In Europe, in our post-industrial era, we are increasingly distanced from the production of the goods we consume. Our downing of tools seems linked to a change in our relationship with the material world, provoking a more passive attitude towards the things with which we surround ourselves. When they break we throw them away, unable to fix them and unable (or unwilling) to understand how they work. In recent years, however, there has been a resurgence of interest in making, in notions of self-sufficiency and craftsmanship. While such notions may find particular resonance in these times of economic crisis, they are also part of a larger school of thinking that is reconsidering our relationship to work and production.
This changing relationship with material production finds an echo in recent art history.
The dematerialization of the art object triggered by Marcel Duchamp at the start of the 20th century and labelled by art historian Lucy Lippard in 1968 led to an art where the idea became pre-eminent, often taking prominence over the physical realization of an artwork. There was also an increasing interest in the delegation of an artworks production to third parties. While this liberated artists from the obligation to produce physical artworks themselves and opened the door for a wide range of experimentation, it did not obliterate the desire of artists to produce physical works, nor their curiosity to use materials to explore and express their ideas.
The exhibition Manufacture at Parc Saint Leger
attempts to reveal what production means for artists today, not only in relation to art history but also to the aforementioned shifts in working and production in our globalized consumer society. Descendants of conceptual art as much as of our industrial heritage, the artists in Manufacture do not hesitate to delve into craftsmanship, the recuperation of materials, and bricolage, employing a vocabulary of forms, gestures and techniques while avoiding the fetishization of perfect technique. In fact, several of them also share the practice of consciously misusing their chosen materials and techniques. Others explore the possibilities offered by the unknown, by failure, chance and accident. What inspires them all in their production processes that are often long, sometimes laborious, is the question of practice and how this practice entails a form of familiarity, complicity and emancipation towards the world. In this back-and-forth between artisanal and industrial process, between contemporary and traditional materials, between thought and form, the artists of the exhibition develop a shared approach based on experimentation and empiricism.
If the exhibitions title is a nod to the manufacturing history of the site formerly a bottling factory for Pougues-les-Eauxs spring water it also enables us to consider the centre as it is today: an art factory, a permanent building site where the question of arts production is posed on a daily basis.
Artists included in the exhibition: Michael Beutler, Dewar & Gicquel, Ida Ekblad, Vincent Ganivet, Hedwig Houben, Emmanuelle Lainé and Charles Mason