The Re-Education of Eddy Rogo

Maskull Lasserre drops boulders onto pianos and carves skeletons into everyday objects

Maskull Lasserre takes utilitarian objects — doors, boxing heavy bags, hand grenades — and rearranges them to create brand new works that mess with your expectations.

"If it was obvious to me why I made the stuff I made, it would be much less interesting."

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      Step inside Maskull's studio in episode one of The Re-Education of Eddy Rogo, a new digital original series from CBC Arts.

      Name:Maskull Lasserre
      Born: Calgary, 1978
      Lives and works: Montreal

      His work: Maskull Lasserre takes utilitarian objects — doors, boxing heavy bags, hand grenades — and rearranges them to create brand new works that mess with your expectations. In addition to being a creative mind who can see the extraordinary in the ordinary, he's an inventor and technician, willing to take on any challenge in pursuit of his vision. If he wants to drop a boulder on a piano, he builds a metal piano. If he wants a guillotine, he builds himself a working guillotine. "All of my work needs to look as if it's always been in the world, but all of needs to be made," he says. "The piano, for instance, was just made out of stock steel. Just sheets of metal that were cut and welded and fabricated together. I stuck it outside to rust, and it became this extraordinary sort of wood colour from a distance. Then I needed to re-establish its true materiality, and I thought the best way to do that would be to drop a big boulder on it."

      Maskull transforms ordinary things into the extraordinary. He is a sculptor who has been known to divert meaning by carving, repurposing or transforming utilitarian objects such as musical instruments, firearms, books, brooms and chairs into completely new things. He makes both formal and social statements with his works, questioning our relationship to things and their purpose; but most of all, his works arrest the viewer with their sheer unbelievability. Every new piece brings with it an in-depth learning experience for Maskull; when he wants to create a work with a piano, he learns how to build a piano. When he wants a guillotine, he builds a working guillotine. He’s a technician with incredible attention to detail (just look at the carvings he makes out of wood), but he also makes ultra large-scale pieces, like his full-sized piano crushed by a giant boulder. He is represented by Pierre-François Ouellette, and despite being considered an emerging artist, has sold pieces to institutions including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. 4:15

      Musically minded:Lasserre's work frequently has a musical component to it. In addition to the piano, he also fitted two punching bags — a heavy bag and a speed bag — with piano strings and resonance chambers, so they make sounds when punched. He's even built music boxes inside of grenades. "I started playing the violin when I was three or four years old, so it's something I don't ever remember not doing," he says. "Music is part of the way I conceive of the world and my place in it. Piano being a musical instrument and a sort of sculptural object is interesting to me. I'm always waiting for inspiration to strike."

      Answering questions: Lasserre says that he doesn't so much have a desire to make art as a tendency to use art as a way to answer questions rattling around in his brain. "If it was obvious to me why I made the stuff I made, it would be much less interesting and I'd be much less invested in it," he says. "I never make anything that I understand. I make things that I don't understand and then try to achieve some sort of comprehension through the process. If there's a question I can't figure out any other way, it means I've got to make something about it…. I've never woken up in the morning and said 'I'm going to make a sculpture today.' That's the last thing on my mind. I kind of work through my existence by making stuff."

      Why his name might be familiar: Lasserre was one of the artists selected to appear in Banksy's Dismaland, a dystopian theme-park/art expo at Weston-Super-Mare in southwest England.

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