Suisse Marocain (b. David Hardy) is a German artist who was born in the air between Tangiers and Geneva. When he’s not off traveling and collaborating with artists in Sicily and Madagascar, Germany or Portugal, he lives in Paris. If you see him here in the winter, he usually has a good tan, choosing his déplacements wisely. He’s a person who lives and wears his art. Put him inside the Musée Igor Balut, his ever-evolving installation in his studio on the 4th floor of 59 rue de Rivoli, and he’ll seem to disappear.
When I think of Suisse, aside from his incredible dimples, I think of freedom. Freedom of expression in fashion, painting, collaboration, performance. I’ve seen him wearing pink knit legwarmers, a harlequin-printed jumpsuit, a top hat with a red heart on top (a favorite), and usually clothing he or another artist has painted on. His playfulness says, “c’est pas grave” just have fun with it all, we don’t have to be so serious all the time, here’s a paint brush.
Suisse is one of the original residents of the well-known squat in the center of Paris at 59 rue de Rivoli that began in 1999, was bought by the city who renovated it from 2006-2009, then returned to the artists who now pay a nominal rent, and re-opened to the public on 09-09-2009. I became friends with him when I hung around photographing in 2006 while they moved the entire 6 floors of studios over to the temporary one-floor space in the 9th, which the city loaned them during renovations.
59 has the kind of energy that makes you feel something is always just about to happen. It’s an adult fun house where the paintings don’t end at the borders of their canvases and there is always live music being played somewhere. The entire place is a collaborative installation, or as my friend Holden calls it, “an art zoo.” Being open to the public, it has become a tourist attraction. If you stay there for an entire day, you meet a lot of people (artists, musicians, curious people, and some lost, who just want to be pointed toward the Louvre or the Notre Dame). As Suisse has been working there for over a decade, he’s made a lot of connections and has often helped bring over artists from Lisbon, Madagascar, Italy, Germany and elsewhere to collaborate here and hold exhibitions.
I had a small studio at 59 in 2009/2010, around the corner from Suisse. During that time, a part of my practice became devoted to self-portraiture, which began by using elements from Musée Igor Balut. (The last photo on this page is one shot I did of myself inside the MIB that gives an idea of what it’s like, and features part of Suisse’s suitcase collection.) At that time, his generosity encouraged me to claim space that I may never have asked for let alone taken, without having him metaphorically open the door and say, have a look in there, you can work here you know, we’ll make room for you. Last summer I was looking for a studio and he cleared out a corner for me to use while he was in Sicily working and doing his under-water art show, an installation of artwork that requires viewers go diving in goggles to discover his work. Because, why not? With Suisse, anything is possible.