Catalogue > Un extrait vidéo au hasard

Peter Downsbrough


Vidéo | dv | noir et blanc | 11:50 | USA, Belgique | 2009

A]PART is the first publication in the brand new CKA _ EDITIONS series, run by Christian Kieckens. It constitutes the third collaboration between Brussels-based American artist Peter Downsbrough and Brussels architect Christian Kieckens. Sharing the same sensibilty for both industrial architectural heritage and public space in general, former joint-ventures involved the industrial `Amylum` site in the centre of Aalst (culminating in the 1996 exhibition and photo/text publication Densities) and Brussels? city centre, where Kieckens took on the technical and logistical side of the public commissioned work AND /MAAR, OP AND /POUR, ET (2000-03). Downsbrough?s passion for industrial architecture takes many forms. More often than not, ?preservation? means survival in the form of a film or photo series. His films and photos always capture an industrial or (sub)urban reality that will sooner or later vanish or be subject to redevelopment ? be it late Seventies Manhattan or the industrial zones around Kent, UK. For now, and for the foreseeable future, this seems not to be the fate of Citroën`s impressive, prototypical modernist interbellum garage at Place d?Yser in Brussels ? the subject of Downsbrough`s latest film. The building, once threatened with demolition, will hopefully be there for some time to come, and Downsbrough pays homage to the building and its architects, Belgians Alexis Dumont and Marcel Van Goethem, who cooperated with French architect Maurice Ravazé. By publishing this work, architect Kieckens pays tribute to them as well. The black-and-white film underscores the building`s basic logic and rhythm. The garage consists of two parts, garage and showroom, and Peter Downsbrough films both in a playful yet formally precise way. This includes trade-mark Downsbrough idiosyncrasies, like suddenly letting in short diegetic environmental sounds, or superimposing words, e.g. IN TIME, at the beginning of the film. Typical `car movements` are alternated with proper cinematic movements like pannings; sometimes, an image freezes, and film becomes film still, photo. Shot from the passenger seat of a car driving down the distended corkscrew ramp, the film shows the garage?s interior and views through its windows onto the urban setting below. Downsbrough In a way, the building is filmically taken apart by Downsbrough: from top to bottom (including close-ups of the stained garage floor) it is visually analysed and scrutinised. Yet the physicality of the building also imposes its framing rules on the film; `rules` the artist evidently plays with ? as before. Towards the end of the film, we witness a gay, somewhat absurd dance of cars at the roundabout in front of the building, a picture reminiscent of the famous last scene of Jacques Tati`s fillm Trafic. Still, A]PART ? elegant, heedful and spare ? has a darker side too: it is both ode and elegy. A part. In time. Apart in time. In paying attention to all the minute details of the space and its immediate surroundings, the work symbolically preserves the Citroën building-as-film. However, it also shows how space itself (every space, not just a filmed one) is formed as well by an `attention`. Created by circumstances of history, society and perception, it will in the end always be subjected to the workings of time. (Steven Tallon)

Peter Downsbrough (1940, New Brunswick, N.J.) studied architecture and art. Around the mid-1960?s, after several years of work and exploring materials, including cardboard, wood, steel, lead, neon tubing, an evolution took place which resulted, in 1970, in the work with the Two Pipes (outside), Two Dowels (inside) and Two Lines (on paper). At the same time, he also started taking photographs to document these pieces. By taking photographs from different angles and distances, he gradually started taking photographs of ?cuts? that already existed in the urban landscape. Some of these photographs were used in books, some appeared in magazines, but it wasn?t until 1980 that they showed up in exhibitions. From 1977 on, Downsbrough realized several videos as well as audiotapes. A record was made in 1978 and released in 1982. Looking to expand the vocabulary, he developed a series of works using dice. In 1980, on the Spectacolor Board on Times Square, New York, he realized a piece, a 30 second spot shown once every hour for four days, and documented it in a short film, ?7 come 11?. Around 1980, he also started using regular postcards, initially by applying two lines, later to be followed by the use of words. The work with maquettes as a means of exploring space and structure started around 1983. The first commissioned public work was a wall piece realized in Rennes, France, 1990. The film ?Occupied? was produced in 2000, ten years after it was conceived. Since then, several films, shot with a digital camera, have been published as dvd?s. Today, all these disciplines occupy the field of his activities. An overview exhibition, curated by Marie-Thérèse Champesme, opened on June 24, 2003, at the Paleis van Schone Kunsten, Brussels. It was accompanied by an extensive catalogue and traveled to two other venues.