The upcoming exhibition at CAB departs from the climate of reconstruction that marked Post-WWII Europe; the context in which Jean Prouvé conceived his Demountable House 6×6 as a temporary refuge for people who had lost their homes during the war, in order to sustain them with a shelter while rebuilding their lives.
Perpetually in construction, the environments we inhabit become exponentially urbanised, in a constant process of decay and rebirth. The exhibition is therefore set up as an urban construction site, drawing attention to the way we organise, control and inhabit space. The cyclic sequential processes of construction, deconstruction and reconstruction are applied to the urban fabric to explore its influence on our individual and collective life rhythms. These accelerating urban changes provoke questions on the power mechanisms influencing our ways of living and interacting in a city context.
Artists such as Jordi Colomer, Thea Djordjadze, Driss Ouadahi and Philippe Van Wolputte question our occupation of public space, its privatisation, and the restrictions that are imposed on human freedom and expression within a city. For example the notions of the utopia, or ideological architecture are embedded within these topics.
In extent, Perpetual Construction addresses how the capitalist agenda is altering the urban landscape by inviting artists whose practice deals with a repurposing of waste materials, and by-products of consumption such as Gabriel Kuri, Oscar Tuazon and Simon Callery.
Katinka Bock, and the French collective Mountaincutters have a more poetic approach that combines both fragile and intimate materials such as ceramics and textile, with raw concrete, stone and other textures inherent to urban aesthetics. They conceive a certain human presence by blurring the lines between the organic and the manmade.
Some constellations finally deal with the actual materials making up the concrete, modernist constructions, such as Christoph Weber, Jose Davila, Lena Verijke and Nina Canell. They hereby inscribe themselves in the hegemony of contemporary architecture, while questioning the mechanics that underline its discourse.
Through these different projects by both Belgian and international artists, Perpetual Construction explores the city as a self-organizing chaotic biotope.
Katinka Bock’s spatial interventions and sculptures explore temporality and space through materials that embody a certain history within, often organic in nature. Her work deals with questions about language, common space and sharing. Grosse Kreise, blau contains what she calls ‘receptacles’; containers with an opening and therefore the potentiality to give and receive. Her installations are at the same time precarious and vulnurable, while appearing solid and with a biography of their own, ready to endure long life cycles.
With an aim to explore the connection between urban space and art, Simon Callery’s idea is to mark and stain his canvas on site, resulting in tactile imprints of the terrains and locations he explores. This painting belongs to a body of work he executed working in close collaboration with archaeologists on an excavation site in Moel y Gaer, Bodfari in North Wales. The physicality of the resulting object bears the memory of this site-specific history, evoked in its worn out surface. In addition, he re-questions the limits of painting in his presentation. The Flat Painting series ironically envelop their surrounding space, generating an openness that further reinforces the viewer’s sensory engagement.
In her practice, Nina Canell aims to draw attention to the networks and phenomena that surround us, and that facilitate daily contemporary life. Brief Syllables is a series of work that consists of unearthed and dissected electricity and communication cables. Unbroken, cables form the infrastructure of the wireless and constantly illuminated society we live in. Isolated, as fragments without a context, they seem absurdly mute, dysfunctional, like prehistoric relics. “Cable stumps are cross-sections of a vocabulary of interruptions. A cut-off form. Ending mid-sentence.” according to the artist herself.
James Capper makes mobile sculptures to be used in action on varied terrains and with a wide range of materials, applying them as sculptural tools. Engineering is at the backdrop of this practice, pushing him to constantly revisit what sculpture can be; his own arrangement of ergonomics, hydraulics and aesthetics allow the works to exist autonomously. In parallel, the sculptures are accompanied by drawings, documenting the process from conception to completion. SINGLE MILLER forms part of his Carving Division Power Tool Family, which has a rotational action that allows the broadcasting drum to cut and broadcast plaster within its installation environment. Different attachments facilitate different types of cutting and broadcasting.
Jordi Colomer introduces us to a city X, an imagined city where it is possible to rethink the way in which time and life are currently organised. X-VILLE is his first film essay, though his career has been always influenced by the presence of the urban question, the liberation of citizens and the idea of utopia. X-VILLE was produced with the collaboration of a group of students and the participation of the inhabitants of the city of Annecy. The production process transcends the logic of representation and has made it possible to build a real collective experience.
Davila creates sculptures from glass, stones and gravity, assembling precariously balanced arrangements that are informed by his training as an architect. His sense for balance and proportion fuels his artistic practice, which unravels the methods deployed for obtaining modernist architectural principles, translating them into modernist spatial investigations.
The artist’s sculptures are situated between form and anti-form, a combination of stable structures and fragile, gestural renderings typically exhibited together in a carefully choreographed setting. The installations, incomplete and fragmentary in character, oscillate between open spatial designs and dense performative gestures, emphasizing the contrasts between mental and actual interior spaces, between intimacy and public presence. As Saga Sa was previously presented at dOCUMENTA 13 in Kassel, and finds new shape within this exhibition to express the transiety of time, chance and disintegration.
Gabriel Kuri creates visually appealing sculptures, installations and collages, working from repurposed natural, industrial, and mass-produced objects. Stones are an important feature in his works, referencing both to the construction-mania of urban development, while equally embodying references to architectural history, and the genius loci of certain sites. The constellation exhibited at CAB departs from a collection of non-descript but intruiging building blocks, from which the origin remains unknown. Interposed in this apparent modularity are a parking disc and a parking disc cover, hinting at time and transiety, and thereby juxtaposing human agency against the collective rythms of urban life.
Mountaincutters intervene in Jean Prouvé’s Demountable House with an intimate and tactile arrangement of ceramics, steel structures and textiles. Drawing on the connection between human beings and the environments they inhabit, the elements blur the lines between construction site material and human-like prothesis. A human presence is conveyed through the scale in which the elements are laid out, and the traces of remembrances that permeate the environment, enhancing the shelter’s domestic potentiality.
From 2004 – 2006, Driss Ouadahi executed several small paintings offering details and close-ups of rhythmic facades, with vanishing points almost swirling in vertigo. He hereby translated the utilitarian and utopian aspiration of these architectural social housing projects into abstracted representation of density and entanglement, drawing parallels to the way we inhabit modernist space.
Oscar Tuazon’s sculptural oeuvre is situated at the border of art, architecture and technology, focusing on the materiality and the physical agency of the works he creates. He is indebted to the Minimalist tradition of Donald Judd and Carl Andre, in his ordering and appropriation of space. However, the ambiguous pseudo-functionality of his works challenges our perceptive awareness, in this case confusing the objective of the window as a tool to see through, detaching outside from inside.
PHILIPPE VAN WOLPUTTE
5 sets of instructions link CAB’s exhibition space to its urban surroundings. Philippe Van Wolputte explored the area and proposes five gestures to experience the city from an alternative, playful and unexpected viewpoint. In an attempt to reclaim agency over our occupation of the city, the invitations include wanderings in both public and private space.
Christoph Weber’s art finds its existense in its creation process, where he allows chance and detoriation to occur. By diverging from the rigid methodologies in which we generally submit construction materials to our specific -architectural- needs, Weber engages with the physical properties of his material in his experiments, which determine the eventual outcome. Bent Inversion lays bare this dual stance, incorporating both a smooth artificially manipulated, and a rough gravelled side.