The exhibition Michel de Broin, which comprises a selection of works from the past decade, including some produced specially for this occasion, attests to the artist’s interest in the notions of resistance, appropriation and recycling.
Over the last twenty-plus years, de Broin has developed an artistic practice that challenges our relationships with systems of all kinds. Adopting a critical yet playful attitude, he diverts everyday objects and preconceived notions to new uses and applications in order to reveal the forces that are at work in our day-to-day environment, and that frame and direct our actions and interactions. As he put it, “one of the premises of my practice involves introducing a foreign element into a normative system to see how that agent produces an unexpected reaction in its new setting.”1
Michel de Broin practises an experimental approach in which his works are continually evolving. The critical overview offered here reveals the amalgam he typically makes between preparatory sketch, finished piece and documentation: a model may be presented as a work in itself or be reborn in the form of a sculpture, photograph or film, or emerge as a more or less clandestine action in a public space. The artist enjoys revisiting his works over time. In some cases, he develops new, updated versions of pieces previously shown. For example, Embrase-moi, 1993-2013, Objet perdu, 2002-2013, and Tenir sans servir c’est résister, 2013, have been reinterpreted for the current exhibition. In other cases, de Broin produces new pieces inspired by old ones, but using an entirely different technique: a sculptural piece, Pile, 2010, also exists as a photographic work; and the photographic work Monument post-soviétique, 2004–2006, is the inspiration behind the sculpture Têtes de pioches, 2013; and again, before being turned into a monumental sculpture, the looped-together cannons of Blowback, 2013, were the subject of a series of silk-screen prints on aluminum.
In this sense, the exhibition, and the publication that accompanies it, have been conceived not as ends in themselves, but rather as stages that would allow the artist to return to certain works and introduce new ideas. This undertaking called for maintaining the experimental aspect of the work and avoiding placing the works in a vacuum. The museum as structure or, to use the artist’s terminology, as system, is involved in creating new and “unexpected” reactions within the artist’s set of concerns. Montréal-based de Broin has exhibited in Europe, the United States and Canada. His major public-art projects (both permanent and temporary) include Majestic (New Orleans, 2011), Révolution (Rennes, 2010), La maîtresse de la tour Eiffel (Paris, 2009), Overflow (Nuit Blanche, Toronto, 2008), Encerclement (Scape Biennial, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2006), Shared Propulsion Car (Exit Art, New York, 2005 / Mercer Union, 2007) and Révolutions (Ville de Montréal collection, Parc Maisonneuve-Cartier, 2003).
1. Quoted in Gilles Daignault, “Lessons in Being Truant,” Artefact 2001: Sculptures urbaines/Urban Sculptures (Montréal: Centre de diffusion 3D, 2001), p. 36.