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The influence of judo on his conception of art

Daniel Moquay
© All rights reserved
Conversation between Daniel Moquay, coordinator of Yves Klein Archive and Pierre Cornette of Saint Cyr, Auctioneer and collector.

DM: Given your knowledge of his work and your passion as a collector, I would like to know how you locate Yves Klein in the history of art?

PC: Do you remember suggesting an exhibition Yves Klein and Western spirituality and I told you: "I see a large white room, with on one side The Marriage of the Virgin of Fra Angelico, and on the other a big blue monochrome" ? Everything else is filling ... Yves Klein is at once both spirituality and NASA, a shaman and a cosmonaut and became a myth because the material of his creation is the energy of the universe in all its forms ... He is one of the geniuses of the history of art.
He announced the civilisation of space and immaterial to us and we are in this civilization of space conquest and the genesis of immaterial intelligence ...
Klein is therefore an artist of science fiction. He has shaped, with the most suitable language, the future of civilization. He has superseded the formalism of - for example - Malevich, and chosen pure color; and as you know, colours do not exist, these wavelengths are perfectly immaterial.

DM: How do you perceive the experience of judo in the life of Yves Klein?

PC: We forget that Klein was a very great judoka. He had two lives. That of art, marked by his complicity with Pierre Restany, and his life of judoka, which is associated with the image of his friendship with Jean Vareilles who repeated the movements with him.
One day, a producer came to ask me to be the "red thread" of a documentary about Yves Klein. He sees in my office, the big picture of "Jump in the void". I explain that it is taken in Fontenay-aux-Roses, where we decide to go. We start the first interview on the spot, when a man arrives, about 70 years old, with a small mustache, very comfortable. It was Jean Vareilles; we have lunch in the restaurant, run by his nephew, where Klein had his habits. Vareilles shows us books, documents, photos. I ask him: "the jump in the void, you were there? ". He answers me this: "Of course. Yves said to me one day: "listen, you have to come with friends, I'll jump from the second floor and you'll get me back". Ah, these artists! I did not really see where he was coming from. I even inadvertently kicked one of the tables in the gym. To fix that, because I had made a hole, Yves painted a monochrome 10 meters long. But after his death we scratched everything to put carpet! So, one Sunday morning, we came to several with a tarp, we put a mattress underneath and Yves jumped a first time to see if he did not touch the ground, then ten times in a row while doing the kata of birds. An eagle was amazing. "
And Jean Vareilles tells me that he still has the famous tarpaulin at his place, in his cellar, for forty years. I exclaim: "But it is the shroud, for me! You have this tarpaulin? And he kindly answers: "You like Klein, do not you? Well, I'll give it to you, let's see you again in the spring, I'll bring it to you. But the story is not over. Yves Klein had dedicated his life to Saint Rita. Regularly, says Jean Vareilles, he meditated, leaning on a window in the judo room. And thirty years after his death, by the most astonishing coincidence, there was built at this place a chapel of St. Rita whose statue faces the same window. In the spring, two appointments are postponed. I finally found Jean Vareilles in Fontenay-aux-Roses on May 22 at the Café de la Gare. He gives me the tarpaulin, we take a drink and at six o'clock a man comes out of the station with a rose in his hand. He goes to us: "Can you tell me where is the chapel of St. Rita, please? And he adds: "Because today is the day of blessing of St. Rita. So one, I'm asked to make a film about Klein; two, by the greatest chance Jean Vareilles is there; three, we meet him and he offers me the covering; four, he gives it to me at the blessing of St. Rita!

DM: You also know that when this chapel, whose stained glasses were entrusted to a master glassmaker who did not know Yves Klein at all, was built, all the colors that did not correspond to those of Klein did not hold - blue, in particular, which caused a lot of problems! Religious devotion is something deeply rooted in Yves Klein's work. He is not a mystic, he is not an alchemist; he is a Catholic of the base. Certainly, it is a Catholic who does not go through intermediaries and speaks directly to the "boss". Rotraut told me that when he wanted to meditate, he went to church, on the Boulevard Montparnasse, like Edouard Adam or Monsieur Lafon, owner of La Coupole.

PC: He claimed that mysticism, all the same! Remember this prayer to Saint Rita ("O holy Rita, I entrust my life to you ..."), in the exhibition that you organized in Nice. Saint Rita is a friend to whom he speaks. Perhaps Klein's membership of the Rosicrucians helped to give her a certain spiritual esotericism?

DM: I do not think the Rosicrucians played that role. The Rosicrucians were a teenage quest, the claim of a theatrical spirituality. It lasted a while, then Yves Klein, Arman, Claude Pascal who had also been initiated, moved on to something else. What is certain is that there was in Yves Klein a true Catholic faith, contrary to what Pierre Restany, who knew him very closely, could write - that Yves was Jungian without having read Jung.

PC: This faith was not separate from life; she was part of it. And what I find extraordinary, it is the quality of clairvoyant which he shares with Rimbaud: in 1960, Yves Klein realizes the "jump in the void", arguing that, being the painter of space, he had to to go himself into space. One remembers the photograph he uses in the one-day diary, above which was written "A man in space". Three years before, he had realized the Blue Earth Globe. But in 1961, Gagarin revolves around the Earth: there is indeed a man in space! We remember his sentence: "the Earth is blue". It's extraordinary, it's clairvoyance, on Klein's part. As when Rimbaud writes, in A Season in Hell: "One evening, I sat Beauty on my lap. And I found it bitter. And I insulted him. ". This sentence sign, in my opinion, the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the 20th century. The Middle Ages is God, the Renaissance is God and intelligence, the 20th century is intelligence without God, the century where God becomes a hypothesis.

DM: Do you think that the practice of judo had a real influence on Klein's pictorial work?

PC: Yes, because it's a mental and spiritual discipline. But in Klein, everything is based on mental discipline and spiritual discipline. What one does to one's body is mental discipline; the practice of art is a mental discipline; Klein's reflection on life itself, which is absolute art, is a mental discipline. What Judo has taught Klein is, more than oriental spirituality, that absolute discipline that martial art imposes. But in all he did, Klein imposed a real discipline, which had to do, of course, with Judo, mental mechanics that forced him to go to the end of things. The life of an artist and the life of a judoka was the same for him. Jean Vareilles says he was a very great judoka, a master. The rigor, the mental discipline, the extraordinary energy that he put into the repetition of the gestures of Judo, he has transposed them to his life and his art - because it was necessary all that to go, in this area also, until at the end, and move on, whatever happens. The movement is also one of the keys to understanding the relationship between judo, art and life, which is the absolute art: repetition of judo movements, methodical rigor of anthropometries ... All this is very closely linked, and c is what makes Klein extraordinary.

DM: To go in your direction, I will recall what Roger Tallon, the designer, friend and companion of Yves Klein, recently told me about him - that he emanated from his person a quiet force. It seemed that nothing could happen to him. Louis Frederic, who wrote a lot about Asia, told me that Yves Klein was the only Zen person he had met, not because he practiced zazen, but because he was zen, he had in him this kind of serenity. However, things were not simple for him: to claim the monochrome, to defend the immaterial or monotonous symphony, it was complicated. Just as emptiness is not nothing, it is instead full of extraordinary energy, monotonous symphony, by matching silence to sound, allows one to find oneself in silence, to listen to a listening that materializes silence and transcendence.

PC: When he answers to Georges Mathieu who asks him: "Monsieur Klein, what is art? He replies, "Art is health". That was Klein's art, that mental energy that could change people's lives. Pierre Restany told me moreover: "He changed my life; what I have been, I would never have been without Yves Klein. "

DM: Now that 40 years have passed since his death, do you think that Klein was school and that there is a continuity of his work?

PC: Yes, of course! "The jump in the void", it is the mother photo of all the posterior performances, it is the matrix of the conceptual art. Klein synthesized science and art. I believe that he was the first to speak of the energy of the universe, and to use it as the very material of his creation. When we make monochromes, it means we want to go closer to the thought; when we use energy as a raw material, we use the neuron ... Klein is the most prescient artist of the second half of the 20th century. Warhol told us about the world of media and multinationals, and Yves Klein brings us into the era of space and the immaterial. Today, everything is immaterial: the Internet is immaterial, the information is immaterial, the power is immaterial. From this point of view, Klein, like scientists, is a forerunner. We are well in the civilization he announced to us.

Introduction of the book "The Foundations of Judo", Éditions Dilecta, Paris, France, 2006
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