Pierre Bismuth, review by Elke Segers
Entering the Jan Mot gallery in the centre of Brussels nowadays, is accepting to follow the laws of entropy rigorously produced in the works of Pierre Bismuth (b. 1963 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris). By creating effects of constant transformation and spontaneous change, Bismuth succeeds in so-called ‘expending the excess energy of a system in order to reveal its paradoxes’’ And these paradoxes are at stake: served with light, albeit efficient humour and minimal means, they have become second skin for this contemporary artist. The exhibition ‘Mit Pierre Bismuth gegen Propaganda’ encapsulates all the ingredients mixed in to sabotage the very logic of the material, pushing the spectator to re-evaluate cultural productions whose meaning seems obvious. If obvious hasn’t become a totally superfluous concept in the first place.
‘Retroprojection’ consists of TV footage transferred to the configuration of a 16mm film in colour and sound, archiving the MSNBC life reportage of the American presidential elections in 2008, about half an hour before the results were to be made public. This ‘historic day for all of us’ is brought raw and uncut, served for the spectator of ‘America voting now’. As Obama’s election for president was at stake, the whole of the United States was engaged in a way it had never been before. As such, a particular moment in time is objectively shown, without any editing or intervention, while being converted to a filmlike texture activating the associative machinery that the film medium triggers. Included are the somewhat spectacular publicity spots of Halls mints, mortgage financers or soup, so typically US - the rate of one on one subliminally reducing debate material to the subjective, money driven manipulation to buy. The product, the message, the campaign’ what is the difference after all’
And that is exactly what Bismuth is alluding to in his poster of this year’s Berlin Biennial: serving as well as a self-induced invitation, this poster rides the line of this edition’s extremely activist intent and explicitly refutes any political art. Its slogan ‘Mit Pierre Bismuth gegen Propaganda’ adorns a picture of the artist himself, presented jovially without tie in leather jacket, as today’s politicians aim for the overall human touch. The clear blue-sky message is clear: if you choose for Pierre, there is nothing to be worried about! Or do the insects drawn around him predict something uglier’ The other found blue-black posters glued on steel sheets all fight for their own territory: the result is a glimpse on a Berlin city wall as if time has torn up the different underlying agenda’s.
Time after time, Bismuth interrupts pre-established codes of reading images and objects that pervade daily life, trying to destabilize subconsciously accepted codes of perception. Counterbalancing his humour often slightly turned sour, the electric engine, orange and explicitly plugged in and racing through the walls of the gallery, might feel as a motor driven, positive energy source’ turning in the name of everlasting progress while incessantly fighting the most persistent cynicism.