In Montpellier The MO.CO.  changes skin, literally, sublimely, with the exhibition Berlinde de Bruyckere!

In Montpellier The MO.CO. changes skin, literally, sublimely, with the exhibition Berlinde de Bruyckere!

A major figure on the international scene, the Flemish visual artist Berlinde de Bruyckere is the subject of a major monographic exhibition from June 18 at the MO.CO., the center of contemporary art in Montpellier, which proclaims with it its radical change of approach. An aesthetic shock of visceral and overwhelming power!

We know works, like beings and places, that command respect. Berlinde de Bruyckere does not impose, she creates. And what she creates is not only volumes, but also silences. His work produces silences. Like the invisible wave of a jammer silences the dopamine chirping of our mobile servitudes, his work spreads around him a clear, powerful signal, which switches off all our systems, whether they are called recognition or alarm, whether are called knowledge or prejudices. Here we are naked emotions. More than ever listening to the deafening silences than in the first big stage upstairs at the MO.CO.

Berlinde de Bruyckere’s work produces silences

Bare to the extreme, the space reveals an impressive surface that haunts a series ofArchangelos, including a trio specially created for Montpellier. Long human silhouettes on tiptoe whose upper body seems bent, overwhelmed, under the weight of the canvas that covers them. We are approaching. The feet barely touch the ground without it being known whether they are going to land on it or tear themselves away from it. There is grace in their frozen movement, and if their color is pale, it also turns out to be soft, as if alive. A silence. We dare to look up. It’s not a sheet that hides their complexion from us, but an animal skin, unless it’s their archangelic wings of fabric and leather? On the walls, large formats, belonging to the series Pioenen and It almost seemed a lily of the artist, further add to the mystical atmosphere: deep, voluminous, they represent for some, open sepulchers on bones, viscera or vestiges of forgotten divinities, perhaps great ancient Cyclopeans, Lovecraftians.

Berlinde de Bruyckere’s work produces silences. And causes inspiration. “She handles the great parables, works the founding myths, she fits into the long term and does not hesitate to quote, if not plunder, the history of art. But, at the same time, she raises questions very contemporary, on hybridization, the feminine, nature, the relationship to the animal world…”, comments the director of MO.CO., Numa Hambursin. Conceived in close collaboration with the artist, this staggering monographic exhibition (his most important personal exhibition to date, according to his own words) brings together 55 works pieces produced between 1999 and 2022, including six specially produced for the MO.CO. “We wanted to reflect the complexity and diversity of his work, without constraining it to one theme or another”.

Works that speak of animal suffering

Thus, before this great blank, will we have already seen striking sculptures and installations where his art of the hybridization of techniques (castings, collages, paintings, etc.) explodes like materials (wax, resin, wood, fabric , leather, iron…) like forms (plant, animal, human…). Without saying anything about his science of colors and layers. We will have seen a tree trunk worked like a titanic bone, draft horse collars of a Venustic vagina, anatomical aberrations of a devious, Cronenbergian sensuality… And already these equine sculptures that we will find next on the ground floor and which are sure to fascinate the visitor. Berlinde de Bruyckere does not work as a taxidermist or embalmer, she starts from the skins of horses (which died naturally) and proceeds by moldings to produce works that speak of animal suffering, question our gaze and disturb its anthropocentric certainty…

And what about the basement, more than ever itself, six-feet-underground, which obliges us to go down to contemplate heaps of wax casts of skins and others drying here and there, and to us remain silent before this allegory of the consumer society: it overflows its animal self-evidence and opens onto unspeakable abysses. We know works, like beings and places, which impose… to return there. Even if basically, we did not come back.

From June 18 to October 2. Berlinde de Bruyckere at the MO.CO., 13 rue de la République, in Montpellier. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 04 99 58 28 00.

The director of MO.CO. Numa Hambursin puts there the forms and the bottom

A place : “The exhibition dedicated to Berlinde de Bruyckere, which has also been designed to allow us to take a new look at the place, of which we will be better aware of its almost infinite possibilities, its large size, and its sumptuous plateaus, it “There is no other word. Exhibitions of collections dictated the division of spaces, since they showed different artists, who could be compared but all the same a little singled out, at least separated”.

An exhibition : “As this is a monographic exhibition, the natural coherence of the work makes it possible to open up the spaces. The order was therefore for a minimal scenography, an absence of picture rails, to have the place at its most bare. Vintage as it would have been the day after its creation before any hanging. We started from this premise to build with Berlinde de Bruyckere, her exhibition. For the inhabitants of Montpellier, without saying anything about the work of this artist, this will be an opportunity the rediscovery of a place and the awareness of the tool they have at their disposal; a wonderful tool!”

An institution : “The form must resonate with the substance; what applies to a work applies to an exhibition, from a certain point of view, and to the overall philosophy of an establishment. My philosophy with the MO.CO. is as much as possible, remove the intermediaries between the work and the visitor. I want to put an end to the multiplication of intermediaries which are, for me, like so many walls or picture rails in the place. This is the idea of ​​direct contact. This will not always be the case, but in this case, it was essential to preserve this relationship in its purity. With Berlinde de Bruyckere, you will see, the works contemplate in a way the viewer, they impose a carnal relationship. In addition, his work speaks of the flesh, of the skin, of our relationship to art, to the history of art, of our relationship to transcendence. It stirs up questions of current events and the great founding myths. Everything, in fact, comes together.

A tactic : “Not everyone appreciates that, but personally, I like the idea of ​​the “wow” effect when you enter a room, also because it questions contemporary art: part of the public, perhaps be because he is badly informed or that he is trapped by received ideas, does not imagine that contemporary art can produce this effect, that it can give works that are formally crazy, enjoyable or disturbing, and which do not do not require that we pass through the filter of discourse. You know the phrase of Kant who said “Is beautiful what universally pleases without a concept”. For the supporters of deconstruction this is not understandable because without a concept There is no universal, according to them. But very modestly, faced with certain works, we can say that it is beautiful – or ugly, for that matter – outside of any knowledge of contemporary art”.

A philosophy: “I know that my predecessor Nicolas Bourriaud liked Picasso’s phrase which said that “Contemporary art is like Chinese, it can be learned”. It is also true, basically. But, in this case, I think that, without learning or knowledge, one can be touched and perhaps dazzled. What I call “the experience of the sublime”, this moment when words are not enough to express the lived experience, and that we say, for lack of anything better, and even though that doesn’t mean much in itself, “it’s beautiful”. I think that’s how we can enter contemporary art , and it’s my life’s mission to help with that. It’s not necessarily natural for everyone. Nicolas Bourriaud was more in the idea of ​​”understanding contemporary art”: understanding what it is goes, how it deals with current issues, how it responds to questions of society, etc. It was less in the process of reconciling a large audience with today’s creation. completely different chess of the same subject, basically.”

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