Curator talk: Devrim Bayar on Le Musée des Erreurs

With Pierre Leguillon’s retrospective exhibition Le Musée des Erreurs closing in just over a week at WIELS, we put a few questions to the show’s curator Devrim Bayar and discuss starting points, questions raised and personal involvement.

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© 2015 Sven Laurent – Let me shoot for you

Can you talk to us about the exhibition? What were its starting points?

Right from the start, the idea was to organize a retrospective exhibition of the French artist Pierre Leguillon. The artist had already had several major solo shows in prestigious institutions, but the presentation at WIELS is the largest to date and it traces his entire artistic practice: from his first slideshows and film projections entitled « La Promesse de l’écran » to his more recent installations, two of which are shown to the public for the first time.

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© 2015 Sven Laurent – Let me shoot for you

How does the exhibition’s name help to evoke its content?

The exhibition’s title, « The Museum of Mistakes: Contemporary Art and Class Struggle », is intentionally provoking. The notion of ‘a museum of errors’ was actually already very present in Pierre Leguillon’s practice. For instance, he regularly publishes images on his blog and has already organized a small exhibition that also was called « The Museum of Mistakes » (shown at the Brussels art school ERG in 2013). Pierre Leguillon questions the way in which art is presented to the public and how display devices condition our perception. The fact that an image is framed or merely pined to the wall for instance lends it a completely different aspect. Likewise for movies. Thanks to new technologies, screens are becoming ever so bigger and their definitions ever so closer to reality (think of 3D movies). It gives the viewer the sensation of being sucked into the picture and losing all notion of frame or context. Pierre Leguillon plays with different presentation modes in order to show us that images are always brought to the spectator through a material context that also conveys meaning, maybe even ideology.

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© 2015 Sven Laurent – Let me shoot for you

How would you describe the majority of the works on show? In a more general sense, how would you describe the artist’s work, his approach and aesthetic?

Pierre Leguillon collects images produced by others that he re-interprets for his own work. His practice can therefore be associated with what we call “appropriation art”, an artistic movement that challenges the notion of authorship. Who produced the work? The person who initially created the image, the one who re-uses it or the one who views it? He also blurs the limits of predefined categories and roles in the art world, namely that of the artist, the collector, the curator and the visitor. The work of Pierre Leguillon therefore invites us to question the usual roles and hierarchies of art. And that’s where the second part of the exhibition’s title, « Contemporary Art and Class Struggle», comes from. It attests to the political weight of the artist’s work.

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© 2015 Sven Laurent – Let me shoot for you

In terms of approach, how did you go about producing the show? How involved was the artist?

Right from the start, Pierre Leguillon was very much involved in the show’s conceptualization, which is normal when you consider the fact that his artistic practice explores the way in which artworks are shown. The show’s scenography as well as the selection of works were therefore all decided together with him.

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© 2015 Sven Laurent – Let me shoot for you

As a curator, how important is your relationship with the exhibited artist?

Very important. When you exhibit the work of an artist, you have to immerse yourself in his or her universe. I thus spent long hours with Pierre discussing, not only the exhibition and his artistic practice but also many other things that are not directly connected to his work but help to shape it. It is an incredibly enriching process, which requires commitment, curiosity and empathy.

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© 2015 Sven Laurent – Let me shoot for you

From research to scenography, can you discuss the various different people involved in the show?

Any exhibition is a team effort. The curators are often put forward in the communication of the shows, but in reality there are many people involved, such as the technical team, the assistant curators, the sponsors, the financial partners, the lenders, etc… This is the reason why we always present the entire list of people who contributed to our shows at the entrance of the exhibitions at WIELS. These are opening credits, similar in a way to those you find in films.

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© 2015 Sven Laurent – Let me shoot for you

What do you hope viewers will get from visiting the show?

I hope visitors will become more mindful of the ways in which art, and by extension all the images that surround us, is presented are never neutral and that every display devices – be it in a gallery, a museum, a magazine or on the Internet – will always transmit an ideology. The point therefore is for us to sharpen our critical sense.

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© 2015 Sven Laurent – Let me shoot for you

On a more personal level, how has working on this exhibition enriched your understanding of the artist’s work? And of contemporary art more generally?

Before working on this project, I knew some of the artist’s works but I’ve definitely learned a lot during the preparations. The artist’s reflections on the way the art world is hierarchized also made me think of my own role and my own responsibilities as a curator.

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© 2015 Sven Laurent – Let me shoot for you

As a curator, how do you select the artists whom you’d like to exhibit? Would you say your shows all have somewhat of a common denominator to them?

For my last shows, I worked with American artists Allen Ruppersberg and Robert Heinecken, who also collect reproduced images (photographs, posters, advertisements, etc.) which they re-use for their own work. They clearly share some of Leguillon’s interrogations, such as the notion of authorship, but also his deep sense of how the materiality of images influences our perceptions. Even if some of these works go back a few decades or make use of old imagery, the questions these artists raise are still very relevant, even essential. The culture in which we live has progressively become so digital that it seems increasingly intangible. These artists make us reflect on the specific conditions of image consumption in today’s environment.

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© 2015 Sven Laurent – Let me shoot for you
 
Pierre Leguillon – Le Musée des Erreurs
Until 22nd February
Wiels, Brussels