in the Category: art

Sarah & Charles

Sarah & Charles’ work is multidisciplinary, comprising installations, sculptures, videos, performances and photography. They are ready to throw themselves into every form of art that crosses their path. But there’s a common thread. Subjects such as fact versus fiction, make-believe and the suspension of disbelief are often examined through their work. We visited their studio in Brussels to talk about Sarah & Charles's In The Hands Of Puppets, their exhibition at Be-Part.

Interview by Jozefien Wouters
Photos by Tiny Geeroms

You’ve been working as a duo for the past 15 years. What makes your collaboration so successful?

Charles: We’ve always worked together, but at the beginning we used our own names and worked in different fields. I was more into performing arts and music, while Sarah tented more toward the visual arts.

Sarah: Charles soon started to intervene in my work. After my studies at Sint Lucas we decided to apply at HISK together. They gave us an ultimatum: if we stopped working together, we would both be dismissed. So basically, we had no choice. (Laughs) Eventually we got rid of our surnames and in 2004 we made our first work as Sarah & Charles.

Charles: The way we collaborate has changed a lot over the years. We learned to trust each other’s work. At first we did everything together: we literally went to Brico together to discuss which screws we were going to buy. Nowadays we work on different projects without losing the force of our collaboration. Our taste is so compatible: when we watch a film, we both like the same scene. 

Sarah: I only adjust his colours behind his back. Charles is a bit colour blind, so he doesn’t even notice. (Laughs)

How did the multidisciplinary aspect come into your work?

Charles: It just happened. Every project requires its own medium, and we took the freedom to switch between different forms of art.

Sarah: We went through a phase in which we asked ourselves if we were allowed to work that way, because most artists are either a painter or a filmmaker. But we have completely outgrown that doubt. Sometimes we’ve prepared an idea and visual language before deciding if it’s going to be a performance, a short film or a sculpture. It’s purely instinctive. For our exposition at Be-Part we made a computer-animated film for the very first time, just because it felt like the right thing to do. 

A common theme in your work is the boundary between reality and fiction. What do you find so interesting about that?

Charles: There are seven billion people on this earth, but for me there is only one reality and that’s my own. Everything you tell me is fiction, in a way. In fact, there is more fiction than reality.

Sarah: For In The Hands Of Puppets we went to a psychiatric centre and talked to patients suffering from psychosensitivity, but we also invited artists to our studio. We asked both groups about the boundary between what is real and what is not, and they had a lot in common. In both groups, many suffer from not being able to distinguish fiction from reality. On the other hand, we also see it as something poetic. To lose yourself in fiction often stimulates creativity.

Social media makes those boundaries even more indistinct.

Sarah: The title also refers to our relationship with smartphones. You could ask yourself, Who’s in control? Are we the ones dominating our phones, or are we the puppets? 

Charles: We’re not resistant either. We try to be transparent and use social media to share behind-the-scenes images from our projects, but even those are completely fake. I’ll move a jar of paint because it looks better. Social media is confusing, and you always have to be careful and critical with what you see, especially now that technology is capable of creating very realistic deep fakes. 


Would you say your work is an opinion or an observation? 

Sarah: That’s a difficult question. We like to claim it’s mainly an observation, but I guess we do a bit of moralising.

Sarah & Charles' In The Hands Of Puppets
until 01 Dec - Be-Part, Waregem