Hello Exo Human,
Thank you for granting this interview where I hope we can get to understand you and your work in greater depth. (Interview and translation from French by R. Buechel.)
You have been known in France for decades for your artistic performances of urban positioning, and myriad biting graffiti proverbs holding a magnification mirror up to humanity. Fewer people know of your prize-winning poetry and books, though. Your philosophical stance and artistic identity stem from the circumstances of your birth, hardship of your childhood wrought with illness which you surmounted with great difficulty culminating in a sort of mid-life “baptism” in the depths of Greenland’s icy waters with a spectacular jump from a helicopter to obtain the world record for thermal shock, and where, perhaps more importantly, you were reborn as Exo Human.
The variety and number of activities in your background are astounding. Perhaps a starting point into you and your work could be the origin of your name Exo Human (Hors Humain in French) which is on your passport and identity card, and how this second “christening” relates to your world-record in Greenland.
A series of childhood traumas led me to a sort of boycott of humanity’s structures, it’s tough, rigid nature. The pain, pressure and alienation was such that I had to flee, flee, flee as far as possible, and that was to leave humanity behind. But, don’t get me wrong, I am not against humanity—that would mean I had passionate involvement with it. I merely emancipated myself from humanity. You see, humanity had made one mistake with me. It put electro-shocks into my brain when I was seven years old. At first, I was totally blown away, humiliated by the series of abusive “treatments”. My brain actually hurt. Later, I realized that I had transformed this aggression into a rare strength. Other of my peers weren’t so lucky, succumbing to suicide faced with the mortal charge of the electricity. I got through it.
Before that, my very birth had taken place as American and British bombs rained down on the labor camp in Germany where my mother was in hopes of helping my father, a French resistant, who was in a nearby concentration camp. Ironically, it was these bombs with their blast overpressure, shock waves and blast wind that immediately set me on the path of breath and breathing. Why did I survive when the other children didn’t? The question has stayed with me ever since.
The bombs spoke to me. The breath I have is the blast wind of the bombs. The bombs whispered in my ear that it’s humans who destroy the earth, that destroy their own humanity. It was humans who dropped the bombs. Not Americans, not the British, not Germans, but all of humanity that put together bombs and send them everywhere around the planet.
The resulting respiratory seizures which constantly haunted my childhood ejected me from “the system” –a childhood of state-run boarding schools and psychiatric care. I never attended school. The accompanying pangs of abandonment and mistrust threw me into the arms of Nature. My solace was watching the butterflies, listening to the birds, wading in streams, kissing the earth, licking rocks. It saved me. Nature saved me. Everything that was not human saved me. I was afraid of humans.
I began jumping rope. It required subtlety and made me fly. The jump rope isn’t to build up one’s heart. It’s like the propeller of an airplane that helps one take flight. I jump ropes up and down stairs still today at nearly 76 years old.
Jumping rope is like a drug –to fly away, to escape, for deliverance. Rope is very interesting. You can hang yourself with it, or it can make you dance.
To deal with my constant respiratory seizures, I became an expert in…breathing –always gasping for air, finding subtle, personal ways to survive the lack of air.
So, later after factory work, then a stint as a military rescue frogman, performing in cabarets, having a successful pop single, prize-winning boxing, work as a magnetizer, and modeling, in 1984 at 40 years old, I managed to arrange a modeling gig as a jump in Greenland to test my claim of being the world’s best breather.
The profoundness of this death-defying experience I would describe as a resurrection, rather than a “christening”. I became the phoenix rising from my ashes. It epitomized a rebirth, leaving my old, rotten human ashes. The cold of the water at -2° C. burned my skin, it was my cremation. But I found the burning was actually the electric, anaerobic fluid energy I had been looking for. I left my ashes at the bottom of the sea with the polar bears and rose transformed. To get the right take, I had to jump three times that day—irresponsible on the part of the human organizers of the film shoot, but I managed. My expert breath forged during my youth fought the otherwise certain hypothermia, and won. Becoming the world record for thermal shock, this exploit is detailed in my book Combat Vital and in an award-winning adventure short film in the 1980s.
The meaning of this jump coalesced into emancipation. No violence, no aggressiveness, no bitterness towards humanity. I decided to leave disappointing, dysfunctional humanity –becoming Exo Human, but not inhuman. Self-destructive humanity is inhuman enough with itself. At first I felt sadness and disappointment at leaving humanity, but this emancipation led way to immense joy. My gigantic ego (king-size ego is my nickname) facilitated my metamorphosis.
© Le Hors Humain.
Écrivain et Journaliste indépendant.
Membre de l’Académie Européenne des Sciences des Arts et des Lettres.
Texte écrit par le Hors Humain, Exo Human et publié pour lecture gracieuse, le 16 Juillet 2019. Code de la propriété intellectuelle, article L335-2