Juan Benavides: Given the current situation we’re facing, could you elaborate on the impact of confinement and travel restrictions on your work?
Louise Lemoine: We spent the year investigating this question of proxemics—the study of the human use of space within culture—an idea based on Edward T. Hall’s book, The Hidden Dimension. It was already in the air, the idea of analyzing the space that we define for our body in the city and the distance that is flexible within the boundaries of culture, the distance I allow you to enter into my physical space; this question of proximity and anonymous proximity that exists in big cities.
Ila Bêka: At the same time, I'm not seeing a very big difference between the pre-pandemic and the post-pandemic in the sense of proximity. It should be very different because we have to be attentive and careful about staying very close to other people. But the density of the number of people living in the city is the same. It's a kind of illusion to think that we have to be far from the other, it’s not possible. Mentally, we are changing the idea of proximity. But physically, I don't think it has changed. The only change that we see is the mask and not always and not everywhere. But something is changing in our minds.
Jack Garay Arauzo: Does the usage of the face mask bring a new idea of intimacy to the street—a space that one can hide behind?
L.L: Proximity has an ambivalent meaning. We can be 30 centimetres from each other but I will not look at you and you will not look at me, but I will feel your body in a very unpleasant proximity, which happens a lot in big cities. This doesn't mean a mental or psychological intimacy. In our films, we try very much to align the two: physical and psychological proximity.
JGA: Do you want to be invisible as filmmakers?
L.L: The last film, which was just released less than two weeks ago, Tokyo Ride, was shot with Ryue Nishizawa from SANAA (we know him quite well because we made a film about the man who lives in the Moriyama House). This new film captures Nishizawa in his little Alfa Romeo. It's sort of a road movie in the streets of Tokyo, and it's about him, but it’s less about him than about the way he lives in Tokyo; the places he likes in the city, some of his projects, but mostly about his consideration of cultural connections and differences between the Occidental culture and Oriental culture. It was really difficult to push forward this idea of self-control when you are filmed because you are highly conscious that you have a certain role to maintain.
I.B: The best way to be invisible is to have a CCTV. We can make a beautiful film with just hidden cameras that capture real life. We often talk about the image, but we want to know what is behind it. But to do this, you need to be like psychologists and know which door to open and you need the magic key.
JGA: Speaking about opening doors and magic keys in the context of Moriyama-San and Koolhaas Houselife, could you tell us about your first approach to document the life inside these canonical buildings?
L.L: The situations in both are different because they have been made with ten years of difference. Koolhaas Houselife was our first film together. At that moment, film in architecture was not developed. Today, it is a field that is growing rapidly. We really felt that there was something to do, something urgent which was to open the possibilities of how to represent iconic spaces such as the house in Bordeaux. This was sort of an experiment. We thought that the representation of architecture was suffering severely from an incredible limitation. Film is a tool of mediation and communication, and understood that image is the main media of our knowledge in the sense that architecture doesn't travel, obviously, if you don't have the opportunity to go to Japan or France to see a project, you know this project by an image. Maybe [you know it by] a floor plan but mainly by image nowadays. There was a need to break the absurd and weak ways of representation in the house in Bordeaux. In the case of Moriyama, we didn't feel the same need of breaking the rules of representation. Moriyama-San is such an exception. He is someone who is in such an intense connection with his project and he never uses these architectural accomplishments as a social status or as a self-representation. You're totally seduced, that's why we made the film.
I.B: What is interesting in cinema, compared to the production of space, is that we are able to observe in a sensitive way. In our teaching, the big effort is not learning how to observe—because there's a lot of manuals on how to observe the rhythm of life in the street—but how to develop your sensibility. You can find love, you can find money, you can find everything. You can find happiness, just because you are interested in it.