Three slightly naive questions (communication on March, 16, 2023)
ISIA Higher Institute for Artistic Industries, Urbino
How does the creative process work on an individual level?
Is individual creation exclusively individual or is it under the influence of a collective dimension?
How does art history deal with individual and collective creation?
You are (lessons from November to December 2022)
Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de La Cambre, Brussels
In collaboration with Aleksandra Chaushova
You are this artist playing with words.
You are that "young artist with promise".
You are the artist with a sense of humor.
You are that animal artist.
You are that artist who makes pornographic works, aesthetically very elaborate.
You are that artist who uses the English language in his art.
You are the artist who is interested in the body.
You are the artist who works on memory.
You are that forgotten historical artist who is suddenly being revalued.
You are that artist obsessed with lines.
You are that miniaturist artist.
You are that artist working in the manner of the Düsseldorf school (all distance and geometry).
You are that geometric abstract artist.
You are that artist who works only with numbers...
You are that artist who works with color.
You are that committed artist.
You are the artist who hides everything.
You are that artist who says nothing.
You are the artist who plays with gravity, showing everything in a strange way.
You are the artist who is inspired by history.
You are that artist who is inspired by the history of art.
You are that artist who makes Land Art from the living room.
You are that artist who has researched a subject.
You are that artist who says it all.
You are that artist who talks about himself.
You are that artist who makes very saleable works.
You are that artist who makes unsellable work.
You are that artist who does too much.
You are that artist who values what is unique.
You are that artist who values what is generic.
You are that artist who repeats himself.
You are that artist who travels.
You are that artist who analyzes Brussels.
You are that artist who is not of his time.
You are that artist who is of his time.
You are that artist whose work functions on the principle of Russian dolls.
You are that artist who turns sad situations into funny ones.
You are that artist whose work unfolds according to the mirror principle.
You are the artist whose works are unique in the detail, where they seem banal in the whole.
You are that artist who creates works of an event that may happen soon.
You are that artist who creates works about what happened this morning.
You are that artist who makes works that exist only in the air.
You are that artist who makes the kind of art that your father or mother would make if they were artists.
You are the artist who makes works that are based on assembly plans.
You are that artist who makes works that are easily stored.
You are that angry artist.
You are that distracted artist.
You are that happy artist.
What would we do if we were Italian? (November and December 2022 module)
Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de La Cambre, Brussels
In collaboration with Veronica De Giovanelli
With the exceptional participation of Daniele Coppola, Gianmarco Falcone, Jacopo Pagin, Linda Carrara, Stefano Moras, Laura Viale, Robberto & Milena Atzori
We delve into the database of the Italian imagination, focusing on the way in which the works engage the notion of space. We analyse the approaches to space that Italian artists, whether painters, photographers, sculptors or architects, show in their works... What are the games of proportions, orientation, formats, gaps between volumes, perspectives, trompe l'oeil, the layering of planes, the attention to the near, the far, the off-camera...? This analysis can be done through sketches, through explanations of the observed approaches to space through drawing. Let us think of those art historians who were interested in the mathematical dimension of Renaissance paintings, revealing the principles underlying certain compositions of frescoes or paintings.
Each student has uploaded his/her portfolio and the work done so far in the module to a common online data storage space for all to see. Each student is then asked to walk around the perimeter of the Abbaye de la Cambre (including the gardens and the streets surrounding the site) with a view to making a photographic report and/or collecting found objects. The subject of this report and/or collection is the work of each pupil in the class (if the choice is made on the principle of found objects, at least three objects must be collected for each practice pointed out). Each pupil thus paints a diagonal, metaphorical but no less precise portrait of the practice of each of his/her classmates. This is based on the distinctive features of each practice, which we will have learned to know as we go along, and on the involvement of each one in the exercises. Each student also makes a self-portrait of his/her own creative practice, based on the same collection of found objects or photographic speculation.
Each student chooses one of the features of the Italian collective imagination that has been identified in the course of the research by the group. He/she then chooses one of his/her personal creations from the past, and undertakes to remake it, incorporating, integrating, the trait of the selected imaginary within it. In the case where the original work involves work that cannot be literally taken up in the time allotted, and with the tools available, the student is given the freedom to consider the original version in a "lighter" light, and then to create an equally light Italian variant, adapted to the technical means that can be engaged within the framework of the module and the time available.
Pictorial portrait of our guests
We create a portrait of the practice of each guest we have received in the module, by gathering, in a free mode, sets of images of works from our Italian database. The sets of images resonate, extend and share the specific characteristics of the practice of each artist we met. We then try to observe whether, under cover of these characteristics, a common, collective characteristic emerges.
An ephemeral exhibition
In our Italian database, we detect a feature of the Italian collective imagination that has not yet been highlighted, or we base ourselves on a feature already identified by the group. We then create an installation (which can be miniature) in the physical, real space, deploying this feature. This ephemeral plastic intervention is documented through photography. The archival images are organised into a document on the computer. The class is then shown both the physical result of the work and its digital documentation.
Armed with a line from the Italian collective imagination, identified through contact with contemporary art, we delve into the Italian database on the ancient art side. We try to find the historical roots of this trait, which would have been taken up by the younger generation. The so-called "ancient" art may not be so ancient: 18th century, or 19th century. Or even the beginning of the 20th century. To establish this comparison, one proceeds by associating images, in the form of plates, or by any other textual, visual, or even audiovisual or sound means. Another method may consist in choosing a historical figure of Italian art (for example Masaccio), then associating with the work of this historical artist, the works of artists who came after him (or even much later) who would be his heirs, in the form of a genealogical derivation/derivation (see also the definition of this science called phylogenesis).
We dive into our database of the Italian imagination and identify artists from the same Italian cities, or from places close to these cities (it is likely that the cities sufficiently represented, in terms of numbers, are cities such as Turin, Venice, Rome, Milan, or even Naples - if you are interested in a city that is not well represented, it is possible to look for other artists who come from it and who are not yet in our database). You copy the files of works by these artists onto your personal computer. We then try to see if an aesthetic identity, linked to the city, emerges. You establish a visual thesis about this. This geographically based research can also be extended by using images of the city and its surroundings that can explain the attraction of the artists in the city to a particular subject, landscape configuration, political statement, ethic or poetic. We can also use everything that makes up the historical substratum of this city, particularly in its folkloric and vernacular aspects, but also in its more official aspects.
A chromatic study of the Italian collective imagination is carried out. We try to distinguish the palette of each city/region of Italy represented in our database, through the artists that make it up, and who come from this or that area. This chromatic research is expressed in the form of a map, or in any other form that seems appropriate. We can deal with tints, as well as intensities. The analysis can be specified by distinguishing the way in which the colour is treated (in flat tones, in muted tones, in brightness, as a counterpoint to a black, a white, a yellow, in a sparing, parsimonious way, or abundantly, loudly). The analysis will address both the colour and the way in which artists use it.
Find a way to show all the research carried out during the course on the Italian collective imagination. We eventually print the documents you have created, from exercise to exercise, and we find a way to spatialise all this material, to create a kind of exhibition, which can be presented to our last guests of the course, on December 22nd. This exhibition serves as a support for a final debate between the students of the class and our guests.
Exuberance (workshop from October 4, to October 8, 2022)
Academy of Fine Arts, Brussels
We are told: Brussels Drawing Week, the week of drawing, in this very city, at the beginning of October 2022. We are told that there are events everywhere that honour this medium in all its variations. So the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels says: get involved! It's the drawing festival: it will be this week, not the week before, not the week after: this week. Before, it will be too early. After, it will be too late. This will be his launch window, his shooting window! Let's give it a party! Paper, the first of all guilty media: it loses nothing by waiting. We will cover it with intelligible and unintelligible signs. We will colour it, and colour it. We will sculpt it. We will put it away, only to disturb it again. We will photograph it and it will photograph us. It will upset us. It will surprise us. We will punch it. We will punch holes in it. We will make round holes in it, and square holes, punctuated with rectangular comments. We'll take care of it, we'll pamper it, we'll dirty it, then, magnanimously, we'll clean it. It will be cut up. We will project buildings and benches on it: we will come back to it. We will crumple it up, we will print it. We will lithograph it. It will be laid out and folded. It can be woven and silk-screened. We will hide it, seal it, buy it too (alas). We will sell it (hopefully). We will shelter it from the sunlight. We will expose it to the glare of Saturn. We will make candy wrappers, bank notes, aeroplanes. We will glue it. We will sign it. We will write it, we will define it. We will have fun. We will exaggerate. We will make tons and tons of it. As for the cardboard, the wood, the fabric, everything that accommodates trace and action? Don't make me reveal the fruit of your imagination already!
Bota feat. Bracops (Workshops from June to May 2022)
Athénée Joseph Bracops, Brussels
Under the direction of Mathilde Manche, Grégory Thirion, Ophélie Martinage
The Botanique in Brussels is an art centre that holds temporary exhibitions. Although not a museum, they do have a small collection of works donated by artists who have exhibited there over the years.
In 2022, the wish was expressed to do a project around this collection with a class of secondary school students from the Athénée Joseph Bracops in Anderlecht.
Under the direction of Mathilde Manche and Grégory Thirion, a project of initiation to contemporary art and the creation of an exhibition with works from the Botanique collection was set up.
From late winter to early spring, various workshops are offered.
The first workshop focuses on the portrait. Instructions are distributed to the students at random. They are asked to draw a certain type of portrait. For example: "Draw a self-portrait when you are no longer alive".
The second workshop focuses on the representation of space. Two types of instructions are randomly crossed, a space and a way to represent it: "a map of a lake city / only with headlines cut from newspapers".
The third workshop is devoted to the idea of classification. An identical sheet of paper is handed out to each student. Instructions are shown on a screen, and each one makes a similar drawing, discreetly singling out the whims of each personality.
The fourth workshop is an opportunity to try out video. A film genre (for example: a thriller) is crossed with a plot (for example: the last day of the sales), and from there an improvisation is woven. Each film crew makes a film of a few minutes.
The fifth workshop focuses on the works in the Botanique collection. A wacky questionnaire is distributed to each student, who is assigned a work. Written or drawn answers are written on the questionnaire, becoming de facto an explanatory note on the work.
The sixth workshop puts the pupils in the shoes of the exhibition curator. Miniature reproductions of the works in the collection are distributed, so that each pupil makes a sketch of a display, supported by a guiding idea.
Other contributors continue the work with the students. The project concludes with an exhibition at the Botanique with the real works.
Experimental Art History (Class 30 September 2021)
Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
Section CARE / Exhibition practices (under the direction of Aurélie Gravelat)
Art history, as a human science, is a discipline that has been and remains in a state of perpetual crisis. If until now it was a question of conflicts of persons, of schools, or of a game of cat and mouse between artists and art historians, it is now necessary to count on new actors who intend to have their word to say about it: public opinion, media, institutions. This poor history of art is thus a kind of eternal teenager, that many souls seem to want to put in the right way. However, do we put ourselves sufficiently in her place? Do we understand her path, do we speak her language? The course proposes to take her out of the courtroom and into a theater. There, she will be a spectator - for once - in a play where we will take turns playing her role. It will be a matter of taking hold individually of a great question that has always animated her. It will be appropriate to try, like her, to answer it. Without fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. Attempt candidly to answer a big question, in 20 minutes. Your answer will have to be very personal, based on your experience, your conception, your perception, your imagination. It will nevertheless be necessary to develop the most solid of arguments, which you will be able to support opportunely by a recourse to the history of the history of art, to any exact science, or human science, or to an analysis of a past or present situation of the world of art, of the figure of the artist, of the nature of the art. Everything will depend on the big question you draw at random and on your approach. This course will take place over a day that will be a bit disheveled, where a lot of space will be given to the word, and to the reactions to this word. The title of this day is "Experimental Art History", because we will risk the experience of art history, under his eyes undoubtedly as interested as amused
What is inspiration?
Brainstorm: Where does it come from? Is it virgin, divine, under influence? Does it come in the morning, at noon, in the evening, in nature, in the bath? Who or what blows it? What is it used for? What happens if it is not there? Is it an operative notion or an overused one? If it is inoperative, what can replace it to designate the phenomenon it covers? What is genius? Brainstorm: Is genius singular or commonly shared? And if so, in what way, and if not, why? Is one genius at all times, in all works, or only in some? Is it an operative notion or an overused one? What is the relationship between genius and society? Is it the genius who designates himself, or the society who designates his/its geniuses? And if it is the society that designates them, what is their legitimacy? And if they designate themselves, what is their legitimacy? If the notion of genius is now inoperative, what can replace it to designate the phenomenon it covered?
What is an artistic movement?
Brainstorm: Who determines the nature of an artistic movement, and on the basis of what criteria? Does the notion of artistic movement seem adaptable to the contemporary reality of creation? If so, which movements would you identify? If not, which movements would you identify? If not, for what reasons will it be no longer necessary to think in term of movements? What do we do with a movement, once it has emerged? What are the temporal and spatial limits of a movement? Is an artistic movement homogeneous or heterogeneous? Does a movement find its end? What do you make of the notions of post- and neo- (such as neoprimitivism, neogothic, postmodernism, etc.)?
What is originality?
Brainstorm: If the notion of originality exists, what are the criteria for establishing the normality from which it differs? In short, what is the norm, the convention? By whom or what is this convention determined? Can originality become a norm? What is the tipping point between originality and norm? What is the attitude of art history towards originality? What is society's attitude towards originality? Can an artist possess an originality that is entirely his own, or does he necessarily have a clone, somewhere in time or in the world? Does the regime of originality tolerate other, simultaneous registers of distinction and/or downgrading?
What is artistic fame?
Brainstorm : What motivates the success of an artist, even his fame, during his lifetime, or postmortem? Is the artist working for his own fame, or is it other people who are working for it? Or is it both? And if it is other people, who are they, and why do they do it? What about the artists' foundations that are now springing up all over the world, whose purpose is to promote the work of an artist or to perpetuate his or her fame? Is fame a fragile thing, or an eternal thing? What makes a work continue to be celebrated across the years and across civilizations? Why are some artists successful, and others not? Why are some artists celebrated during their lifetime and then forgotten, and vice versa? Where do the artists go and where are the ones who are never spoken of again? What to do with anonymous artists?
What is a museum?
Brainstorm: What is a museum today, unlike yesterday? How does a given society, a given city, a given country, position itself with respect to its museums? Are museums at the service of these entities or are they independent? How would a museum establish its independence from one of the above-mentioned entities? Is it necessary to have independence for this institution, the museum, from the other institutions that surround it and from society, or is it desirable to have the opposite? Who runs the museums? Who decides on the hanging of the permanent collection and the temporary exhibitions, and on the basis of what motives? Should art be preserved, and if so, why, and if not, why not? How do you preserve art that cannot be preserved? How do we do this when there is more space available to preserve other works? What if the quantity of works produced exceeds the capacity to present them to the public? Should the museum include a mediation service, which suggests de facto that art does not speak for itself to the public?
What is a work?
Brainstorm: When is a work completed? What determines the perimeter of a work? Does a work have limits? And if there are limits, what is there beyond them? What is the relationship between the work of a day and the work of a lifetime? Is the work entirely in what it gives to see, or is it worth as an extract of a larger whole? What is a masterpiece, an early work, a failed work, an unfinished work?
What is an artist?
Brainstorm : Is the world divided between people called artists and people called non-artists? What are the criteria for designating so-and-so as an artist or not? If you are an artist, do you stay one all your life? Is a child an artist when an adult is not? Is an adult an artist when a child could not be one yet? Is it possible to designate an artist in an a priori non-artistic field, such as plumbing? Is everyone an artist, but only the artists know it? Is there still a corporation of artists today? Does the artist, to be designated as such, have to be part of this corporation, or must he be a stranger to any school or doctrine? Must the artist express himself about his work, or must he remain silent? Is Marcel Duchamp's silence overrated? Can an artist who has never produced works or who no longer produces any be designated as such? If the notion of artist seems to you overused, by what would you replace it?
What is outsider art?
Brainstorm : What distinguishes outsider art from contemporary art? Can one be wild in certain periods, and informed in others? Crude in childhood for example, then scholarly when older? What is the threat that outsider art poses to scholarly art? Of what does the learned art distrust, being outsider art? Can the learned art approaching intentionally the raw art manage to be raw? Is this categorization between outsider art and learned art still useful, enlightening, or does it have to be revised on the contrary? And if yes, by what? And if not, why, and how to reinforce it still? If the outsider art exists, where does this raw force that animates it come from?
What is art?
Brainstorm : Is art made by the viewer or the creator? Does art reside only in the works of art, or is it elsewhere? And if it is elsewhere, where is it? Is it necessary to distinguish art from the rest of the world? Who has an interest in distinguishing art from the rest of the world? Is art a language, a coded, obscure language, a universal language? Who speaks this language and who does not? How is it that it presents itself to us coded, if it is indeed in its nature to be coded? What is not art? If we are sure that there is art, in this object, or in this situation, will it still be there the next day? Is art a material or immaterial thing? Stable, or mobile, volatile? Who is in charge today of the designation of the art? If no one is in charge, where does it come from? Is it necessary to distinguish a good art from a bad art, and if so, why and how?
Can art be taught?
Brainstorm: Is art a matter of solitude or community, or both? What do you learn in art school? How would you organize art studies today? Is there a model for art school that has worked in the past? Which one? How was it organized in terms of space and time and hierarchy? What is an art student and an art teacher? What distinguishes them? What justifies or invalidates their difference in status? If art is something that is taught, this would suppose the existence of a stable knowledge able to be transmitted, what is this stable knowledge on art? If, on the contrary, there is no stable knowledge, how can we teach a non stable knowledge, if it exists? How do we teach art to children? Are children, on the contrary, the ones who teach us art? What would happen if there were no more art schools? Would art suffer? Should the art school be called by a new name? What name should it be called? How long should an art education last? At what point do we know that we are no longer art students?
What is artistic progress?
Brainstorm : Does art advance on a regime of progress? If there is a regime of progress, how can we consider the art of the past? As a primitive art, announcing future advanced forms of art? Does it still exist, always, an avant-garde? What determines the avant-garde? Who determines it? What animates the avant-garde? If there is no more progress in art, should we consider that art vegetates, even, degrades, declines? Does art know periods of growth and decline, and if so, why? How fast does art progress, on the basis of which stimuli? When, on the contrary, does it stagnate? Can art regress? Is progress in art simultaneous with progress in other fields of human activity? Is progress linked to technique? Is the demand for progress healthy or tyrannical?
Is art useful/unnecessary?
Brainstorm: Is art useful? How does it serve the individual, society? If it is useless, why devote ourselves to it? Why and for whom does it manifest itself? Should we intentionally include a utilitarian dimension in an artistic creation, or does this dimension unfold itself within the work? Should we intentionally include a useless dimension in an artistic creation, or does this dimension unfold itself within the work? What assures us of the uselessness of art: how to establish an irrefutable uselessness? What assures us of the utility of art: how to establish an irrefutable utility? At what point, from a personal point of view, did art prove useful to you? If art is useful, can we establish a kind of functional picture that would reveal its scope? Are there commercial opportunities?
What is the value of art?
Brainstorm: Is art worth money? Is money a good way to monetize art? Is art measured by its monetary value? What is the value of art that was worth a lot right away and remains expensive? What is the value of art that was worth nothing and is worth a lot today? What is the value of art that was worth nothing yesterday, and is still worth nothing today? Can we hope that it will be worth something tomorrow? If such or such art is eclipsed from the regime of the monetary value, in which regime, in which universe does it evolve? What is the role of an art gallery today? How should an art gallery position itself with respect to art history, artists and their careers? Is it the museum, the art market, or both, or even other actors, that determine the position artists should occupy in the scale of art values, and thus in art history? If the value of art is not monetary, what is its value, if it has one? How should art history position itself with respect to the art market, from an ethical point of view?
What is the mystery of art?
Brainstorm : Are we hiding something? Is our creation hiding something from us? What do we discover by creating? Can we discover things in the work of an artist that the artist himself had not seen? Does art reside solely in the artist's intentions, or does it go beyond them? Is art the product of an unconscious, of a divine influence? How should art history position itself with regard to the mystery of art? Should it leave to art an intentional part of mystery, in order to preserve the desire that we can nourish for him, or in order to leave in fallow parts of grounds that will be probed by new tools, in the future?