Our technician Quentin L’hôte started working at Institut finlandais in 2020. With a background in architecture, he is responsible for the installation of new exhibitions and the daily maintenance of the institute’s premises, among many other things. We sat down with Quentin for an interview where he told us about his daily work and what it’s like to install and disassemble exhibitions at short intervals.
What is your role at Institut finlandais, and what do you do on a daily basis?
I work as a technician and my daily work consists of making sure that the institute’s premises are in good condition, especially in terms of security since we are open to the public. Because of this we are under various constraints. I also take care of the general upkeep of our spaces to keep them safe and comfortable for the people who work here or visit the institute.
When did you start working here and what made you apply for a job at Institut finlandais?
I started here in December of 2020. At that time, I wanted to change my work environment and develop in my profession. I came upon this recruitment announcement by accident and remembered having visited the institute during my architecture studies. The Institute had made a big impression on me: it’s very rare to find this kind of hidden space with architecture that is typical to a certain country in a city like Paris. Then I followed the classical recruitment process with a particular interest in the maintenance and management of the premises. I figured it would allow me to bring to light my skills as well as develop them further.
“The Institute had made a big impression on me: it’s very rare to find this kind of hidden space with architecture that is typical to a certain country in a city like Paris.”
What do you enjoy most about your work at Institut finlandais?
Before I worked solely as an exhibition technician, but when I came here I ended up managing the premises of the whole institute. In my work I am able to make a link with my background in architecture: manage the constraints of daily life so that work and life in the building run smoothly. Upon my arrival here I discovered the interesting history of this building. I still find out new things about it as the days go by. There is this whole backstage of the institute that demands a lot of work but is also very rewarding when things go well. The real satisfaction comes when everything falls into place seamlessly, from planning to implementation.
How do you work with artists to set up their exhibitions at Institut finlandais ?
First the direction and production department define the framework of the project with our collaborators. After internal meetings where we discuss what’s to come, I start discussing with the artists and curators. The first document we look at is the general plan of the exhibition that allows us to have a global vision of the whole project. After that I talk about the installation of the pieces with each artist on a very practical level. There is a dialogue between the different parties involved with the exhibition to make the ideal project meet reality and what can actually be done.
When setting up a new exhibition, what is the biggest challenge you face, and how do you tackle it?
The biggest challenge is most often the time. Our exhibitions change at fairly rapid intervals with approximately two weeks to disassemble the previous exhibition and install the new one. Additionally, several artists are often included at once which involves a lot of preparation. This is where the dialogues with the artists become very important as they enable us to minimise the things that have to be improvised at the last minute. So, time is the most difficult part since there are always surprises.
Institut finlandais is located in an old building. Does this pose any challenges for your work as a stage manager, and if so, could you provide some examples?
It poses many challenges, mainly due to the age of certain facilities. Given that we are in a condominium, we need to collaborate with our neighbours as well. We participate in co-ownership meetings and partake in the general management of the building. There are some real issues with the age of the building and everytime we need to make some sort of an intervention, it is always a bit sensitive as a site.
What is your vision for the future of stage management work in cultural centres, and what trends do you anticipate in this field?
Certain trends that are already marginally present are bound to develop and hopefully replace the traditional organisation of exhibition venues. In this respect, everything to do with the management of transporting works of art needs to evolve, not just by reducing the carbon footprint by minimising journeys, but by imagining other ways of exhibiting that might not even require having the artwork in front of you, or even evolving the traditional distinction between temporary and permanent exhibitions by working to make exhibitions “variable” while reducing the energy costs associated with conserving large collections. Of course, all this is easier to implement with contemporary art and for intermediate-scale structures, but now is precisely the right time for the operators in this field to act out of conviction and demonstrate inventiveness rather than out of fashion or economic constraint.
Apart from your work at Institut finlandais, what are your personal interests and how do you spend your free time?
I always keep an eye on what is being done in the fields of architecture and urbanism. Since not long ago, I have lived a family life which has changed the way I organise my time. I also read quite a lot and I cook often. I listen to a lot of music and play video games. In addition to those, I also really enjoy horror films. All and all, I would say that the link between all of these is my interest in popular culture; nowadays the books that I read are a bit less pompous than when I was a student.
Interview : Helmi Anttila and Thibault Semblat