • with identical adjectives and substantives.

  • So if you don't know one of these languages,

  • it's instant learning.

  • And one ancient form of the book

  • is scrolls.

  • So scrolls are very convenient,

  • because you can create a large image

  • on a very small table.

  • So the unexpected consequences of that

  • is that you only see one part of your image,

  • so it makes a very freestyle architecture.

  • And I'm making all those kinds of windows.

  • So it's to look beyond the surface.

  • It's to have a look

  • at different worlds.

  • And very often I've been an outsider.

  • So I want to see how things work

  • and what's happening.

  • So each window

  • is an image

  • and is a world

  • that I often revisit.

  • And I revisit this world

  • thinking about the image

  • or cliché about what we want to do,

  • and what are the words, colloquialisms,

  • that we have with the expressions.

  • It's all if.

  • So what if we were living in balloon houses?

  • It would make a very uplifting world.

  • And we would leave a very low footprint on the planet.

  • It would be so light.

  • So sometimes I view from the inside,

  • like EgoCentriCity

  • and the inner circles.

  • Sometimes it's a global view,

  • to see our common roots

  • and how we can use them to catch dreams.

  • And we can use them also

  • as a safety net.

  • And my inspirations

  • are very eclectic.

  • I'm influenced by everything I read,

  • everything I see.

  • I have some stories that are humorous,

  • like "Dead Beats."

  • (Laughter)

  • Other ones are historical.

  • Here it's "CandyCity."

  • It's a non-sugar-coated

  • history of sugar.

  • It goes from slave trade

  • to over-consumption of sugar

  • with some sweet moments in between.

  • And sometimes I have an emotional response to news,

  • such as the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

  • Other times, it's not even my stories.

  • People tell me their lives,

  • their memories, their aspirations,

  • and I create a mindscape.

  • I channel their history

  • [so that] they have a place to go back

  • to look at their life and its possibilities.

  • I call them Freudian cities.

  • I cannot speak for all my images,

  • so I'll just go through a few of my worlds

  • just with the title.

  • "ModiCity."

  • "ElectriCity."

  • "MAD Growth on Columbus Circle."

  • "ReefCity."

  • "A Web of Time."

  • "Chaos City."

  • "Daily Battles."

  • "FeliCity."

  • "Floating Islands."

  • And at one point,

  • I had to do "The Whole Nine Yards."

  • So it's actually a papercut that's nine yards long.

  • (Laughter)

  • So in life and in papercutting,

  • everything is connected.

  • One story leads to another.

  • I was also interested

  • in the physicality of this format,

  • because you have to walk to see it.

  • And parallel to my cutting

  • is my running.

  • I started with small images,

  • I started with a few miles.

  • Larger images, I started to run marathons.

  • Then I went to run 50K, then 60K.

  • Then I ran 50 miles -- ultramarathons.

  • And I still feel I'm running,

  • it's just the training

  • to become a long-distance papercutter.

  • (Laughter)

  • And running gives me a lot of energy.

  • Here is a three-week papercutting marathon

  • at the Museum of Arts and Design

  • in New York City.

  • The result is "Hells and Heavens."

  • It's two panels 13 ft. high.

  • They were installed in the museum on two floors,

  • but in fact, it's a continuous image.

  • And I call it "Hells and Heavens"

  • because it's daily hells and daily heavens.

  • There is no border in between.

  • Some people are born in hells,

  • and against all odds, they make it to heavens.

  • Other people make the opposite trip.

  • That's the border.

  • You have sweatshops in hells.

  • You have people renting their wings in the heavens.

  • And then you have all those individual stories

  • where sometimes we even have the same action,

  • and the result puts you in hells or in heavens.

  • So the whole "Hells and Heavens"

  • is about free will

  • and determinism.

  • And in papercutting,

  • you have the drawing as the structure itself.

  • So you can take it off the wall.

  • Here it's an artist book installation

  • called "Identity Project."

  • It's not autobiographical identities.

  • They are more our social identities.

  • And then you can just walk behind them

  • and try them on.

  • So it's like the different layers

  • of what we are made of

  • and what we present to the world

  • as an identity.

  • That's another artist book project.

  • In fact, in the picture, you have two of them.

  • It's one I'm wearing

  • and one that's on exhibition

  • at the Center for Books Arts in New York City.

  • Why do I call it a book?

  • It's called "Fashion Statement,"

  • and there are quotes about fashion,

  • so you can read it,

  • and also,

  • because the definition of artist book

  • is very generous.

  • So artist books, you take them off the wall.

  • You take them for a walk.

  • You can also install them as public art.

  • Here it's in Scottsdale, Arizona,

  • and it's called "Floating Memories."

  • So it's regional memories,

  • and they are just randomly moved by the wind.

  • I love public art.

  • And I entered competitions

  • for a long time.

  • After eight years of rejection,

  • I was thrilled to get my first commission

  • with the Percent for Art in New York City.

  • It was for a merger station

  • for emergency workers and firemen.

  • I made an artist book

  • that's in stainless steel

  • instead of paper.

  • I called it "Working in the Same Direction."

  • But I added weathervanes on both sides

  • to show that they cover all directions.

  • With public art,

  • I could also make cut glass.

  • Here it's faceted glass in the Bronx.