In ‘The Pigeons’ (1998), a video by Bragigand (here on show for the first time), pigeons – peace symbols – are fighting over bread crumbs within a circle, like a battle field. And around the corner, in the annex of the gallery space, there are some bags filled until the edge with the ‘crumbs’ people are usually fighting for: money, fake coins, made of an earthenwaren industry leftovers: ‘monkey’. What is the message: omnipresent aggression, danger all around? Bragigand engages with the social realm without expressing unambiguous political opinions. His interventions remain artistic ones. They put something in motion, without controlling nor directing the effect of what they provoke. In this exhibition, he also furnishes ‘solutions’, which however are inimitable and which will not really solve social problems, but on the contrary sharply thematise them. For instance, he exhibits the work ‘Fair Trade’, an installation consisting of painted buckets, produced and initially shown in Morocco, where Bragigand paid his local assistants European wages instead of the Moroccan fees. And within this exhibition in Brussels, Bragigand organises another auction to help his grandmother, who has to manage with a small pension: as usual, he paints an object offered by his grandmother, in black in order to sell it to the gallery visitors. This time, the auction involves a small sculpture of Christ. A small suffering body, so… Bragigand works within the gallery context and sometimes in the context of a museum, but at least as often in public space as in non-artistic contexts: in the Netherlands, Japan, France, Slovenia. However, it does not matter a great deal where he works. The gallery context is specific in the sense that a monologue is imposed by the absence of a client or the involvement of inhabitants or users, and the institutional context allows, or compels, to create more complex and more layered work. But also outside the gallery, Bragigand explicitly operates as an artist. He has developed his own approach, bringing along his own ‘outil artistique’ wherever he goes. The approach and artistic instruments used by Bragigand, stem from two topics of interest that cross each other. Firstly, as a young artist, Bragigand developed a position in the context of the French support-surface movement. His first big step in the nineties, was to completely dissociate paint from its support. By pouring the liquid paint and by exposing it to air, slowly a [KRUT] comes into being at the surface. This is an artistic element, nothing else than congealed paint, manufactured by Bragigand into ‘sculptures’. Its minimal version was a round [KRUT], in the shape of a paint-pot: the smallest entity of ‘pure paint’… But larger, rectangular [KRUT] were just as well made into bottoms of folding chairs and folding screens. Surface sans support, paint without canvas. After producing this kind of artistic objects, made of nothing but paint, Bragigand took a new step. Once the paint was dissociated from the canvas, once it was declared ‘autonomous’, it can be placed anywhere, it can occupy and change something, without attaching itself to that something, without linking itself to the support. Bragigand covers with (new) paint. Even if this operation is analogous to Daniel Buren’s path, it chooses a complete different mode of application. While Buren uses his ‘outil artistique’ to work in and with public space, Bragigand intervenes artistically using daily life objects. Bragigand’s second topic of interest is: daily life. He communicates artistically via daily objects. These are the meeting point between himself as an artist and the social, in which he interferes. His intervention starts with his findings in the world – and he likes selecting things so daily and ordinary that they are hardly paid any attention and immediately are thrown away after use: kitchen chairs, standard lamps, refrigerators, mirrors, buckets, plants, crockery… But Bragigand looks for them where they are forgotten or collected, like in second-hand shops. Or he rings at people’s doors, asking them if they are willing to lend him an object. Next, he has dozens of chairs, lamps and cupboards painted in plain and pastel colour combinations, in order to drop them again in the world. Or else, he paints all borrowed objects nicely white, after which he delivers them back to the owners. These projects are categorised as part of ‘The Restoration of the Daily Life’. The issue here goes beyond the mere refreshment of an object’s colour. The artistic intervention transforms and isolates the thing, quasi-magically, from an almost-worthless object into a ‘painted surface’. Covered with colour, they become the evidence of artistic activity, of what art could change, or add, to the world. As Bragigand transforms the daily into a place where art and life do not merge nor are equated – like the ready-made -, but overlap or confront each other, we always have to pay attention to his choice of objects, and the exact way he paints them. For each project creates a new situation, offering scope for new comments, new meanings. Like in Japan, where Bragigand used banal stuff from a second-hand stock to compile a complete gallery installation in traditional ‘Japanese style’, thus unsettling the ‘authentic traditional’ as well as banal globalised mass production. And similarly, in the Belgian capital, he shows how to make art out of oil industry garbage, how to protect and simultaneously, challenge oneself. Bart Verschaffel
15 March 2012
Franck Bragigand (1971) lives and works in Amsterdam. His research has been developed and shown in Belgium, Canada, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Morocco, Slovenia and the USA. Besides many Group shows and Solo exhibitions, his activity includes specific projects committed by museums and other public and private institutions, most notably ‘The Park’ (Osaka City 2006), ‘Rembrandt didn’t invent Electricity’ (Quebec City 2008), ‘The College’ (Nantes 2010), ‘The Kitchen’ (Balen 2011).The artist’s works are at the Fond National d’Art Contemporain (Paris), the Fond Régional d’Art Contemporain (Alsace), the Akzo Nobel Art Foundation (Arnhem), Droog Design (Amsterdam), the Interpolis Art Foundation (Tilburg), the Glasspaleis, Museum for Contemporary Art (Heerlen), the Design Museum (London). Bragigand has been awarded the Uriot Prize from the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten (Amsterdam 1998).
Bart Verschaffel (1956) studied Philosophy and Medieval Studies at the University of Louvain and is full professor in the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning at Ghent University (Belgium). He teaches Theory of Architecture and Architectural Criticism. He has numerous publications in the fields of Architectural Theory, Aesthetics and Art Criticism, and Philosophy of Culture. He is the author of monographs: (a selection): Rome/Over theatraliteit (1990); Figuren/Essays (1995); Architecture is (as) a Gesture (2001), À propos de Balthus (2004); Van Hermes en Hestia. Teksten over architectuur (2006); Essais sur les genres en peinture. Nature morte, portrait, paysage. (2007); Een god is vele dieren. Essays over Jan Fabre 1988-2010 (2009); De Zaak van de Kunst. Over Kennis, kritiek, en schoonheid (2011).