P&C interview: Mathias Van Eecloo / by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker 

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Mathias Van Eecloo is the sole person behind the magnificent IIKKI Books, a French publishing label which promotes the overlap of visual and musical arts. Eecloo has been experimenting with visuals and sound on his own, and through labels as a combined piece of art since 2014 with eilian rec, a second label he also manages alone. With five editions of IIKKI Books released, and a sixth just around the corner, we spent some precious time talking with Eecloo about his two labels and the story behind them.

IIKKI is an incredible project, unlike any other. How did it begin?

Around early 2000, in my solo artistic practices I frequently worked with slide projectors, in black and white photography. At the same time I started to record my own sounds and I completely immersed myself in it. I received some positive feedback, but it was too difficult for me to be in the forefront of a scene – to be in the spotlight. 15 years later, I needed to return to it, not for my own works, but to highlight some artists that I loved and would like to support. The result was IIKKI. Put simply, I wanted to create a dialog between a visual artist and a music artist. As a passionate collector of books and physical editions of music (CDs and vinyls mainly) I wanted to make my own publishing house/label.

Which desire came first: to release and support music, or to release and support visual arts? Or did the idea come together at once to join them in the way IIKKI does?

The idea came together... it was evident to combine the two. It’s the IIKKI brand!

How are musical and visual artists selected to be paired in an edition?

I have a list of favorite music artists who I think could work really nicely with some visuals; and same in the other way, I have a list of visual artist that I love, who I think could work nicely with sound. From there I approach the artists and introduce the project. When we agree to work together, I propose to them to choose between two or three music or visual artists, whichever is opposite their art. When their choices match with one another, I connect the artists together and the project starts. IIKKI is the bridge – sometimes there are a lot of exchanges of ideas, directions, etc. and sometimes, each of the artists work separately and I put together the pieces of the puzzle.

How has each edition evolved over time? Has the format of IIKKI editions been refined, or is it the same as it was for the first edition?

For each series we work with a friend of mine, a graphic designer, and we use the same graphic charter: same format, layouts, size for the books and the same paper. So the first series (Stills, Alveare, Lowlands), including three books and three vinyls, were similar in the approach. The second series (Mythologies, Orbit and Touch Dissolves to be released in July 2018) keep this idea: same formats, layouts, size and paper, and same for the vinyls. But it’s a different size, paper etc. than the first series. The second series was visually focused on the black and white photography. The third series to come from November 2018 to July 2019 will keep the same idea. It’s a radical choice, but it gives us the strong imprint of IIKKI’s style.

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Personally, are you a musician or visual artist yourself? Or have you come to love, and chosen to support these arts by some other way?

Like I’ve explained previously, I was a photographer of silver photography mainly, and a musician too. But with IIKKI and my other editions projects, I have no other time to express myself, which I sometimes miss a lot! I would love to come back to my personal practices, and I hope I do one day. But I don’t know when… I have to admit that I do consider opening all of my old boxes with more than a thousand black and white slides, scanning some of them and presenting my works in a near future. Maybe on IIKKI!

You also run the unique record label eilean rec, which stitches together music and visual arts as well. Has this been a side-project or something older than IIKKI?

eilean rec. is older than IIKKI, but not so old. The first release was in April 2014, and the last one will be December 2019. Since the start, the plan was to have only 100 releases. And true, the visual part on eilean rec. was and is important since the start. The goal was to try to have coherence between the visuals even if the visual artists come from different practices and horizons. It gave me the idea to develop that more, and then IIKKI was born in September 2016.

Of course, managing two different labels is a lot of work – I alone am the one behind the two publishers/labels. But it’s a great experience and I make a lot of nice discoveries, exchanges with the artists, conversations, ideas. It’s a creativity process too, that I love a lot, truly a pleasure. The only thing is that I don’t have any more time for me, to create my own works and sometimes even, simply, in life. I moved away from Paris seven years ago, and it has been a personal choice to be more isolated, on the countryside in Brittany, far away from what I love and loved before. All to focus on what I would love to create, to choose my time to work on that (mainly during the night) and to be my own employer! So, for now, it’s the perfect place to walk alone in the forest, visit the sea, and work on the two labels.

IIKKI has released 5 editions and will release its 6th in just a few days. What are you excited about in releasing this edition?

Like each edition on IIKKI, I’m always excited to present the next edition. There’s always a lot of excitement but a little stress, too. But that’s the deal! The new one to come features Touch Dissolves, including Aaron Martin for the sound and Yusuf Sevincli for the photography. It’s a special one because it will close the black and white photography series, and I will be at Arles with my graphic designer for Les Rencontres De La Photographie to present the new book and the vinyl (and a CD, too, this time). And of course, we will have the previous editions too. So, fingers crossed, we hope it goes well!

Anything else you want readers to know about IIKKI that we haven’t already asked?

I believe almost everything has been said. But again and again, I would like to offer a big thanks to all the music artists and visual artists who have been involved with IIKKI since the start, the new ones to come, and for trusting me with IIKKI. Without them, nothing of IIKKI could have happened! And on the other hand, too, I thank all the people who have followed the project and continue to follow it, for the passionate listeners, readers, collectors, book shops, music shops, galleries and people who spread the word, for those who have some editions at home! Without that IIKKI could not exist. And thanks a lot to you at Piano & Coffee Co., for coming to me with the idea to do an interview. I really appreciate it.