By Mimi Langenstein

Clara Benador. The surreal clown from Paris. Figurative in the day, abstract by night. She has a face that glows like an old painting – a pearl decorates the top of her headpiece. Through quarantine she created poems with her musical lover – Lukas Ionesco – so they can hold hands and walk through the haze of the world that is.

Mimi Langenstein: How old are you?

Clara Benador: Somewhere between 16 and 22. When I was I child, I was expecting so much from myself. That I decided to stop at an age. Everyone has an age in their mind and mine is processing in reverse.

In Paris, do you live alone or with someone?

I live with my love Lukas in a space that reflects our minds. When we met, we felt in love immediately. After that we just kissed. Arms under Arms. We never been separated since then. When Lukas moved in with me, in to my grandma´s apartment, it was empty. There were many family memories living in there. The rooms were filled with the past and emotions. Myself, I was not able to break and start again. When Lukas moved in, it was step by step. He has the sense for a place and how to put things together. His dad was a set designer and even worked with Jim Jarmusch.

What sounds are you surrounded by in your apartment?

The first months in the apartment Lukas and I listened to jazz on the small radio to sleep. The music was on all night. Unfortunately after four months it was still the same music. Since then we are hearing vinyls, the place seems alive again. Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin. Classic music makes you think. You can go to many places.

What are your fields of work as an artist?

I work in poetry, photography, music and plastic arts. I can’t say things with only one medium. Currently I am creating a book with poetry, drawings and pictures. For me it is more readable in all of the senses.

What is the theme of the book?

The book is a continuation of my first exhibition. One of the focus lies on studying genders. With the shootings I started one year ago.  Every time I tried to deconstruct the gender. Identifying a face as a matter of a human. Wrapping textures around their bodies, covering their breasts and other parts. To let them express who they want to be. The digital landscape wasn’t appropriate to show these pictures. So I did an exhibition and I showcased five images in black and white.

Do you take the pictures or answers first?

Most times I photograph the person first. I choose the models very selectively. To get to know each other, I spend the afternoon with the person. I have to trust the person. Gazes and intimacy. It is an exchange before we interact with the camera.

What moments do you want to capture?

You hear your own breath. The people are posing, moving slowly. Humans living in a moving picture is another approach. A confusion between film and photo. The seconds before we become enamored. A moment alone with ourselves. For the interviews I use questionnaires. After 20 questions they start to relax. The connecting of everything is when people stop to think. Just being is the essence.

Photography as a conversation?

At the end, what you have with the interviews: All the things, they are private and precious. It is a rare gift they are giving to you. After that I am glad. Maybe even shy.

When does music become alive for you?

When we are in front of you. Two humans in flower dresses in pink lights at night. Two clown faces kissing each other. A pink wig joining an orange head.

What does your music feature?

With Lukas our world is pretty melancholic with a folk vibe.

What story is the debut album Magic Stone telling? What is a magic stone?

A magic stone is unique in every point. When I met Lukas, he told me, a lot of his songs have never been published. So we listened to them together. I fell in love a second time. We recorded the twelve songs together in Simon Liberati’s house, his stepfather and a writer. Along with the composition of Lukas, I sang some parts in every song. Accompanied by a flute, an accordion or a tambourine. Since then we decided to have this band together.

Do you sing with someone or for someone?

With Lukas only. To have this power not to be alone, to sing together. Creating our own surrealist poetry, writing automatically one sentence each. Moving like water. When I met him, after just one week we were already composing a song together. We are currently working on the next album, speaking of our world. We will record it in September.

What is your home framed by?

The place seems busy now. When people come by, they like to call it a thrift-shop. But it’s super well organized. Our mind is in the back of the place: a studio with a corner where we can draw and write together. Or dress up with our suitcases full of accessories. The decor is mostly paintings and Cy Twombly posters from Galerie Jacques Benador, my grandfather´s gallery in Geneva. People in the 1960s were not used to this kind of art. They were walking into the gallery to spit and say that their children could do the same, even better. I like to have abstract surrealism around me. Along with lithography and engravings.

What´s your preferred character in which you dress up as?

With the costumes Lukas and I are trying to put together this magical world – as gender normative girl and boy. Outside of the world we live in. Myself, I like to dress up as an ice skater and clown. When I was little, I always wanted to be a gymnast. As I started too late I just ended up doing running competition in 800 meters. The feeling of training and winning was always something that drives me. I can reverse the past. It always starts with the make-up. I like to wear the idea of a clown. A satiric person. I always end up going to the make-up of the Harlequin. All is kind of funny. But also sad. It is like an institution, where you are laughing very loud but inside you are crying. When people act, they can be more free with their character.

How do you navigate the art world?

With a compass.

What time in art energizes you most ?

There is 1970s and 1980s. I am in love with New York at this time with all the artists. There is also the factory. Especially during the past months I discovered a lot through books.

What do you want people to feel through your images?

What they want. So people can recognise and ask questions. As long as something happens within their head or body. It doesn’t matter what sort of dialogue.

Which advice would you give a young creative human during these turbulent times?

More than ever it is the right time for you to dig into what you trust. It is your chance to have a fresh start and to regain your intuition. We went too far with too many things and now we have to tell stories.

Table cloth transformed into a dress.

Dress: Marie Beltrami vintage private collection
Shoes: Solene Lescouet vintage private collection

Romper: vintage Yves Saint Laurent

Skirt: Jean Paul Gaultier
Top: Nice Piece Vintage

Dress: Marie Beltrami vintage private collection
Shoes: Solene Lescouet vintage private collection

Dress: Nice Piece Vintage

Drawing and poem by Clara Benador.


Photographer: Fee-Gloria Groenemeyer
Model: Clara Bendaor
Assistant: Inma Vivas
Production: Lars Alexander Beppler
Journalist: Mimi Langenstein
Special Thanks to Nice Piece Vintage Paris

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