Stéphane Barbier Bouvet Curated by
Design as We Speak by the artist and designer Stéphane Barbier Bouvet is the first exhibition in a series of projects at Grand Hall in Zaventem Ateliers, curated by Dimitri Jeurissen, with the aim of critically approaching art, design and craft.
The exhibition develops from Barbier Bouvet’s ongoing engagement with design as an application, a form of knowledge and a critical comment on the field of art and design. Uninterested in prescriptive ways of designing, in fixed solutions or in singular truths, Design as We Speak is a snapshot of an ongoing design process inspired by oft-forgotten bioclimatic principles and vernacular knowledge. Barbier Bouvet’s methodology consists of ruling out all redundancy and taste in order to let logic alone dictate the next step. By reducing objects to their absolute minimum, Barbier Bouvet retrieves the essence of designing. Taking the cabin as a departure point, the exhibition expands principle elements from the artist’s practice relating to autonomy, adaptability, lightness and open-endedness. Three cases – Palama, Cévennes and Maloja – explore various angles, aspects and concerns. All relatively different to each other in terms of design and habitability, and far from ever being ‘complete’, the cabins address the necessary attitude and conditions for the creation of spaces of refuge and autonomy. All three cabins are designed for seasonal stays and contribute to a sustainable understanding of their individual contexts. The exhibition not only highlights the relevance of traditional knowledges in understanding ecological, processes but also includes experiments with ecologies of property, accommodation, legislation, the social contract and the commons.
In Design as We Speak are presented only the elements needed to understand Barbier Bouvet’s interventions, which, after the exhibition’s close, will disappear in the contexts for which the pieces are destined. The opportunity afforded by the exhibition is not used to present three finished cases, but rather as a tool to make possible the implementation of Barbier Bouvet’s proposals in real life. White monolithic blocks elevate the technical parts on display, and in some cases their traditional exhibitory function is reversed, and they act as stand-ins for missing elements, such as a door step or a reservoir.
Design as We Speak does not impose any solutions but rather freezes simultaneous processes of becoming; a future embodied in the exhibition’s temporality. In lieu of presenting completed prototypes, the exhibition primarily serves to introduce a set of notions at the heart of Barbier Bouvet’s ongoing work, which, bridging contemplative practice and technical rigour, carries a political charge that amounts to a subtle critique of ‘the project’ as a future projection or, as the philosopher Lisa Baraitser describes it, ‘a unit of finite time that is lived within the closed horizon of the future’. There are no such projections at hand in Barbier Bouvet’s work, nor is it driven by short-term goals or desire for economic gain, as so often is the case in design. Rather, his work invites us to look at things through new eyes. Here, there is only the dynamic transmission of ideas and stratification of references, continuously evolving as we speak.
About the artist
Stéphane Barbier Bouvet’s work is a comment on design history and existing design structures and logics. His practice often entails the development of systems and infrastructures and the alteration of existing conditions. Through an expanding vocabulary of gestures and the use of standardized materials, his practice comments on the way we live now while offering up alternatives.
Stéphane Barbier Bouvet (b. Marseille, 1981) is a Swiss artist, who currently lives in Brussels. He graduated as a designer from the École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL) in 2006 and established himself as an artist working on the intersection of design, sculpture and presentation. Barbier Bouvet is also the co-founder of the independent project space 1m3 in Lausanne and the Dirty Art Department, the fine arts masters of the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. He has exhibited internationally, with self-initiated, solo, collective and commissioned projects and exhibitions, most recently in Geneva, Vélizy and Sofia. He is represented by Truth and Consequences in Geneva, Salle Principale in Paris and Maniera in Brussels.