Bricology: The mouse and the parrot

Exhibition  /  15 Feb 2015  -  31 Aug 2015
Published: 13.02.2015
Villa Arson
+33 (0)4 92 07 73 73
Burkard Blümlein, Thomas Golsenne, Sarah Tritz
Jean-Pierre Simon

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Presenting an another version of the story of the relationship between art and technique, "Bricology: The mouse and the parrot" is an exhibition that aims to demonstrate that to make, is to think. By spotlighting works, objects and artists that play with techniques, it strives to offer a cultural panorama of the proliferation of technical attitudes in contemporary society and to become the setting for a meeting between artists, arts craftsman, anonymous inventors, engineers and designers.

Artist list

André Raffray, Arnaud Vasseux, Barbara Schrobenhauser, Bernhard Rüdiger, David Bielander, Catharina van Eetvelde, Chris Bierl, Chris Marker, Clément Darnis-Gravelle, Clément Rodzielski, Delphine Reist, Dominique Blais, Edward Light, Emilie Parendeau, Fabien Giraud & Raphaël Siboni, Florentine & Alexandre Lamarche Ovize, Gary Hill, Guillaume Gouérou, Jean-Luc Moulène, Jean-Marie Perdrix, Jennifer Trask, Julien Prévieux, Liz Deschenes, Loïc Pantaly, Manon van Kouswijk, Marcel Duchamp, Michel François, Mika Rottenberg, Nora Schultz, Panamarenko, Paul Le Bras, Richard Artschwager, Richard Deacon & Bill Woodrow, Robert Filliou, Robert Hooke, Sergey Jivetin, Siah Armajani, Simon Starling, Sofia Húlten, Sol LeWitt, Stephen Maas, Stéphane Bérard, Thea Djordjadze, Thomas Thwaites, Tarja Tuupanen, Wim Delvoye, Xavier Antin, Yoshihiro Suda, van Eetvelde Sautour
The traditional gap between art and technique has narrowed. Artists have never been so interested in manipulating tools, experimenting with materials, inventing procedures, so interested in crafts and new technologies. In a group show reuniting more than thirty artists and works from different fields of production (folk art, crafts...), the curators of the exhibition, Burkard Blümlein, Thomas Golsenne and Sarah Tritz, intend to demonstrate that to make, is to think.

The relationship between art and technique has a long and unhappy history, not unlike the story of Plato's hermaphrodites, who were perfectly united before being cut in half by a jealous God. Even if from Antiquity to Renaissance other distinctions were privileged (technè/poièsis, liberal arts/mechanical arts), and in numerous non-Western cultures this distinction is still being ignored, in Western culture the constantly widening gap between these two notions since the end of the Renaissance seemed irreversible. As the intellectual and spiritual dimension of artistic creation became more important, its manual and hand crafted aspects became less prestigious. While the image of the artist as a genius living a bohemian lifestyle was emerging in society, the lesser image of the craftsman with his tools and order books was also emerging. In this, modern art and contemporary art apparently have not deviated from ancient art. The gap between art and technique, between the artist and the craftsman, even seems to have widened if one considers the popularity of simple procedures like the Cubist collage, of figures like Marcel Duchamp and his famous ready-mades, or of artistic movements such as conceptual art.

The theory on which this exhibition is based is another version of the story of the relationship between art and technique. The title of the exhibition, La souris et le perroquet (The Mouse and the Parrot), which could be the title of a fable, has a double meaning: in French it also refers to two tools (the mouse used with the computer, and the draftsman's gauge). In this fable, this new story, modern art and especially contemporary art have in fact considerably increased interaction opportunities. The great variety of materials and media used by artists since Cubism and especially since the 50s proves that even though traditional techniques of painting and sculpture may have been somewhat abandoned (not completely), artists have developed a new interest in other techniques, other skills, even if they don't master them completely or require help from specialists. Some artists are fascinated by new technologies; others prefer “low-tech” practices, sometimes even traditional and hand crafted ones.

Faced with the issue of technique, artists no longer have (if they ever did) an attitude of rejection or contempt but rather of curiosity. Artists have never been so inspired by all the fields of production of urban society. And this is no surprise: in the last few years we have been witnessing a general movement, not so much the use of technique in order to dominate daily life,but more an individual appropriation of skills, whether through the remarkable vogue of a doing-it-yourself attitude (which we can see with the innumerable tutorials on the Web or the success of makers faires around the world), the emergence of fab labs or the recent media coverage of 3-D printers. Also hand crafted practices have become richer, and we have been witnessing the appearance of “artist craftsman” in numerous fields (jewelry, glass, ceramics...) who are beginning to be recognized as real artists.

As we can see, the relationship between art and technique is complex and fertile. And yet few exhibitions or art critics, few articles or books, have mentioned these ebullient encounters. Technique still has a “bad” reputation for those whose profession is to exhibit and comment art. The exhibition Bricologie. La Souris et le perroquet attempts to bridge the gap between practices and discourses by spotlighting works, objects and artists that play with techniques: inventing, diverting, exhibiting, or hiding them. It strives to offer a cultural panorama of the proliferation of technical attitudes in contemporary society, and to become the setting for a meeting between artists, arts craftsman, anonymous inventors, engineers, designers. It also aims at providing an opportunity for visitors to see objects from other eras or cultures, because technique is often the result of a historical sedimentation; the anthropology of techniques helps us understand that technical gestures express both ideas and a specific culture.

The exhibition's scenography takes advantage of the maze-like space of the Villa Arson art center by creating a non-linear visit, with several points of entry. Indeed Daedalus, the first engineer, who invented automatons and other wonderful machines, is a faraway ancestor of do-it-yourself artists. Only convoluted paths lead to the roads of technique.

The exhibition is a project by the Bricology Research Unit at the Villa Arson, supported by the Ministry of culture and communication for a period of four years (2013-2016). Other projects are in the making, such as a special issue of the anthropology magazine Techniques & Culture entitled Essais de bricologie (Studies in Bricology) (to be published in 2015), or a project by the network ECART on contemporary ceramics.

* The word “bricology” is coined from the French word “bricolage” (do-it-yourself) and “technology”.
** The list of artists featured in the exhibition is in progress and may be modified.
The exhibition shows also works and anonymous objects from the Museum of arts and popular traditions of Draguignan, from the departmental Museum of Grasse, of the Museum of "Métiers d'antan" of Tourrettes-Levens, from the New national museum of Monaco, from the Museum of archaeology site of Cimiez and the museum Palace Masséna of Nice.

In association with L'ECLAT.
The exhibition presents several videos of contemporary artists, which use in their own way the image in movement to explore the processes of creation. A programming of movies, to see in the real conditions of cinema, gives a additional perspective on the exhibition. The first moment, the afternoon of the opening day on February 14th, is dedicated to movies in which the do-it-yourself becomes an art. The second appointment, on April 15th, will give the opportunity to see or to revisea masterpiece of the cinema, an allegory of the artistic creation in which the movie has a dialogue with painting and crafts.

Saturday, February 14th at 3:30 pm: The Electric house (Frigo à l’Electric Hôtel) by Buster Keaton (USA, 1922, 22 min); Panamarenko, Portrait in its absence by Claudio Pazienza (Belgique, 1997, 26 min); Signer Koffer (Signer ici - On the raod with Roman Signer) by Peter Liechti (Suisse, 1996, 80 min, vostf).
Wednesday, April 15th at 7 pm: Andreï Roublev de Andreï Tarkovski (URSS, 1969, 3h, vostf) .
Digital version. Free entrance.-2016-2016