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Guillaume Bijl (1946 - )

Related: art in Belgium - installation art - modern art


Since the 1980s artists have diversified materials and concepts and have thus distanced themselves from reality. Intuition and unexpected associations create sculptural expressions that could convey powerful inner feelings, in a world between abstraction and new figuration. On a monumental scale, Guillaume Bijl (b. 1946) displayed life-size interiors of spaces in daily life. --http://www.lowcountriessculpture.org/briefhistoryen4.htm [Apr 2005]

Installation Guinness World Record, 2002

Galerie Annie Gentils 2002
Guillaum Bijl's interventions fall mainly into 2 categories- the insertion of the unreal within the real and the appearance of reality within the constructed- while always acknowledging the contexts of art and everyday life. With the latest version of the installation Guinness World Record, Bijl created a supposedly real event that took place in a gallery, a place that a priori reduces everything to its exhibitive value.

Entering the exhibition, the visitor was confronted with photocopies documenting the attempt of a certain Richard Evans to break the world record in number counting "this weekend". The gallery was further divided into two spaces, the first serving as a gathering place for viewers and containing an exhibition of Guinness World Records paraphernalia in display cases. Two monitors were hung high on the walls, one showing a documentary of world record challenges, the other showing Richard Evans in "real time" trying to push the boundaries in the history of counting. The second space was a small corridor with a diorama; behind a glass window Richard Evans was seen from the back, sitting behind a desk. A sound recording of his counting enhanced the effect of the video, helping to convince spectators of the events authenticity. A meticulous attention to detail allowed Bijl to achieve his usual verisimilitude - he even engraved a copper plate acknowledging fictional sponsors for the donation of plants for the event.

Not just a performance, Bijl's work staged on life, an exceptional undertaking within this oeuvre. Whereas in former installations the artist tended to highlight the characteristics of places that are supposed to integrate individuals and society (such as driving schools or shopping malls) , it seems as though he has moved toward an exploration of traditional customs with this quite bizarre piece. Conscious of the fact that reality is a construct, reducing participation and communication to spectacle, Guinness World Record appeared to be more tendency to favor a kind of art that is based on the "event" and thus easily mediated toward the needs of the entertainment industry. --(Ph. Pirotte in Thema Celeste may-june 2002)

Susan Canning

Guillaume Bijl also works exclusively with installation, but his focus is on the discourse of display. Most of Bijl's projects are built and placed in galleries and museums and titled "situation-installation" and "composition trouvé." Paying great attention to detail, Bijl serves as a sort of visual archeologist whose historical dioramas reference the world of leisure, entertainment, and shopping. Functioning as sites for social and mercantile exchange and not as actual spaces where social interaction takes place, Bijl's displays speak to the ways in which collective fantasies and fetishes are advertised and sold. In a sense, as a recent survey of his work, organized by Antwerp's Museum of Contemporary Art (MUKHA), demonstrated, all of Bijl's installations are elaborate still-lifes, reflecting back through the artifice of their arranged presentation how consumer goods package and sanction desire. Like Broodthaers, whose museum mirrored unstated social relationships and systems of power, Bijl's stratagem of ironic verisimilitude works only when the audience recognizes that these familiar environments have been emptied of meaning due to their installation within the aestheticized space of the museum. --Susan Canning

Annie Gentils


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