Entering the future… This is what Rouen Seine Norman 2028 offers on Friday, May 13 at 106 in Rouen. During this day, ten guests, philosopher, poet, screenwriter of video games and comics, professor of geo-science and environment…, will come to draw more or less distant horizons, look at possibilities through very personal prisms. This Day of the Future is part of the path of the application for the label of European Capital of Culture. Interview with François Schuiten, cartoonist known in particular for Les Cités obscures with Benoît Peeters, Grand Prix of the city of Angoulême in 2022, scenographer.
What are the challenges of the imagination?
I am increasingly asked to project certain places through drawing. It troubles me a lot. There is this desire to imagine futures. When you go to a city, you have to take the time to ask yourself the right questions so as not to have a superficial but relevant look. To do this, you need good guides who reveal hidden things to you. That's when I want to draw. I have to knit with all this. My role is to be a knitter between the real and the imaginary.
The imagination is therefore not enough.
Imagination is not enough but it is necessary. Today, we lack vision and essentially in management. It is so inscribed in reality that it is impossible to enter the next twenty, thirty or forty years. When working on the future, we must not only imagine the best but also the worst. You have to be as much in utopia as in dystopia.
It's too easy to delight in visions that would only be pleasant and pretty. History is made of contrasts and troubles. What we undertake must be at the service of this awareness of our possible futures. This does not prevent us from making people want to live tomorrow. When I was young, I dreamed of the 2000s. We quickly became disillusioned. Today, we have a hangover because we have not been able to consider these possibilities.
Does it go through stories? Yes, we need stories. We are like children. We need stories. Like children, too, we need to be scared. When I work on scenographies, I also think of children because it is a difficult audience, cash. It is therefore necessary to write stories with shadows and lights to capture the risks and beauties.
How does drawing allow you to understand these stories?
The drawing allows you to show. When we draw, we are forced to understand all these objects around us. They are remarkable for their history, their DNA, their technicality and all these hidden things. The drawing acts as a revealer. This is important because these designed buildings will have an attraction in the future.
What makes it possible to make the link between the real and the imaginary?
That's the whole question. And I am obsessed with this question. The imagination may not generate anything. On the other hand, reality must be lived as best as possible. It's a whole field to dig. For an imaginary to be relevant, it must register and curl up in the hollows of reality. We must immerse ourselves, immerse ourselves in these spaces. We must do this with engineers, scientists, musicians, graffiti artists… In fact with all these people who are ready to realize this journey, to open the doors of the imagination. For me, that's the most beautiful thing. When you walk around a city and think of a song or a photo of Doisneau, you live your space and it builds the beauty of cities. Therefore, we must not focus solely on what we see.
What led you to reflect on urban spaces?
I am part of an architect family. My father, my older brother, my sister are architects. During family reunions, there are very lively discussions. My father had a more classic vision even though he was also a little utopian. He had somewhat terrible ideas that confronted those of my brother who wiped plasters and some mockery. I was inspired by all these reflections. In our work with Benoît Peeters, we paid attention to the smallest details. Our first books reflect everything we felt. It was sometimes Kafkaesque but we were also in reality. We didn't want our dreams to be species of smoking. It was essential for us to tell ourselves that this could exist. As with Gaston Lagaffe's machines that Franquin designed. It must work for the public to believe in it.
Interview by Maryse Bunel for Relikto 1).