C’était, c’est, ce sera. Travaux situés in situ
For the inaugural exhibition at galerie kamel mennour’s new premises, Daniel Buren demonstrates yet again his incredible talent for inventing new pathways for his art – a talent he has been displaying for over forty years now. Although used to creating projects for new places, this is the first time he has found himself building something for a space which is itself still under construction. Hence his conception has had to come from examining the plans and, above all, from his foresight, informed by experience: “the space of a particular place indicates certain paths for me to follow, certain visions. Here, I had the feeling that what could exist afterwards in a different place would always remain partly
1 attached to this place. It is, It will be. ”
When one thinks of Daniel Buren’s work, one is struck, above all, by the inseparability/interdependence between the work and the space. Instantly recognisable due to his use of vertical stripes, whose width is always 8.7cm, Daniel Buren had already made a name for himself by the end of 1967, having created the notion of a work in situ: “a work that takes into consideration the place in which it is being shown/exposed, which cannot be transported elsewhere, and which must disappear at the end of the exhibition ”. Intrinsically linked to the space, the work has no capacity for mobility and cannot, therefore, spread outside the place that gave birth to it: for example, Les Deux Plateaux in the courtyard of the Palais Royal in Paris (1986).
In 1975, following his solo exhibition at the Mönchengladbach museum, Daniel Buren was
faced with a problem that arose when his in situ intervention was moved to the museum’s
permanent collection. This experience, and the solutions he found, formed the basis for
“cabanes éclatées” (“exploded cabins”), and then for his works known as “situées” (“situated
works”). Thus, in 1984, came the second turning-point in his artistic life, with the perfecting
of the second “cabane éclatée”. It consists of a cube formed by a wooden framework (the
“cabin”), covered with stretched fabric, with openings made in it to create free elements
(doors, windows, etc) which will explode and become fixed on the first walls parallel to
the original cube. With the “cabanes éclatées”, Buren’s work has been evolving towards the
production of objects that can be reconstituted in various places and surroundings, taking
their dimensions into account, and provided that certain rules (of presentation and
installation) are respected. The “cabins” are “mobile, and what is more, their mobility is one 3
of their most important characteristics, compared to most of my other works ”, explains Buren. The effect of this is that the notion of repetition, so essential to his work (the constancy of his stripe pattern for example), is opened up to the notion of regeneration.
For his exhibition at 47 rue Saint-André des Arts, Buren will inaugurate another historic turning-point: for the first time, he has formulated the notion of a “situated work in situ” (it is worth noting, however, that this qualification could also apply to his earlier works). As he explains, “one can imagine that all the elements to be found in this exhibition could be found elsewhere, but truncated, enlarged…with certain elements added or taken away”. In effect, these works are “situated” because they obey a rule (their definition is relative to the space), but they are also in situ: they adjust themselves in order to adapt to the new place. In order to achieve this – and this is a first for Buren – elements can be either added or removed…provided, of course, that the identity of the work is preserved. In such a way, “they can be changed drastically by their new home”, which provides a complete departure from the “cabanes éclatées”, where the number of parts never changes. With this in mind, the intervention in Room 1 combines: elements in situ, which will be destroyed at the end of the exhibition (the adhesive pieces attached directly to the walls); parts that can be transported, multiplied and arranged in a different way (the wooden cases); and other elements that will have to be remade, such as the one that has been adapted for the reception desk and which will be part of the room for the duration of the exhibition.
With the notion of the “situated work in situ”, the title of the exhibition (C’était, C’est, Ce sera – “It was, It is, It will be”) takes on its full significance. “C’était” (“It was”) refers to
Buren’s belief that “exhibitions are sequels to previous works ” – they are linked by
continuities, the resumption of works created a long time ago, or more recently. When they no longer exist, the only trace to be found of them is in the “photo-souvenir”. The “memento-souvenir” aims to prevent any substitution of the photograph for the work itself. “C’est” (“It is”) refers to the exhibition as it currently appears, while the “Ce sera” (“It will be”) contains the seed of other visual propositions that the work could generate in different contexts, assuming that it finds a new home. Buren’s desire to see his pieces evolve in this way and be transformed from an initial, definite “pedestal” (the principle of the work and its units) is driven by the natural pleasure of the parent to see his family grow up and prosper. Furthermore, the artist often talks of “families of works” or “families of preoccupations”. With the “situated works in situ”, he has put in place a new system of artworks that develop “organically” or “programmatically”. Defined and conceived both in and for an initial space, when the context changes, the work is adapted (by additions or subtractions) to this new situation, all the while respecting the guiding principle and function. We can imagine, therefore, that a work could be remade without the artist being present, but only by following the fundamental programme on which it is based. It is thus possible to see how far the artist has come since bringing us the notion of a work in situ: it is only then that we grasp his full intelligence, as he seeks to give his art the capacity to grow beyond him. In a new context, the “situated work in situ” will effectively make a lie of Verlaine’s famous phrase. We shall not be able to say that it is “Neither exactly the same/Nor exactly different ”; rather, as Daniel Buren affirms, “the work will be the same, and entirely different”.
Marie-Cécile Burnichon, November 2007