Viviane Le Courtois Wants to Make You Think — But She Needs Your Hair First

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Viviane Le Courtois wants strands of your hair — as long as they're six inches or longer. The artist and Westword MasterMind plans to braid those donations and weave them into a small structure she calls a Global Thinking Pod, which she will make as part of her creative residency at the Denver Art Museum that runs from April 5 to April 15.  The Pod is "for mixing people together," Le Courtois says, a kind of vessel for conversation that will be constructed in the middle of the DAM's current show, Audacious: Contemporary Artists Speak Out.

"There's a lot of work in that room that surround my piece that are very much about social issues, and racial issues, issues of being a woman in Islam - and there's a piece with bombs, bombed shapes...which could used for bombing or terrorism, which is a relevant issue right now," she says, "so I hope to be linking people around those ideas and having discussion inside the piece, that's why it's a Thinking Pod. Thinking about what's going in the world and relating to the artwork that's directly surrounding the piece."

The Pod is being created from socially sourced materials, including human hair, yarn and already knitted items that Le Courtois is currently collecting. Once the materials are gathered, she'll tie and bind the pieces together to form an open, organic hut created out of the viewers' own DNA. The Pod will be a structure of biological and textural matter expressive of people's personalities, the artist points out, and Le Courtois hopes to mix in their opinions through dialogue.

"People normally just look at the art and talk to the people they come with," she says. "The Pod makes a meeting place for people who would not normally meet," including those who've donated materials. "It's physically weaving the parts that they're bringing and is also, kind of, weaving their ideas together."

This desire to generate conversation comes from a transnational artist who is often misidentified herself. Born in France, Le Courtois moved to Denver in 1994 to study at the University of Denver, where she received her MA in Art History.  "I kind of belong to two countries right now," she says. "I spend half of my time in France, and half of my time outside of France. I don't really belong to one place anymore. I feel like a very wandering person with no real home. I feel as much at home here as I do in France. I relate as much to the culture here as I do to the culture in Europe, so it's kind of weird. I feel like a two-headed creature."

But as the saying goes, two heads are better than one, and Le Courtois, who says she speaks French with an American accent, and English with a French one, may be the type of artist who can help facilitate the translation of ideas and opinions across different languages and intonations — but she can't do it alone. 

"I've created a few Thinking Pods already, but it was all from materials that I'd collected myself," she says. "This one I wanted to have things from the people who visit the museum, with materials that come from the community."

Concludes Le Courtois:  "People respond more to a project if they become part of it."

Want to become part of this project? Le Courtois will be accepting donations from 8 to 10 p.m. today, March 25, on the second floor of the DAM's Hamilton building during Untitled;  you can also donate from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, in front of the Hamilton building entrance on the museum's Free First Saturday. Go to the DAM's website to learn more about donating, and visit Le Courtois' website to learn more about the artist.

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