The revolutions of Mâkhi Xenakis
About the book "Iannis Xenakis. Un père bouleversant" (Iannis Xenakis. A deeply moving father), republished on the occasion of the "Révolutions Xénakis" exhibition at the Cité de la musique.
At the same time as the exhibition "Révolutions Xénakis" is being held at the Cité de la musique, Philharmonie de Paris, until 26 June, the novel by Mâkhi Xenakis, the daughter of the famous architect and contemporary music composer, is being reissued: "Iannis Xenakis. Un père bouleversant", published in 2015 by Actes Sud. For the April issue of L'Oeil magazine, Fabien Simode talks to the author, who is also a draughtsman and sculptor, as well as being co-curator of the exhibition celebrating the centenary of her father's birth, and in charge of the dissemination and digitisation of his archives since 2013.
Mâkhi was 11 years old when his father gave him his first easel. "It was symbolic and, for me, in a way logical: while my father was writing his music and my mother (Françoise Xenakis - editor's note) was writing her books, I was painting! But against all expectations, Iannis Xenakis never encouraged his daughter to take up the arts: he wanted her to study mathematics. This upset her greatly. She even had to give up studying Fine Arts after getting a D degree to please him! Hence the school of architecture, "to be safe.
There, it was the urban planner and essayist Paul Virilio who saved the day. "He told me to come and listen to his lectures, to take what I could for my painting and to continue on my way...". Young Mâkhi's figurative painting did not please her father, who swore by abstraction. But she is of her time. "The question of abstraction has not been asked since the 1970s! So, as she also loves the theatre, she starts making costumes and sets with Claude Régy. To the great displeasure of her father once again, who finally understood that his daughter would not continue his work. A necessary but painful step for both of them.
When Mâkhi Xenakis arrived in New York in 1987 thanks to the Villa Médicis grant, she started from scratch. She destroyed her paintings outright. No more figuration! Strangely enough, she realised that her paintings were filled with eyes. And since Iannis Xenakis had lost an eye during the war, "the eye is my father"... It can still be found today in some of his inks, just like the spider of his fears. It is not surprising that Louise Bourgeois' work has always fascinated her. What is more surprising is that she had the nerve to call the famous sculptor one day and ask to meet her, carefully refraining from mentioning that her father was a famous artist, and simply saying: "You are the only person who can save my life. Not only did the two artists become friends, but they published a book together in 1998. And Mâkhi Xenakis will sign her last novel alone, published by Actes Sud in 2018, entitled "Louise, sauver-moi!"
Illustration: Book "Iannis Xenakis. Un père bouleversant" by Mâkhi Xenakis