Pas éléphant, solo exhibition by Peter Buggenhout
The title of the exhibition originates from specific references:
The idea of the Polish mathematician Stanislas Ulam, famous notably for his influence on the concept of nonlinear science, which establishes comparisons between human knowledge of the universe and those of elephants: if we know everything about the elephant, we are unaware of what is not « elephant »...
An Indian tale « the blind and the elephant », story of six blind who discover an elephant little by little using their touch. One is convinced that it looks like a gigantic fan, another thinks of huge wall; each perceives a different reality yet they are certain of their own truths, blinded by their own point of view...
The Dogons (Malian tribe) create strange sculptures, divinities called the Nbolé, which they install at the entrance of their villages to project them from the devil. However, they do not know how the Gods look like, which is why they grant their sculptures different animal forms: head of cat, legs of frog, body of elephant...
The sculptures The Blind Leading the Blind are truly clusters of matter carefully composed and then covered with dust. The use of dust in its thickness and density gives a certain saturation effect, a kind of suffocation and loss of markers, revealing unfathomable and indeterminate forms, which seem to come from abandoned wrecks or urban wastelands left behind after a disaster. As an echo to the Parable of the blind of Brueghel the Elder (1568), these artworks are manifestos of the artist’s work and his will to express the complexity and strangeness of the surrounding world.
The Gorgos, reference to the Gorgons in the Greek mythology, these fantastical and evil creatures, considered hideous and repulsive whose gaze has the power to turn anyone to stone. Like The Blind Leading the Blind, these sculptures provoke loss of markers and ambivalence. But also, by using abject materials (instead of dust, the artist uses dried blood and horsehair) to cover these delicate compositions, he creates a paradoxical tension between attraction and repulsion.
Originally, the Mont Ventoux are shapeless sculptures made from animal stomachs and intestines used as shells in which Peter Buggenhout introduces different objects, thus giving the sculptures various forms. Recently, the artist complicates these sculptures by associating animal stomachs with a large variety of materials: cardboard, wood, plastic or their molds in colored wax. Once again, Peter Buggenhout speaks of heterogeneity, multiple readings and ambivalence. Curiously, these intertwined and blended materials, textures, colors of elusive identity, come to create sculptural unities.
This recent series On Hold reveal how whatever creatures, although having their proper longing and characteristics, get disrupted and shaped by surrounding elements and events. One may compare it with the situation of plants, trees and animals in a forest, as all living creatures with their own means, fight to catch the light. In order to succeed they intertwine, remodel and change form finding the best possible shape and position. Human interaction isn’t that all different: one adjustment leading to another position, which invites to making a decision, in the hope that in the end things will turn out for the best. Conceived in interaction with the architecture in which it is deployed, On Hold conveys this inherent instability, never resolved: « every new position can never be the last one; my sculptures just ‘‘freeze’’ in transition ».
Finally the series Promising the Past finds its roots in drawings made in 2003-2004. Recently exhumed, these ancients’ works, anterior to the sculptural work of Peter Buggenhout, were extensively transformed. The artist started by chafing, ripping, peeling, scraping the layers of paper and linseed oil in an attempt to discover what is underneath, to retrace the true origin of these works. However, this pursuit seems futile and doomed. Here he outlines the limits of this research of origins and questions our relation with history, the passing of time which eventually distorts and conditions our perception and tends to idealize the past. Promising the Past acts as an impossible voyage to a virgin paradise, from which we can only catch a glimpse now and then.
Peter Buggenhout’s artworks can be seen from several angles, they do not have any fronts, backs, or preferred sides. No particular angle from which we need to look in order to fully comprehend, to an extent that when that are photographed (which implies a fixed view), they are often unrecognizable... Thus, his work strongly states the permanent instability of perspectives and of point of views, the multiplicity of possible interpretations. Peter Buggenhout’s work, through an analogical approach rather than symbolical, identifies this fundamental complexity (inability?) of understanding the world surrounding us, as we try to understand ourselves. His work bears witness to these relentless spiritual questionings, concerning our origins and future, which takes us in a complicated state of mind, forever swaying between reason and madness.