I am like the desert, a blog on Gaël Badaud. Part Two.

In this post, our volunteer Paolo continues with the story of artist Gaël Badaud with other insights into his varied works.

Reportage on the film ‘Grape d’yeux’, Henandez (left), Nedjar (right) and Badaud (background). Photographer: Jakobois. C.1983.
Gaël Badaud, Marseilles, Summer 1982. Photographer: Teo Hernandez.

In the late ’70s early ’80s, Gaël Badaud, Teo Hernandez, Michel Nedjar and Jakobois (Jacques Haubois) formed one of the only experimental collectives active in Paris in those decades, the MétroBarbèsRochechou Art. Named after a metro station in the 18th Arrondissement, the group was conceived as an informal community. It was an encounter of singular aesthetics, different pasts, and origins, based on affection and spontaneity. 4 à 4 (1980-83) and Grappe d’yeux (1982-83) were born out of this dynamic collaboration.

Gaël Badaud, Auvers-sur-Oise, 24th September 1981. Photographer: Teo Hernamdez, Michel Nedjar.
Gaël Badaud (foreground), Teo Hernandez (background), Marseilles, November 1981. Photographer: Michel Nedjar.

On the 18th of October 1984, Christian Lebrat interviewed the MétroBarbèsRochechou Art. Absent that day was Gaël Badaud. The other three members of the collective, explain Gael’s absence by saying:

Teo Hernandez: “He has practically retired from cinema – he does not film and does not create any more.”

Michel Nedjar: “It is a crisis, I believe.”

Jakobois: “That is part of the story of each individual. For a few years, Gaël has had the desire to withdraw, and the collective no longer enthused him.”

Teo Hernandez: “He is more interested in music nowadays. For it is the raw (brut) character, it is not a restraint, a work fixed and definitive.” [1]

In 1983, Badaud found traces of his biological mother and decided to meet her. When finally reunited, he was devastated by the cold reception and humble circumstances of the woman. He had long daydreamed about her, and the reality of their encounter hit him hard.

Gaël, who struggled with his mental wellbeing for most of his life, would also abandon films in this period. Visual modes of expression did not interest him anymore. In a short note written by Hernandez, he records that “A fervid and painful mysticism conquered him. From this moment on, he no longer draws.”

”Pour quoi faire? L’universe est finì, il n’y a rien à rajouter.” Gaël Badaud [2]

Gaël Badaud, 1988. Photographer: Teo Hernandez.
Gaël Badaud (left), Kader Lif (right), November 1988. Photographer: Teo Hernandez.

Badaud found solace in music and poetry instead. Michel Nedjar recalls that Badaud ‘’experimented with the use of parasitic oscillations to fabricate music. He additionally begins to express himself through song and sound poetry and teaches himself to play the recorder and the harmonica. Some of his compositions ultimately integrate the soundtracks of both his own and Hernandez’s films.’’

Later in 1989, Badaud would embark on one of the most ambitious production of his career, a picture titled Le Chant de L’àme.

As for the latter half of his life, we have little pieces of evidence of Gaël’s life in the ’90s and early 2000s. Hernandez died in 1992, of AIDS-related complications, leaving behind a unique heritage of films, photographs and writings. His untimely death profoundly marked Badaud whom, with few exceptions, ceased making art after the departure of his mentor. Gaël Badaud died on the 7th of January 2003.

Possibly Gaël Badaud’s last artistic production (1998), requested by friend Xochitl Camblor-Macharel for a poetry review.

The role of keeper of this legacy rests within Michel Nedjar. He co-founded with Madeleine Lommel et Claire Teller L’Aracine, one of the most extensive collections of Art Brut in Europe, now at Lille Metropole Museum. In the late 1980s, several of Gaël’s drawings were acquired by L’Aracine and shown in exhibitions. One of these works was later brought to London and gifted to the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection.

Michel Nedjar donated the entirety of Gaël’s films and archives to the Kandinsky Library at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris for preservation and research.

Special thanks to Michel Nedjar, Mauricio Hernandez and Marc for their helpful contributions.

[1] Deke Dusinberre, Christian Lebrat, MétroBarbèsRochechou Art, Les Chahiers de Paris Expérimental, 2005, p.9.

[2] “To do what? The universe is finished, there is nothing to add.”

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