Maxime Buchi / MxM

Interview for Nasty Magazine.

Each of us bears in the core of his being a distinctive trait that makes him unique; and when one acknowledges that, when one becomes aware of it, he will start living his life in the light of his own singularity. But when we speak Maxime Buchi we can’t speak about singularity as he has a healthy, almost chronic ability of standing in the space between various realities and still be one consistent individual. Maxime’s multiplicity of selfhood grows on so many levels in his life, but always tends towards somewhat dark zones, with an outsider core element and a radical attitude. Switzerland born, London based he is a busybody world wanderer of profession. Interested in human psychology & fetishism enthusiast, MxM’s is best known for his sacred geometry/tribal/symbolic work as a tattoo artist, initiated in 2002 (double check) after an apprenticeship with Filip Leu in London. Nevertheless, together with Ian Party he co-founds B+P Swiss Typefaces, designing logos for Rick Owens, Damir Doma or Balenciaga. His interest in language and publishing leads him to founding the niche/ art project Sang Bleu (Kris Van Assche produced a collection named after Sang Bleu, in 2008) and to art directing November, a bi-annual trans-disciplinary magazine. In Mxm’s case, it seems like the right choices brought him in the right places. He is bizarre, does not play by the book and he likes seeing things from the inside.

What is sacred for you nowadays?

Sacred is a big word. Sacred is something beyond the human condition. I am agnostic, so I won’t talk gods. I believe individuals had better deal with what is going on around them than in some hypothetical celestial land. Nature is sacred.  Humans are nature, but nature is not human. We act like we are gods, but we aren’t. We are incapable to understand what’s bigger than us, only what is smaller. That’s why we’re fucking everything up and spend our time trying to fix what we’ve broken.

What would you like to do if money were no object?

I would build a house, just the way I want to, as that’s something pretty far from my reach right now. And it would be crazy. Partly underwater, and/or hanging from a cliff.

Life changing situation/element that determined what you are today?

Overall, I have always known where I wanted to go and worked to get there. But there have been a couple of very important life changing situations, 2 or 3 at least.. What coms to mind is the moment when I went to my interview for the art school I ended up attending (ECAL in Lausanne Switzerland). Going to art school had always been a fantasy but in some ways I thought it as being too good to be true. I never thought It would work. But I submitted a visual essay with my application and they liked it. I thoughtI thought that if [the interview] works I was going to go for it, or else I would continue with studying human sciences at the local University. I remember that final interview so clearly. At the end the Director just told me “you’re in”. I was like “what?” I knew people usually have to wait a month to get the final answer. I wasn’t sure what he meant. I asked:”I will get the answer in the post?” and he replied “No, I tell you now: you’re in!”. I was ecstatic. While the next important moment was when I met Filip Leu, the man that first tattooed me. I guess the moment I met him was magical, but the real tipping point was when he told me “If you wanna learn to tattoo, I’ll take you as an apprentice.” The last critical moment that I can think of is when I made the decision to move to London.

Name a fashion designer you consider intellectually satisfying, not only aesthetically.

I don’t expect fashion to be stimulating intellectually. Fashion needs to protect my body, needs to be beautiful and able to help me implement my identity. And that’s a very difficult thing to achieve for a fashion designer – to be into a specific style and idea but at the same time be open enough to let the wearer express themselves through your clothing. That said, any craft or applied art also makes big forward leaps and while most so-called “radical” or “avant grade” designers merely amuse some feeble-minded fans, some designers have actually had revolutionary visions, and the main one would probably be Martin Margiela, when we talk about an intellectual approach. There were other revolutions but they were more formal. Also Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy is doing all these interesting artist series. The work does speak to me in many ways beyond just fashion, I really like the ideas behind it and that keeps my interest in the brand and in Tisci’s vision. But generally I do not like designers that get too artistic, that’s not what I want from fashion – I can read philosophers if I want to philosophize about life.

Lipovetsky claims that the increasing use of sportswear reflects an increasing demand for personal freedom. You come from a skateboarding subculture, does your urban aesthetic act as an intentional symbol of freedom and liberation in this terms?

At the time I got into skateboarding we just wanted to skate. In the late 80’s, early 90’s, it was so difficult to get any information on the topic as there was no internet, so I didn’t know much about the actual culture and style behind it. It was only later that it become about the clothes for me. Actually my background is much more hip-hop oriented than skate in terms of both style and culture. And in hip-hop, it’s more about the social environment. To be honest, I was never really interested in sports but more so in why we do certain things – interested in the social aspect of this drive, in the symbolic and semiotic value of outfits and styles – especially in so-called urban clothing as an expression of belonging. I’m really interested in the way “rude boys”, “calleras” etc. styles use streetwear but also a lot of different influences from ethnic to formal wear elements and then blend them into a particular eclectic style. To answer your question, no, I do not see any freedom or liberation. Street or Sportswear is just another code. Look even at people who actually do sports. They are obsessed with their outfits too. They go to gyms to look good like they go to clubs. There is no liberation.

“Bodies, minds, love, pain” says the statement of Sang Bleu. Should we understand that these four are your main fields of interest?

These terms were important at some point, but it’s just what I decided to be coherent for the magazine. I have lots of other interests. But it certainly was a point of focus for me at the time I started Sang Bleu which was meant to be an intellectual laboratory as much as an art space. That said, these days I am less interested in abstract thoughts but more in making things happen. I’m more interested in a real life application and to what I can actually build on the foundations that I have established in my twenties and early thirties. I am It’s like, if you study Architecture, you draw houses first, trying to find out what you want, but it’s only afterwards that you really get to build them. And that’s where I am now – I put the publishing on hold, I am focusing on tattooing and starting art projects. Now that I know what I want, I am trying to see if it works in real life. But It’s something that took me around 30 years to formulate.

You have a big interest in the shibari (Japanese rope bondage). I am curious if the way you relate to tattooing comes from the same interest for “physical pain?”

I would say that why I got into tattooing is partially the same reason that pushed me towards shibari; they are parallel for me. An interest for extreme experiences is a small reason but definitely a common trait between the two. There is also the idea of discipline – not as in military discipline – but as in experiencing the pain and not fighting it back, for the sake of a greater goal. And giving it a meaning, a direction.

As a tattoo artist you work a lot with elements from sacred geometry. Does this topic interest you for it’s aesthetic and visual value or do you have a researched approach towards all those symbols?

I am always interested in the power of signs and symbols, but more in what is actually relevant about it. When you start researching on the sacred geometry topic, you will find a lot of trash because people tend to project a lot of stupid stuff on anything vaguely mystical. I am definitely curious about why all these symbols exist and if I use them, I want to understand their semiotic and symbolic values. I want to know what they represent and mean, but while also keeping a certain distance to it. I do not want to get into their depths because what’s important for me is not really what a few geeks have come to believe or rave about in some heroic fantasy role-plays, but what a lambda person will feel when they see it, and why. To take a very simple example: the swastika is a universal symbol, especially present in buddhist symbology. But it was used by Hitler who is was more famous in the western world than Buddha. So if you show a swastika to a westerner, the first perception is negative and that is what is important to me. But I also need to know the whole story because I might find myself in situations where people use them differently, and even though I will at first be surprised, I will be able to understand they are not Nazis.

Triangle, circle or square? Which is the shape/concept that you tend to feel closer to? Can you explain why?]

None. They are too basic. For me they are pure form, mathematical objects.

Oscar Wilde points out: ‘To be really mediæval one should have no body. To be really modern one should have no soul.”  How do you see the relation between the two in the contemporary society?

For me, there is no distinction. This way of separating the two is part of the problem in our society and I think if people would realize that the body and the soul are the same thing, and that they ought to be as careful with one as they are with the other, so many things would be a lot better. In tattooing, for instance: for some people it might seem that we are harming the body but in reality, it’s a way to actually look at the body for what it is: something fascinating that needs to be respected, but also a real entity that can be worked on in the same way as you do with the soul. You work on your body in the same way religious people pray or study– if you go and talk to your priest for advice, it can change the way you think, help you turn from bad to good (arguably). A tattooer, or a personal trainer do the same. If you try to deal only with one of the two, that means you are neglecting a part of the equation. It’s like you are sailing in a boat that has a hole in the shell – not fixing it can make you very miserable since you would not be able to enjoy the trip and the landscape because, instead, you’d be busy constantly pumping water out of the hull.

Is there a particular dream (when sleeping) you’ve had and you still remember to these days?

I don’t think I’ve really been marked by a specific dream I’ve had – in that specific term of the word. Instead, I have always been a daydreamer and I have worked my whole life to make those waking dreams come true.

Which is the thing that you consider certain in life?

Love and Death… I just enjoy things when they are there, and when they are not, I accept the idea – even though I might not be happy about it. But things expire, life expires, relationships expire, it all has a beginning and an end. It’s the only certainty and the very reason why it’s all so exciting! And love because life IS love. If you are alive and do let yourself die or kill yourself it means that at least you love something. Yourself, some hopes or ambitions, food, whatever. Something keep you alive. You can feel it when you think about death. “Why shouldn’t I die?” There always is some reasons you can find. (Even though some people are badly mistaking about those!)

What is your most treasured possession?

Probably my book collection. Some of them were probably more important once, but I could not grant more importance to one in particular. I collect books for their content but also for their design. Right now I am focusing less on design, I guess, and working on some personal fine-art projects, so I buy a lot of artist monography. I recently bought a book on the work of Fabrice Gygi that changed my life!

As Nietzsche asked himself “What does your conscience say? ‘You shall become the person you are.’ If I were to ask you to ask yourself this now, what would be your answer?

As EPMD used to say: “You Gots To Chill”