Belgian-based artist Pierre Bismuth often works on issues of translation. For example, there are those strange, heap-like sculptures, the Fried Chicken Flavoured Polyethylenes made with a machine reminiscent of a meat grinder, taken from production chains in the destructive plastics industry. Such a device, says author Dessislava Dimova, “transforms one uncertain form into another uncertain form. The mincer is the machine of formlessness, of the possibility of transforming meat into pure matter. For if we had to visualise pure matter, what would it look like? What is materia, the mother substance, if not earth, the clay from which the first man was created, a clay that eventually became flesh?”¹ In this case, the starting material is coarse plastic granulate. Dimova quotes the philosopher Roland Barthes: “Thus plastic is not only a substance, for it is the idea of its endless transformation; it is, as its ordinary name says, omnipresence made visible. [...] It is less an object than a trace of a movement.” In the contexts of the project, these sculptures, at the very most fleeting glance, are reminiscent of excrement, which as manure is prized by farmers. Ultimately, this is indeed matter in the agricultural cycle. In their formlessness, Bismuth’s objects also articulate a counter-position to the spectacular show values common in the global art world and in turn play with the idea of abstract sculpture.
Depending on the viewer’s reservoir of experience and the context, they evoke the most diverse, art-philosophical, everyday and popular cultural contexts. One may laugh at sheep on a pink background agreeing that human cloning is abhorrent: and one will find oneself – in this reflection on the relationship between non-human and human animals – addressed in a bitter way. I agree – The idea of cloning humans is disgusting is the name of this work. When these very same book and sausage products meet in the deutsch-französischer Buch- und Wurstwarenladen (German-French Book and Sausage Shop), a fridge and concept shop of a different kind, a similarly surprising beauty emerges – loosely based on the poet Lautréamont and his surrealist heirs – as in the encounter of an umbrella with a sewing machine on a dissecting table. Criticism and its object cannot be separated.
¹ Dessislava Dimova, “Das Leben ist wahrscheinlich rund”, in: Pierre Bismuth, Things I Remember I Have Done, But Don’t Remember Why I Did Them – Towards a Catalogue Raisonné, Wien 2017, p. 6.
Born in 1963, Paris; lives in Brussels, BE
• 1980–1982 Studies liberal arts at the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs, Paris and in 1983 at Berlin University of the Arts
E 2021 Tout le monde est artiste mais seul l’artiste le sait, Centre Pompidou, Paris and West (The Hague) NL, 2022 (SE) (C); 8 flags, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (SE); Demokratie heute – Probleme der Repräsentation, KINDL, Berlin (C) • 2020 Museum for Preventive Imagination, MACRO, Rome, IT • 2019 Animalesque Art – Across Species and Beings, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, GB • 2018 Hollywood and Other Myths, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, IL (C) • 2017 Promotional Occurrences, LOK, Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen, CH (SE) • 2015 Der Kurator, der Psychoanalytiker und der Anwalt, Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna) (SE)
P Things I remember I have done, but don’t remember why I did them – Towards a catalogue raisonné, Sternberg Press 2017 • Pierre Bismuth, Flammarion 2006 • Pierre Bismuth, Nouvelle création contemporaine, Paris, 2005 • Tout ce qui n’est pas interdit est obligatoire, Thun, CH, 2005 • Pierre Bismuth, Pierre Bismuth, Pierre Bismuth, Toronto, 2004