Michel de Broin’s work ranges from assemblage to video and photography. His multifaceted production deals with energy flows, entropic devolution, and the forms of visual, spatial and technological paradox that derive from these forces. Most of his works are retooled everyday appliances, found objects that disclose an ironic re-utilization not only of the mechanic universe but also of tropes of Conceptual Art and Minimalism, which in his hands take on a critical dimension. Although universally recognizable, their new behaviour defies their functions and uses. Crafting unforeseen relationships between waste, productivity, risk and consumption, De Broin defamiliarizes established modes of signification in everyday technical environments.
A mid-career survey of De Broin’s work was mounted by the Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montréal, in 2013. De Broin has held solo exhibitions and projects like Reciprocal Energy, at Musée d’art contemporain Val-de-Marne, France; Reverse Entropy at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; Disruption from Within at Plug In, Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, Canada; Épater la Galerie at Villa Merkel, Esslingen, Germany. Group exhibitions include: Car Fetish. I drive, therefore I am, Museum Tinguely, Basel, Switzerland; Acclimatation, Centre d’art Villa Arson, Nice, France; Untethered, Eyebeam, New York, NY; and Au courant, Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Recipient of the 2007 Sobey Art Award, De Broin has also received grants from the Harpo Foundation (Los Angeles) and Krasner-Pollock Foundation (New York). Most recently, he has been awarded a residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York City
Exhibited work: ‘Smashy Face’
“This wall installation proposes an interaction with media architecture inspired by skill games, amusement parks and by the recent archeological discovery of Stone Age smiling faces in the Amazon River. Placed on the wall in the form of a 16 x 16 grid, 256 incandescent light bulbs are used as a canvas for a Stone Age inspired performance. I used a cobblestone taken from a Berlin road as a tool to draw a face by smashing select light bulbs on the grid. The installation will need no external power to smile.
In the context of a media arts festival, Smashy Face undermines the ever-present imperative to use increasingly complex technologies as a means of feigning innovation. Returning to analog forms of image making—but making wry reference to binary expression with the bit-like 16 x 16 grid—each light bulb smashed represents an exploded pixel here. The work stands in stark contrast to the embellished technological works, to suggest instead, that there remains traction in concise gestures and raw materials.”
Exhibited work: ‘Molysmocène’
Video projections on the façade of Théâtre Maisonneuve
“Life on earth began with an erotic show in which nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and potassium intertwined in an opening dance. Fast-forward some three billion years to what some geologists call the Anthropocene epoch, and organic activity on earth has deflated; it’s almost as if the orgy were coming to an end. Human meddling could be a veritable geophysical force inhibiting this organic activity. According to some observers, the impact of humanity’s changes, extractions and unprecedented waste now outweighs natural factors and fluctuations. Human progress has cast a dark shadow indeed over future humans. As the Anthropocene period reaches this cut-off point and ends, all its residues are left behind. Enter “Molysmocène,” the age of trash. This project imagines how life might re-emerge from our refuse. Molysmocène is a video animation produced with a group of young participants. In this laboratory, life is reborn from the inanimate matter in our trash. It revives the soup of capitalism’s discarded leftovers.
The artist wishes to thank Luc Guillemette (event coordinator for the Musée d’art contemporain workshops), Émilie Godbout (workshop facilitator at the Musée d’art contemporain), Dexter Davis and Sael Simard (documentation and technical support), Michel Pétrin (audiovisual services at the Musée d’art contemporain), Alexandre Perreault (photographer) and the Musée d’art contemporain.”
Exhibited work: ‘Rien ne va plus’
Site-specific sound installation
“Rien ne va plus is a French phrase used by roulette croupiers before fatally spinning the ball into the wheel, to announce that no more bets are allowed on the table. However, Rien ne va plus also translates as “nothing works anymore”, transcending the gambling environment and alluding to the wider state of the world.
Rien ne va plus is a site-specific audio installation in one of the exterior ventilation grids of the FACT building. The sound of clinking coins and slot machines produce the illusion that the institution has been converted into a casino. Through this simple and playful gesture, Michel de Broin poignantly comments on the the prevailing economics and politics of free market neoliberalism, and the so-called “casino capitalism” of our financial system. At the same time, and in the spirit of institutional critique, the work sheds light on the current climate of public cuts in the cultural sector, and the ensuing pressure to prioritize commercialization over values such as knowledge generation or commonality. (Ana Botella, Curator)”