Other-Worldly

Photo by Lina Daugirdaite, ZEFYR LIFE, Paris, 2018.

 

In 1994, Prosper and Martine Assouline published their first book, La Colombe d’Or, on the history of their favorite hotel in the South of France, with photographs by Prosper and text by Martine. The publishing house began as a family company in the basement of the couple’s apartment in Paris and one year later, the firm opened its first office on rue Danielle Casanova in Paris. The company later opened more offices, first in New York, and then in Venice, Geneva, Istanbul, and London. The company's first book series was the Memoire collection of books focusing on individuals and companies in fashion, jewelry, design, and art. Initial publications included books about Azzedine Alaïa, Chanel, Vionnet, and Dior. As of 1997, about half a million editions from the Memoire collection had been sold, with 27 titles on Paris in addition to others.

Assouline has partnered with fashion companies, including Poiret, Chanel, Pucci, Dior, Goyard, Coach, Andrée Putman, and Valentino to create special editions and trunks. Assouline titles have been published in multiple different languages. In 2001, Assouline published Lee Radziwill’s memoir, Happy Times, the first book of the Icons collection, which focuses on travel and style. Assouline also produces the "Impossible Collection" of books and the "Ultimate Collection”, a series of limited-edition hand-bound oversize volumes with hand-tipped illustrations.

In 2003, Assouline opened a corner boutique in Bergdorf Goodman. Assouline opened its first standalone boutique in Paris in 2006. Assouline has opened several flagship stores, including a London store entitled Maison Assouline that opened in 2014, which houses the Swans Bar. Other boutiques are located in Istanbul, Mexico City, and Seoul.

In 2002 Assouline published the book Bright Young Things by Brooke de Ocampo. Then in 2007, the company owners relocated to New York City, and that same year they began to partner with the Council of Fashion Designers of America. In 2011 Prosper Assouline was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture for his work in publishing. In 2012, Assouline produced a waterproof book on the subject of the South Pole, as well as Gaia, a book of photos taken on the International Space Station by Guy Laliberté.

In 2015, Assouline launched a "Haute Couture" furnishings collection called "Assouline Interiors”. Assouline also produces accessories, bookbags, and bindery. They have also designed private libraries and lounges in New York City in buildings including 432 Park, The Caledonia, and The Shephard. In 2016, the French Institute Alliance Française awarded the Assoulines with the Art de Vivre award for their publications.

 

DAVID:  Good morning Martine Assouline, thank you very much for making the time to engage with us. It means a lot to us. When we say that ZEFYR LIFE is a media on the Art of Living ‘In the sense of Montaigne’, it is largely because of two important things that Montaigne wrote or said and to this day is often being remembered for. One, his famous question, ‘What do I know?” (‘Que sais-je?’): when we ask that question we realize how much there is that we do not know. We are very keen on this notion of humility in front of the mystery of Existence. Second, Montaigne is often criticized for having said ‘I am myself the matter of my book”: a lot of people think this was obnoxious when in fact it was - again - a sign of humility: he was aware that he could only experience life in a very lonely way, only from his own solitary and modest prospective. This solitary prospective on existence is what we are interested in, that singular prospective of yours Dear Martine.

ASSOULINE: Actually I will tell you that Montaigne has been a big part of my life, as I discovered him very young, when I was thirteen or fourteen year old. He has been very important all my life. He is a friend! Like someone you have known forever. Montaigne is so inspirational, he is eternal!

DAVID: So when is the last time that you had Montaigne for dinner? [smiles]

ASSOULINE: [Laughs] All the time! I remember one thing that had particularly impressed me was his idea of the reading room. Montaigne had a room completely filled with books, and I thought to myself, one day I will have the same room as him! And I am getting there with my books! [laughs]. Montaigne was really someone I loved and I continue to love him!

DAVID: Is that the first time that you are making this connection between Montaigne’s room filled with books and your own life - filled with books - your books?

ASSOULINE: Maybe Yes. Yes in fact! Because of you! [laughs]

DAVID: When is the last time that you stumbled into something that you discovered about yourself?

ASSOULINE: This is a difficult question because I am not someone who really memorizes things, but I would say this happens quite a lot. And more now than before. I may be more attuned now to these things. It has got to be age!

DAVID: For us age is irrelevant. On the scale of a lifetime and of the universe, really we all have the same age [laughs]. But yes, there are these mysteries, when at some point things coincide, or we start noticing things, it is true. We noticed for instance recently that some of our guests were describing to us life using metaphors, this happened recently twice without us asking. Gianluca Seguso (of the illustrious Seguso glassmakers in Venice) compared life to a rollercoaster where you get up and down and get bruised and learn from these upheavals and have to ensure that your card is well attached to the tracks. After that Actor and Activist Benn Northover (who seats on the Board of Jonas Mekas’ Anthology Films Archives in New York) in a text exchange after our initial conversation compared life to trekking, climbing peaks, saying that once you have finished climbing one peak and look afar, what you see is yet another peak, which again you are going to have to climb. And I found these descriptions were all very interesting, so I thought I would ask you to go through a similar exercise: If a four year old kid entered the room just now and you had to describe life in simple terms, what would you say to that kid?

ASSOULINE: Oh this is a hard question. Yes, you can absolutely see life as a journey with steps, a journey during which you are figuring out ways to jump over every difficulties, it is that surely. But for me it has to do more with Ancestors and Family. I now have grand-children and my father who died six years ago spent all his time immersed in the story of his own father. All my family at one point or another had encounters with these moments of European History: my great-grandfather was in Russia when the Revolution broke, and was completely separated from my grandmother who at this time was traveling with her mother and sister in the South of France; then during the war my grandmother met my grandfather who was coming back injured from the war. My grandfather owned this great newspaper in the South of France which has now become ‘Nice Matin’ and so he was taken by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp where he died. My father has spent all his life in the memory of this father.

 

I really think of life and death every day,

not for me, more with regards

to the people that I love and the things too that I love.

 

DAVID: What concentration camp was your grandfather sent to?

ASSOULINE: Bergen Belsen. And maybe it is something that I have inherited from him and my grandmother, who were always talking about our roots. The people from the past. Because they wanted them in their lives they were always talking about all these persons, all this family that I have never met. I have that in me. And now that my father is gone I am someone who is going to transmit that to the others, and I feel like that, I feel part of a long story, and I think it is important. To me it is important to have this deep feeling, it is part of who I am. It is something that puts you inside a story, so [what comes after life] is not terrifying. I will play my part as well as possible, being the link between the past and the future. So each time that I have been a mother I have been trying to see in the baby just born what was his character, the things that I could understand immediately from this new person - and you can feel that very quickly. Because for me these newborns were immediately the repositaries of something (larger) going on. Ok, now, as far as interpreting life…I really think of life and death every day, not for me, more with regards to the people that I love and the things too that I love: when you live in New York you see things disappearing in a snap, everything is changing all the time, and in the past this was not the case for me. I lived in South-America, in Peru, a bit in Argentina, as well as in Switzerland as a kid…When you are young things don’t move, you have the feeling that all your life these things will be there, stability is the norm. Then when you realize that things can vanish from one day to the next you realize the urgency of living the moment.

DAVID: The notion of time is fascinating right?

ASSOULINE: Yes I am reading a book by [French Writer] Jean D’Ormesson that he had sent me, a little book talking about all the elements, earth, water, air…And then he discusses time. Eventually he concludes that time does not exist. He also discusses life and death. At the same time also arrived Frederic Begbeider’s book A Life That Never Ends ‘[Une Vie Sans Fin’]; Frederic Beigbeder is one of these people who say things that are quite profound but always with the elegance of the lightness and with humour. There are not a lot of people like that. 

DAVID: It seems Jean D’Ormesson never grew old, he remained as a child.

ASSOULINE: Yes when you were looking at him this is something you could see in his eyes. But it is also a decision in life. You need the strength and it is also a discipline.

DAVID: Yes, to remain a man standing? (in the face of challenges life throws at you)

ASSOULINE: Yes, as well as a decision to always keep seeing things in a positive light, with the eyes of a child.

DAVID: D’Ormesson was a lover. Of life, of women…What is your definition of Love?

ASSOULINE: To me love is very much associated with a feeling of solidarity. It is something that escapes from you. It is very separated from the notion of ‘desire’; when you ‘fall in love’ with somebody, truly this is not really love - well, it is a kind of love, but I think that within all the kinds of love that exist, solidarity is the type of love that moves me the most. Solidarity is truly human, and it is really one of the human feelings that I appreciate the most, and that can make me cry. After there is the love for children, which is tenderness, and I always say to mothers who have just had a baby how much I envy them. Because it is the moment of their lives which is bringing about the most softness in them, the most tenderness; you are full of these feeling because of the innocence of the baby, you are protected by this love, no one can touch you because of that love you give. There are so many kinds of love, but as I said my preference goes to solidarity.

 

Today I would like to ask people

to reflect about what they are going to do

before wanting to make money in life.

 

DAVID: Are you a ‘tough love’ kind of mother?

ASSOULINE: Yes. Motherhood is something extraordinary, see what mothers are capable of doing for their children! You see extraordinary people and this happens every day. You discover things in yourself when you want to do something for a child. It is extraordinary. We are working now on a new book with Photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank, a book on this mother and child relationship. Claiborne has been taking photos for three years of mothers with their children, all with some beautiful lights and colors. I was telling her that what interested me even more than the photos was what these twenty-first Century mothers thought. It seems to me that our world calls for women to become fully conscious of what it means to be bringing children into the world [The Responsibility that comes with this]. You are bringing a child to life. You have to give that child an education, instill in that child a sense of beauty and drive him or her towards becoming what he or she is meant to become in life. And I think that has been very much forgotten by a lot of women when I look at the world today. The world today is wrong in many ways. And it might well be a problem of education. You can not just have a baby and expect this child to raise himself or herself on his or her own. You have to help project and help drive and listen, I think it is very important. Education has been something that has been on my mind for years. Today I would like to ask people to reflect about what they are going to do before wanting to make money in life. To think in a responsible way, which is less and less the case nowadays. You can see this in the media, especially in our age of social media, in that race for viewership so many journalists seem to have lost their sense of responsibility; there seem to be less and less accountability and professionalism, often there is a lack of knowledge too. All these things are hurting society, little by little.

DAVID: Yes, it says in the Talmud that who saves one life saves the whole world, in fact it is the same about raising a child isn’t it? When done well, raising one child is like raising Mankind. If everyone did it the best way they could? It also always strikes me that no license is required to bring children into the world [laughs] when this is probably the biggest responsibility one can ever have in a lifetime, don’t you think? 

ASSOULINE: Agreed! As you know I lived in South-America a long time. When I look at these little Indians who are Catholics and do not protect themselves, ending-up having five, six, seven kids with no money at all to support them, I find this shocking. And while I am also a Christian I am in shock with the irresponsibility of the Church around that matter, not advocating actively for these people to protect themselves [Note: Catholic church teaching does not allow the use of condoms as a means of birth control, arguing that abstinence and monogamy in heterosexual marriage is the best way to stop the spread of Aids]

DAVID: We were discussing this the other day, how demography, and its control, as a leading driver of misery or opportunities in the world is still very much a taboo subject matter.

ASSOULINE: Yes this is incredible.

DAVID: Yes it has to do with personal, human and individual freedom of course, so it is sacred. But if you look at China at some point they realized that they would be better off addressing this challenge and they addressed it. And now they are indeed much better off.

ASSOULINE: Yes it is a big problem, I think that you should be able to accompany a new life before bringing one into the world.

DAVID: Interestingly, Gianluca Seguso one of our last guests met the Pope recently. I heard that you had met with Queen Elizabeth of the United-Kingdom? 

ASSOULINE: [Laughs] Well that is true, we are not personally acquainted though [laughs]. We were in London once and some friends invited us to watch Peter Morgan’s Play ‘The Audience’ with Kristin Scott Thomas - the play was extraordinary, and I thought I would like to do something about the Queen. I felt that I had understood something about the Queen. The Head of Cartier in London brought me along to the Polo Cup where the Queen comes every year. I was very happy to meet her, that symbol, there is no one else in the world like her, she really shaped herself! Then I was sure I had to make a book. So I met with a photographer who was working with Buckingham Palace - Hugo Rittson - and we did that book ‘The Queen’s People’ about all the people surrounding the Queen and also working inside Buckingham Palace. She does represent Britishness so well, and Great Britain used to be such a powerful Empire; you still feel this power a bit today when you are in the Britain, and I think that mostly it is because of this Queen. I do not know if that will remain the case after her.

DAVID: What women growing up have inspired you the most, and nowadays?

ASSOULINE: A woman I would have loved to meet…My favorite novel is Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar, so I would have loved to correspond with Yourcenar, I think that I would have also loved to meet Marylin Monroe to have certain conversations with her, to figure out better who she was - a bit like what you are doing now - as she was remaining very secretive about her personal life and that must have been very difficult for her, she was not allowed to be herself. I am firstly attracted by her beauty, but her fragility too attracts me a lot. I can understand that she was someone very sensitive, very smart and very lonely. And this mix in people always attracts me very much. I would also have loved to know someone very different from me, Simone de Beauvoir, who represents an old, very French world, and what she brought to women was very strong.

DAVID: You also live in the same Parisian building where French writer Colette used to live.

ASSOULINE: Yes, Colette was a Free woman.

DAVID: Talking about Freedom, the book that started it all for ASSOULINE was a book you did with your husband Prosper Assouline titled La Colombe d’Or (The Gold Dove). It was about a local hotel-restaurant in the wondrous village of Saint-Paul de Vence in the South of France. I love that symbol of the Dove. As Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet the inventor of advertising in France and Founder of Publicis said ‘Beginnings Brand You’ and I believe that. What does that Dove represent for you? I see Love, Freedom, Peace…?

ASSOULINE: It is Freedom absolutely. This was now twenty-five years ago, it was a way for us to do something together, Prosper and I.

DAVID: How does this beautiful partnership work in life?

ASSOULINE: There are no real frontiers, we are very different and complimentary, Prosper is the artistic director, art director, he brings ideas. Sometimes it is a dialogue and sometimes he or I go alone into something. At other times we have big discussions, but really it is more like a tango, there are not really frontiers. We are very respectful towards each other, and we continue to have that kind of admiration for one another. Respect and admiration make things possible. And we love the same things, we have the same tastes oh my god! We have the same tastes and feelings and the same love for beauty. And the same values! Prosper shows a lot of solidarity towards his entourage, he is capable of dropping everything at a second’s notice to go and help someone in need, and I love that! Sharing the same values is important. So it is not a recipe by any means, but these things make it all work!

DAVID: Do you remember the very first time you met Prosper?

ASSOULINE: Yes. I was just coming from Peru and I was working with a woman called Carole Braque who had a beautiful PR agency in Paris and I was learning the ropes. And this young man arrived, he was twenty five or twenty six year old, and I remember someone really lively full of intelligence, a creative person moving all the time and bringing so many ideas and making fun of everyone - I thought oh my god this man is so funny! At that time I had a boyfriend but we became friends with Prosper because I was interested by this creature! [laughs!] Coming from South-America my friends were surfers, it was a divine life but not a very intellectual life. So I got really interested in this man. At this time he was really very Parisian and his creativity and personality were so powerful that everyone wanted to be around him. So I started to go to dinners with him and meet people and have fun.

DAVID: Out of all, what would you say is the key ingredient at the heart of an enduring, beautiful relationship? What makes a relationship a lifetime story?

ASSOULINE: Understanding. I think it is that. We like to be together. We like to discover things together. To feel, to appreciate things together. And most of the books we have done came to life because we were together. These books came as feelings first, and then our ideas came alive. We do not like to spend so much time away from each other. Also Prosper taught me the importance of making interruptions in our habits, so he would come and tell me - in spite of all the work going on - that we should take three days and go somewhere. I would tell him that we have no time and he would answer me to not worry that we will take the time, simply put it in our calendars! [laughs]. Or he would say let’s go we are going to this restaurant, and all of a sudden he changes the energy of the moment, the energy of life. He has this love, and he has this power of making decisions to change life and make life better. It is important. Very important. 

DAVID: This is crucial!

ASSOULINE: Yes, crucial.

DAVID: Else all dies.

ASSOULINE: Yes it is about his energy. We arrive in place and if it has no energy he has got to leave, being a restaurant or a boutique or whatever! It could be the most beautiful place but if there is no energy he can not stay around [laughs].

DAVID: Yes, I saw that this morning Prosper was dressed with very bright colors as he was stepping out. He likes bright colors doesn’t he?

ASSOULINE: Yes! [laughs]

DAVID: How did you go about picking the beautiful objects that went in that flat?

ASSOULINE: Those jars were in Shanghai in a flee market the day that we were lost…We see something somewhere, and if we love it, it is going to be home, no matter if it comes from Hong-Kong, or from Napoli like this black corals, or Shanghai with these jars…We are there, we want it, it is going to be part of our place! Then we go a lot to flea markets, it is like going to the museum, it is open, it makes you feel good. And we usually like something together. Prosper more than me also likes auctions and he likes to find things from all over the world, like an antics dealer! [smiles]. But mostly we go to Drouot or flea markets when we travel, we love that!

DAVID: How did you organize your living space?

ASSOULINE: Here we have no plans. The office, always planned. But here when we arrived with all our furnitures that were Rue de La Faisanderie before, nothing was good for here, so we gave away everything! And we went to Drouot, to the flea market, and what we did not find we asked to be made, like this big table because we wanted to be able to put everything on it! [laughs].

DAVID: That horse sculpture does intrigue me.

ASSOULINE: Isn’t he wondrous?

DAVID: Haven’t you named him?

ASSOULINE: No, but he could be named Claudius. This horse is the last gift from my father before he passed away. And upstairs we have a really big one, and another big one in our New York flat, live size, that we discovered in Rome. I saw it and I said to Prosper look it is beautiful. And Prosper said you are right and then I had to say no we are not going to bring that horse to New York! [laughs]. You see I need to be careful now what I tell Prosper! [laughs]

DAVID: I want to ask you now, I heard you refer to this gorgeous flat in Paris as your ‘Country house’, which triggered an emotional response from me [laughs] - you now call New York home, can you explain?

ASSOULINE: It is a bit a joke with Prosper. We now live in New York this is our home, and when you love to work this is the City to be. Things are happening, things are always charged with good energy, always moving forward. We used to be living in Paris before and we leaved this place, which was our place. It is a bit like a house with two big floors and this garden [Le Jardin du Palais Royal] we call it our garden! [smiles] In New York it is a more practical place, not with all this love we put in here. And when we come back here to Paris it is the moment when we leave all our war tools outside of the apartment [laughs]. It is home, it is our place to come on holidays, we have our friends and family here. But it is also something else: Prosper was born in Morocco, I was born in Africa too, we have family all over the world, one grand-mother was Portorican, the other was half Greek-Half Russian, it is all over the place. So we discovered that we did not know where we belonged - and when I was living in Paris I was surrounded by people who knew very well where they belonged, who had old family houses, which neither Prosper nor I had. So we were wondering where would our family house be? With time passing we decided that our family house was our apartment! And for me it actually feels good to be surrounded in New York by other people like me who did not have a place where they actually ‘belonged’.

DAVID: I am very intrigued by this concept. Very intrigued. You are a Christian but it is also very Jewish, this concept of the ‘Juif Errant’ [’Wandering Jew’]. Let me ask: how can one live with no roots?

ASSOULINE: As I was saying earlier the roots are inside of you.

DAVID: It is larger than one country [smile].

ASSOULINE: Yes. Your feeling of sharing the same family history is important if you give it importance. So the roots are the photographies, the books, the family exchanges, the thoughts…

 

I have always been obsessed that, if I died

I would not want them [my children] to have such a big hole in their life,

but on the contrary - remain stable, balanced, strong.

This drove my identity as a mother.

 

DAVID: What do you think that you and Prosper would like to pass on to your children, the most important thing of all?

ASSOULINE: First I would say the feeling of belonging to this Family. And second, as I am a Mother, to have empowered them with a feeling of independence. Even with my first child Sebastien - I was twenty-five year old when I divorced my first husband - I felt it was important to create a big family with friends and cousins, to make them share with others - and so this also includes my second son Alexander. I wanted them to be distracted away from their mother. The mother is here to give love, to drive, to pass on knowledge, to open one’s eyes to beauty, to give strength to her children, but also she has to do it having in mind that notion of independence. I have always been obsessed that if I died I would not want them to have such a big hole in their life but on the contrary remain stable, balanced, strong. This drove my identity as a mother. I am not sure I did it very properly because they are very attached to me! [laughs]. For instance I was not jealous when Josefina [The family nanny] spent all her time with Alexandre, on the contrary I was making me happy! If Sebastien was going to spend some time at my mother’s, I was happy, happy, happy! Really happy because he had to be in other people’s lives and be happy on his own, away from me.

DAVID: I know that you are very hard working, both you and Prosper. How did you go about raising these two boys and manage all the way to build up a business with your husband, at the level where you have built it up?

ASSOULINE: There is no recipe, it is a way to try and find moments with them. For example I started in this editorial universe because I wanted to be more with Alexandre, and I needed to find something that I could do from home. At the time Prosper had a creative agency making magazines, working with brands, and coming home sometimes he was frustrated working on some things here or there did not enjoy. And we love books so I said let’s do books, something where I could be home and that could be our oxygen because it is pure creativity and no one would say this has to be like this or like that. Josefina, whom you met is a big part of my life; she was coming sometimes with Alexandre to see me as I was working, these were my ‘candy time’ with him. We tried also to involve Alexandre in our work environment early on. Alexandre has been listening to our exchanges, coming to the office, living with us abroad, coming to Venice with us…This is a bit part of this ‘no -frontier’ thing we have between life and work.

DAVID: Alexandre is very creative.

ASSOULINE: He is creative but also very entrepreneurial.

DAVID: How can women today enjoy both successful professional careers and fulfilling motherhoods?

ASSOULINE: I really am a huge believer in part-time work. You want to have kids? The answer is a part-time job. You are no longer stressed by having a family, you have a proper life. This way I think that you give more to all sides of the equation. When I became a mother for the second time, I was first alone with Sebastien and it was exceptionally violent to have to deal with everything at the same time and maintain a good level of energy. You can forget who you are, it can become hard with your child, with your couple etc. Through my second motherhood I was lucky to be helped by Josefina and this changed my life. The new type of work helped too since I could be a little bit at home. And now that I am also hiring people to work with me, as an entrepreneur, driving a company, if you know that a woman is going to work part-time you can manage that. Especially with emails today, internet has revolutionized the way we work, we can have a face-time with someone at home or the office this makes no difference. You can much more easily mix life and work today, an companies should think of making this more natural. We should rethink the way that women can have a career by accommodating them with half time opportunities. We have to rethink work. I am friend with lawyer Xavier Oberson who is passionate about robots. Robots are really invading our lives and Xavier wants to work on a new tax for robots. Robots are going to take the place of humans, so he would tax the companies that are going to employ robots, and that money would be used towards the humans’ well-being. Everything is to be re-invented.

DAVID: True. Is there someone you particularly look up to who has done a lot to advance women’s condition?

ASSOULINE: Yes, some women just exude humanity. I recently saw this woman from India, Vandana Shiva who is helping the widows of the men who committed suicide because of the problems that some GMO companies caused to these countries.That woman decided to give these women hope and energy again. I love people who are active on the ground and actually do things. And there are so many like her! There are people in this world that do that, and that makes me feel good!

 

Whenever faced with troubles or big fears,

I have to face them heads-on, this is the only way.

 

DAVID: How do you deal with fear?

ASSOULINE: Whenever faced with troubles or big fears, I have to face them heads-on, this is the only way. To face and to do. In the face of doing, challenges disappear and you find solutions.

DAVID: It is courage?

ASSOULINE: Maybe courage, but really there is no other way, if you do nothing you are stuck. But yes I do have fears, and the fears that I can not control are about how our world is doing, and these fears come from television mostly. Media today have a way to instill fear in people to generate more viewership and money. So today I turn the TV off.

DAVID: Whatever name we use, do you believe in God? I am interested to know about your spiritual side. What is your personal relationship with what we call spirituality? Some people call it god, some others call it love…

ASSOULINE: The difficulty is to have an image of what we call god. I was raised in a Catholic school and as an eleven year old I was overwhelmed with questions. I do believe in something called creation that is much bigger than everything. We name it god, it is god. I think that in each of us there is the divine and there is evil. I think Jesus was at the top of being a human being. And if we have to do something for ourselves, it is to develop that most divine part in ourselves. I do not know if it is comforting or not, but I do not believe that people really die for instance, which is why I talk to them. Now all dead people are with me, I talk to them, I think of them, I oblige myself every morning to say their name. I keep going with them, and I like that. These are my little tricks in life [smiles]. 

DAVID: How did you pick-up that ritual?

ASSOULINE: It came naturally. Look at Africans, they too have the cult of their ancestors, it is magnificent. It is something natural.

DAVID: Africa still a big part of you?

ASSOULINE: Yes I was born there, I also have cousins there.

DAVID: What do you think that Africa have that we do not have in our supposed civilized Western Occidental word?

ASSOULINE: A sense of Joy. And a sense of the physical world. Today we are entering a new world. And I am trying to see the good things of this new world. Technology is making our lives easier in a way (Robots). But what you see is that every time there is an opportunity to bring people physically together, with one another, something happens which is like a discovery, bringing joy as if we were discovering that we are humans. The lack (of physical connection ) is there, and so we have to try not to forget that. My Aunt Alice has a little family house in the South-West of France where I go every year. It is in tiny village where they decided to organize ‘The Encounters of the Living Press’. A couple told me that they were so happy to meet journalists who were actually close to them. I think that we need to bring all our thoughts and energies to make people be together more. It is always better, this is also why I am doing these books, because these books are a tangible way to bring people together to communicate with other minds and different ways of seeing things, a connection between emotion and intellect.

DAVID: I must say that reading through one of your latest works, Matt Black’s latest book titled ‘REFLECTIONS’ where he had conversations with a wide range of art luminaries - I really felt that all these artists were sitting in the same room and that a dialogue started between them all. The book is a very powerful media, a physical repository hard to replace. And I would like to honor here the work that you are doing in this physical world that we need to preserve.

ASSOULINE: Thank you.

DAVID: Thank you Martine Assouline.

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