Liège, Belgium

Pierre Gérard

Les Brasseurs

As soon as visitors walked into the former warehouse that the art center Les Brasseurs calls home, they were faced with an array of objects, from an installation of tables topped with various elements to an abstract wood and cardboard sculpture fastened to a wall; from a slide projection to a display of short videos playing simultaneously on small monitors. The pieces did not have clear-cut boundaries, nor did they have individual titles. The vocabulary developed in Pierre Gérard’s exhibition “Au mauvais endroit, au mauvais moment, où encore” (In the Wrong Place, at the Wrong Time, Where Next) was that of “total installation,” that is, of an exhibition conceived in its entirety as a single, vast work.

One noticed, too, how much of the work was drawn from the building’s myriad details; from its luminosity, its decrepit walls, its spatial configuration. This site-specificity was perfectly illustrated by two astounding sculptures created from seemingly insignificant elements belonging to the building: a simple radiator, situated on the third floor, and a round window along one of the walls of the top floor. The artist had crowned the radiator with a small shelf made from a metal bar and two clamps, arranging silver foil along its surface. On top of this makeshift construction was placed a rough piece of wood board, flanked by pieces of cutout paper, creating a kind of unusual monument. As for the round window, he covered it with plastic gels of various shapes, colors, and opacities, creating a kind of rose window both basic and beautiful.

Even those sculptures that didn’t explicitly draw on the site adhered to the same principle of interacting with aspects of a given, immediate environment. They were in fact assemblages composed of various industrially produced objects: plastic corks, rolls of paper, glass plates and bowls, cardboard packaging, plywood, polyurethane foam, and so on. These materials from daily life were juxtaposed in strange assemblages that seemed to thrive on some mysterious internal logic.

At times, these assemblages resemble architectural models, at times prototypes of utilitarian objects from the future whose use one can only guess. This is what makes Gérard’s work so original. Clearly, these pieces trigger questions about the function we assign to objects, both when they are designed and later on, when we recognize them in terms of their use. And in considering the function of objects, we naturally reflect on their linguistic and semantic dimension, that is, the names we give them. Gérard is therefore tacitly inviting us to a kind of cognitive experience: one that involves diving into a state of doubt, a questioning of what we see and especially of what we have learned about it. Like the artist, we set out on a quest for a sort of primitive perception, the kind we must have had at the beginning of life, and whose memory we hold so preciously within us.

Yoann Van Parys

Translated from French by Molly Stevens.