Miniaturist Simon Laveueve spares absolutely no detail in the strange little structures he creates, giving every last surface a little bit of grit and dirt to make it feel more real. Metal roofs are rusting, walls are covered in graffiti, and impossibly tiny bags of Doritos sit empty atop makeshift tables. Often depicting scenes of ruin and rot, Laveueve envisions an alternate reality that’s not too far from our current one, taking contemporary abandonments and their vestiges of consumerist culture and making them slightly surreal.
With all this focus on deterioration and decay, it’s easy to characterize Laveuve’s work as dystopian, but the details often reveal a spirit of defiance. That’s never been clearer than in “The Navigator,” his latest work. As the artist makes clear in the description, this piece reflects frustrations with COVID-related restrictions and the loss of all the fun that comes with alcohol-fueled social gatherings. Given that it’s offshore, the tiny multi-story structure feels sort of like a pirate ship. The details are truly incredible — just check out the weathering on the tiny kegs of Heineken.
“The Navigator is a free and independent raft.
A tub that sails on the surreal waves of drunkenness guided by the song of the sirens.
The Navigator is an affable shack moored to the resistance.
A zinc-free roof sheltered from any curfew, where excess rhymes with sharing.
The Navigator is the smell of yesteryear, cigarettes, and teas for intimate friends.
Its scent is that of the Human ‘being together’ the dystopia of 2020.”
Other recent works explore similar themes, like “The Flight,” in which a construction worker pauses mid-job on scaffolding to partake in the small pleasure of flying a kite. “The Turret” reflects the artist’s feelings about withdrawing into a protective tower during the “war” of COVID, “the ideal nest of the misanthrope in confinement.” Another piece from this year has been in the works for a long time, Laveuve says. “The Road” depicts a grim scene taken straight from the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, and the artist warns that “this reality will reach us faster than expected if we do not change our habits as soon as possible.”
Laveuve’s work is highly influenced by his childhood in one of Europe’s most famous modernist urban environments, the concrete towers of architect Renée Gailhoustet, who built all the social housing in Ivry-sur-Seine. A photographer and author by profession as well as a self-taught artist, Laveuve is fascinated with human environments and how they change over time, and uses a lot of recycled elements in his work.
He explains: “Surrounded by the dormitories, pavilions, and the industrial zone, it is above all the spatial arrangements of the city, created in collaboration with Jean Renaudie, which inevitably marked my mind. My pieces, for the most part, have this aspect of shelter. A shelter for man, made by man, whose face is not necessarily present. I like to work on height and on the inaccessible. Protection and surrender. Fallen icons and their symbolism. Resistance and insubordination.”