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Reaching Out: Claudia Comte

May 1, 2020

Left: portrait of Claudia Comte taken during her residency with TBA-21 Academy in Port Antonio, Jamaica in April 2019. Photo by Retts Wood. 
Right: installation view Claudia Comte, How to Grow and Still Stay the Same Shape, Castello di Rivoli,Turn, 2019. Photo by Roman März.
For this issue of "Reaching Out," Swiss artist Claudia Comte gives us a look into what inspires her work and life from the natural world to the aesthetics of cartoons. Additionally, Claudia has made a coloring book especially for this feature. The drawings in the book are based on her exhibition last year at the Brussels gallery titled, The Cavern of Lost Dreams (nine characters). Download here for free and print at home

Claudia Comte day 50 in isolation: a possible routine

Where would you like to be right now?

The Ocean.

During lockdown I have found myself thinking about swimming in the ocean, recalling memories of the times I’ve spent diving. Carrying your own source of oxygen while exploring the ocean’s strange luminescent world, can be, at times, quite a lonely adventure. This never occurred to me before I began scuba diving. There’s a quiet introspection to deep sea diving that calls for an attentive attuning to the natural world and to your own body, of course, as one must manage how to breathe under unnatural conditions. During the past 6 weeks I’ve gone for many walks in the forests surrounding my home near Basel. I enjoy my growing awareness of spring’s blooming and unfurling. The natural environment is a great reminder of time and history, and I feel a reassuring sense of stability when seasons change.

One of my fondest memories of diving was during a residency in Jamaica last year. I was invited by TBA-21 Academy to produce work and to collaborate with the ocean sanctuary, Alligator Head Foundation in Port Antonio, Jamaica. During this time I worked with their team of devoted marine biologists to develop an underwater sculpture park that would help regenerate coral growth in the sanctuaries' protected waters. The sculptures, three concrete cacti forms, now sit on the seabed as armatures for the biologists to attach baby coral, to encourage new growth and to increase the biodiversity in the region.

Image: Claudia Comte, 2019, Underwater Cacti, Port Antonio, Jamaica. Commissioned by TBA-21 Academy. Photo by F-stop movies

What are you reading?

The books in this list are my current go to resources on ecology and environmentalism. They’ve helped me to formulate a better understanding of human impact on the environment and have also been a great tool in shaping my thinking on art and the natural world. They have been references for recent exhibitions at Copenhagen Contemporary and Castello di Rivoli as well as an upcoming exhibition at Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid in 2021.

Mind and Nature by Gregory Bateson
Hope for the Animals and their World by Jane Goodall
Philosophy After Nature edited by Rosi Braidotti and Rick Dolphijn
Where Corals Lie by J. Malcolm Shick

Favourite movie?

Kung Fu Panda is one of my favourite contemporary cartoons; the movie may seem to be a little silly, it is certainly funny, but, it also weaves eastern philosophy into its narrative which is rather atypical for a DreamWorks cartoon. Po, the protagonist panda, shows us valuable life lessons, like how we should follow our dreams no matter the odds set against us, whilst reminding us that our destiny is part of what makes us unique.

I am a huge fan of comics and cartoons - their visual humour and illustrative storytelling have always interested me. Reading Franquin’s comics was a nourishing experience as a kid and remains so. I especially enjoy the comics, Marsupilami, Spirou et Fantasio and Gaston Lagaffe. Franquin's aesthetic and way of representing the world, his depictions of animal behaviours and human actions have always fascinated me, but I only fully comprehend that curiosity now as an adult. At the time, as a kid, it was just so pleasurable to read those stories and absorb the drawings, the skill in rendering movement in 2D. I particularly love his color arrangements. I guess I was seeing a representation of the world I wished to see, with its vibrancy and exaggerations. In his drawings the shape of a leaf for example is so much more alive than the real one somehow. Maybe that’s because we can’t always see what’s happening around us because of life’s various everyday distractions and commitments or when life gets a little tiring. I find these comics as good tools for learning how to see again, like kids do.

Image: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,
Image: By Source, Fair use,

Favourite food?

Eating a cheese fondue while soaking in a boiling hot bath tub!

My grandfather was a cheese maker - needless to say I grew up on cheese. Fondue is one of my favourite things to eat and enjoy. I love the communal aspect of the dish. In 2016, I created a performance using colored fondue called 
The Primary Fondue Party where visitors would sit around a table of four and dip bread into green, blue, red and yellow dyed cheese. During the feasting, a traditional swiss horn player and a film about my grandfathers cheese farm played in the background.

Claudia Comte, Primary Fondue Party, 2015, BolteLang, Zürich

Laiterie La Coudre - La fabrication du Gruyere
An 8mm film by Eric Comte made in 1979. A film about Willy Comte and his creamery, who still produces artisan and authentic high quality cheese in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Courtesy the artist: Claudia Comte.

Online recommendations?

RXArt on Instagram #ColoringAtHome
Roots and Shoots Earth Day Challenge
Schinkel Pavilion Home Music Berlin Concerts in Quarantine
Ocean Archive spearheaded by TBA21-Academy
Castello di Rivoli Digital Cosmos
Radio Garden

CURA: The Soltidue Playlists soundcloud
Foundation Beyeler’s video archive
Not Cancelled Salon

The Monument Valley Coloring Book by Claudia Comte.

The exhibition included a series of sculptures and paintings, as well as a 360 degree wall painting inspired by the Monument Valley Mountains in Western America. The cartoon-like depiction of this mountain range was influenced by Comte’s earliest recollections of landscapes from popular culture, terrains which differed immensely from her wooded Swiss surroundings early in life. Through the use of aerosol spray paint, Comte highlights the quaint domesticity of the townhouse gallery space against the graffiti she adorned the walls with. In this coloring book, the walls, as well as the interior elements of the exhibition rooms, become part of the drawing to color in. Draw on the walls and create your own exhibition!