YANN DELACOUR PLAYS PLAYMOBIL

French artist Yann Delacour has devised an interesting project that explores art world economics and the concept of exchange and return. Delacour has an arrangement with the German toy company Playmobil: the company provides Delacour with a quantity of toy Yankee soldiers (only Yankees) which he photographs and exhibits. After each new exhibition, in recognition of the promotional value of Delacour’s work, Playmobil furnishes him with a quantity of new soldiers. No money ever changes hands. Delacour would ultimately like to obtain an office at the Playmobil corporate headquarters that would become his studio. From within, Delacour would transform the corporation into a dynamic work of art.

A CONVERSATION WITH THE ARTIST

DKR: Why did you select Playmobil to become your new art work?

YD: My work deals with issues of proliferation, evolution, and growth. With Playmobil I am exploring the idea of evolution and proliferation in economic terms. I chose Playmobil for two reasons. First I have an emotional relationship with this firm because I played with the toys as a child. In French we call the corporate headquarters of a company maison mère (mother house) and I always wondered how these soldiers were born. I somehow viewed it as an organic process. Secondly I am interested in the threshold between my imagination and the economic system. In one sense I am broadening my understanding of the corporate culture that produced these toys and in another I am reverting to childhood fantasies.

DKR: Do Yankee soldiers have any special meaning to you?

YD: In its struggle against slavery, the Union Army reflects positive morality. But as my army grows, perhaps it will generate discomfort on the part of the viewer. When you have ten thousand soldiers there is a sense of imminent danger.

DKR: Does your project reflect issues of militarism in the world?

YD: I see them more as toys than soldiers. But there is a link between militarism and economics. Marketing and military strategy are conceptually very similar.

DKR: Is Playmobil suspicious of the type of publicity it is getting from your exhibitions?

YD: I was not an insider at Playmobil. I didn’t know anybody there, so I had to make cold phone calls and finally they agreed to give me three hundred soldiers for my project. I photographed and exhibited them and asked for seven hundred more. They will arrive in July. I feel as though I am dating Playmobil. We are still getting to know each other. I touch Playmobil and see how it reacts. Until now the relationship has been very positive. Playmobil sees that it is getting publicity and is learning about contemporary art.

DKR: Do you believe there is any danger of Playmobil and its agenda transforming you?

YD: The primary goal of this project is to provoke questions of identity for both the artist and the firm, so yes.

DKR: You have likened your art project to playing a video game. Could you elaborate?

YD: The Playmobil project is like playing a game in real time. I have an appointment in July with the Marketing Directer of Playmobil and I have to make it into an art event. I hope that the Playmobil relationship will continue for years to come. If the Playmobil project does not work, however, I can make another company into a work of art. The concept allows me to change companies like you change channels on your tv.

© Daniel Rothbart, 2002.