Buildering: Misbehaving the City

Blaffer Art Museum

21.09.14 - 06.12.14

Houston, TX

Buildering: Misbehaving the City is a traveling group exhibition exploring the unsanctioned use of architecture and the urban environment. Fusing the words “building” and “bouldering” (a type of rock climbing performed without harnesses or ropes), “buildering” serves as a metaphor for the creative misuse of built structures to circumvent their intended function. It suggests the possibility of alternative forms of engagement, both physical and psychological—or whatARCHITECT magazine columnist Aaron Betsky, reviewing Buildering when it premiered at the Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati, called “parkour turned into art.”

Artist Talk

Maryland Institute College of Art


Baltimore, MD

2 Wheelers

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

06.13.14 - 07.09.14

Halifax, NS

Curated by Dale Sheppard

2 Wheelers is an exhibition about bikes opening during HRM Bike Week. It brings together works by artists of all ages and practices that explore the playful, functional and political role of the bicycle. The exhibition is designed to take you through four spaces of the Gallery.

Transmission/Frequency: Tesla and His Legacy

Interdisciplinary Experimental Arts at Colorado College

01.09.14 - 18.10.14

Colorado Springs, CO


Overpower [2013] cast bronze, broken light bulb, 10 000 volts ignition coil. A bronze statuette of a knight bearing a sword, pulses 10,000 volts and ignites a broken household light bulb. Sparks fly as the characters fight off obsolescence, in a battle between faith and reason.

Transmission/Frequency: Tesla and His Legacy features artists whose works reflect — deliberately or not — Nikola Tesla’s maverick spirit and enduring legacy. Featured projects engage some of Tesla’s ideas, such as free-floating electrical current, self-sustaining systems/movements, electrical and fluorescent light, and magnetic fields. The exhibition will also include images and reproductions of Tesla’s inventions and excerpts from his journals, particularly those written during his time in Colorado Springs.

The work Overpower will be installed as part of this group exhibition.

Tragedy Plus Time

Dunlop Art Gallery

04.07.14 - 27.08.14

Regina, SK

Curated by Blair Fornwald, Jennifer Matotek, and Wendy Peart

“Comedy is tragedy plus time.”

This statement articulates the effects of time and critical distance, and the transformative and political dimensions of comedy. The artists in Tragedy Plus Time use humour to address a spectrum of difficult content, from the trauma inflicted by general societal ills, to tragedies which are more personal and specific.

The work Lost Object has been installed as part of this group exhibition.

Oh Canada

Owens Art Gallery

27.06.14 - 21.09.14

Sackville, NB

Curated by Denise Markonish

Oh Canada is a group exhibition organized by Mass Moca (Massachusetts, USA) featuring works by contemporary Canadian artists including Kim Adams, Shary Boyle, Marcel Dzama, BGL, Dean Baldwin and Kelly Mark. As part of the exhibition, the sculpture Tortoise will be on exhibition at Owens Art Gallery in Sackville, NB.


Galeria Awangarda

30.05.14 - 31.08.14

Wroclaw, Poland

The 4th International Biennale of Urban Art OUT OF STH focuses on the theme of bicycle. Not in the context of sport, but in its social dimension, as well as a mark of a modern, dynamically changing city. T
he video work Smoke will be featured as part of the biennale. Velodream is curated by Blandine Roselle, Sarah Cnudde, KRAFT, France.

Brooklyn Commons

Vito Acconci & Michel de Broin

15.04.14 - 6:30PM

ISCP New York City

Vito Acconci and Michel de Broin will discuss architecture, interaction between people and spaces, unfamiliar sites, and the utility of objects.

Brooklyn Commons, an occasional discussion series at ISCP, presents intellectual and artistic pairings between the established Brooklyn-based artist community and ISCP residents. This series puts artists in conversation who have not shared a dialogue in the past and focuses on cultural practitioners living and working in Brooklyn, both long- and short-term.

Brooklyn Commons is organized by Kari Conte, ISCP Director of Programs and Exhibitions.


Buildering: Misbehaving the City

Contemporary Arts Center

28.02.14 - 18.08.14

Cincinnati, Ohio

Jeux de Tables   [2014]  24 Tables

Buildering is a term coined for the unsanctioned use of architecture – fusing the words “building” and “bouldering” to describe a rapidly growing movement that reformulates how we live the city. Beyond acrobatics, vandalism and occupation, this practice becomes a metaphor for the creative misuse of built structure – denying the assigned/intended function of urban structures to re-open the possibility of alternatives. If we believe the premise that ideologies are implanted through the public’s navigation of the city plan, then actions associated with buildering break the hypnosis of ritual and cultivate new freedoms – both physical and psychological.

Buildering will explore this phenomenon from a global perspective, gathering both established and emerging artists from around the world. The artists include Ivan Argote (Colombia/France), Bestue-Vives (Spain), Etienne Boulanger (France), Egle Budvytyte (Lithuania), Michel de Broin (Canada), Didier Faustino (France/Portugal), Shaun Gladwell (Australia), Wiebke Grösch & Frank Metzger (Germany), Alex Hartley (UK), Iman Issa (Egypt), Antal Lakner (Hungary), Los Carpinteros (Cuba), Alison Moffett (USA/UK), Adam Putnam (USA), Pia Rönicke (Denmark), Monika Sosnowska (Poland), Sebastian Stumpf (Germany), Kamila Szejnoch (Poland), Lee Walton (USA), Carey Young (UK) and Hector Zamora (Mexico/Brazil). Collectively they will generate a playful, mischievous and lively show with strong socio-cultural underpinning. (Steven Matijcio, curator)

The work of Michel de Broin delights in theatrical contradiction, inviting competing references to take up residence in material form. Survival, shields and satire are recurring motifs in his playful paradoxes, turning everyday furnishings into architectural conundrums. In past works like Shelter (2006), office tables meant to facilitate congregation and assembly are instead transformed into the armored components of a fortress-like structure. The benevolent democracy of coming together across the shared surface of a tabletop, thereby gives way to defensive upturned structures with legs pointed out. Anticipating outright assault, Testudo (2009) references the Roman “tortoise” military formation where soldiers would cluster together, overlaps shields and point their spears outward. The table as an archetype of communion is thusly divided into distinct factions of “inside” and “outside.” Jeux de Tables is the most current iteration of this ongoing series, turning 24 otherwise ordinary desks into a multi-tiered board game without rules or resolution. Hierarchy and central organization are also conspicuously absent, suggesting a shift in tone where the binaries of top/bottom, inside/outside, individual/collective are collapsed in an open field of play. (SM)

Anxious Stability [1997/2014] Brick, Mortar, Metal Beams, Hydraulic Jack

This is a re-activation of one of de Broin’s earliest works, and a performance of the “magic realism” with which he treats architectural absolutes. In the canons of such convention, the column stands alone as the archetypal load-bearing Atlas. In the CAC it assumes an especially conspicuous role as Zaha Hadid bestowed her concrete pillars with both aesthetic and spatial swagger. De Broin follows this lead but unsettles its structural conceit, turning the spotlight on a tentative column to examine its underlying contingency. Like walking into the middle of a levitation daydream, this column is squeezed precariously into space – resting on little more than a humble hydraulic jack and a stack of metal beams. Tension and titillation accrue in equal measure as the column is tenuously held in place against the ceiling, reversing the typical weight-bearing relationship between post and lintel. As it sits poised to tip, the illusions of certainty and control we impart upon our buildings also begin to teeter. Without function, free of architectural responsibility, this reborn column is allowed to float into new possibility. (SM)

Terrain sensible

Espinoa - Espace culturel

31.01.14 - 02.03.14

Baignes, France

Shared Propulsion Car [2005]
Modified automobile body, pedals, seats and candles
430 x 160 x 120 cm

Saâdane Afif – Olivier Babin – Katinka Bock – Michel de Broin – Cyprien Gaillard – Piero Gilardi – François Méchain – Kirsten Mosher – Tania Mouraud / oeuvres de la collection du FRAC Poitou-Charentes

Artforum critic’s pick

bitforms gallery

24.10.13 - 07.12.13

New York, NY

Michel de Broin’s US solo debut activates cracked lightbulbs, wood logs, bronze castings, and a bicycle with electric currents. The Montreal-based artist calls upon these basic objects to convey fundamental physical forces, all the while adding a trace of whimsy to his works. The result is a constituency of protean ingenuity. A superlative example is Overpower, 2013: A ten-thousand-volt current blazes through a bronze warrior figure that wields a sword over a broken lightbulb. Charged by the voltage, the sword ignites the bulb’s filament, resulting in an electric flash that rushes between the two objects.

The smartly titled sculpture Logged On, 2013, demonstrates the incongruity of de Broin’s practice. A steel girder stands erect on the floor, as a shorter log clings to its side. This strange embrace is maintained by an electrical current fed through a coil inserted into the log, magnetizing it to the steel beam. There is an underlying temporality in this fragile partnership’s reliance on an uninterrupted flow of power: The manmade beam, so much larger than the log, privileges the human product over the human. Elsewhere, a video titled Smoke, 2010, shows a bike being ridden through a cemetery, leaving trails of smoke behind it. De Broin creates this effect by converting the rider’s energy into an electrical current, which activates a smoke machine. As the ghostly fog dissipates it evokes terrestrial impermanence, a note echoed in the headstones through which it drifts. In the gallery, the bike itself rests against a column, affording an inspection of its mechanics. Both of these works require finite energy sources to run transformative systems—if the metaphysical is at play here, the sheer brevity of what is temporal (us) has been brought fully into focus.

— Darren Jones, Artforum

Retooled Appliances

bitforms gallery

24.10.13 - 07.12.13

New York, NY

The exhibition at bitforms gallery features five pieces. Ranging from assemblage to video and photography, these works explore the technological unconscious. All studies of physical potential, these works produce resistance, entropy and challenge the utopian or authoritative conventions associated with technical progress. Crafting new relationships between waste, productivity, risk and consumption.

Tour de force [2013] Consists of five used automotive tires forced inside one another.

Overpower [2013] A bronze statuette of a knight bearing a sword, pulses 10,000 volts and ignites a broken household light bulb. Sparks fly as the characters fight off obsolescence, in a battle between faith and reason.

Logged On [2013] A wood log found lying on the ground, has been repaired with a powerful coil inserted into its core. When the coil draws on the gallery’s electrical current, the resistance produces a magnetic field that enables it to cling to a heavy slab of steel balanced against the wall. Resistance and power are connected both physically and conceptually: if the current is disconnected, the log is cut off and returns to the earth.

Pile [2010] Based on the assumption that there are more street lamps in our urban life than trees, the photograph “Pile” features a lampposts cut into logs, assembled in a wood cord

Keep on Smoking [2006] The bicycle transforms kinetic energy produced by its rider. Powered by a renewable source of energy, the cyclist’s will, a custom generator transforms this physical effort into an electric current, which activates a smoke machine.

Smoke [2010] A video captures the sculpture’s ride through an Estonian cemetery, a trail of vapor is discharged from the exhaust, startling bystanders with its unexpected emissions and the contradiction in propulsion. The project is a marriage of two machines: one that produces, while the other consumes. Their “copulation” generates smoke, which escapes freely into the atmosphere.


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Off to a Flying Start

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche

05.10.13 - 06.10.13

Toronto, ON

Curated by Ami Barak

Tortoise – Tower, Cube, Tunnel [2013]

The ancient Roman ‘tortoise formation’ was a siege technique using overlapping shields, giving protection from arrows and boiling oil, and serving as a platform to raise attackers. Inspired by the plated carapace of the land turtle, this military formation was a defensive architecture powered by humans.

Tortoise is a series of assemblage sculptures using standard picnic tables — an immediately recognizable representation of North American leisure culture — as building blocks to construct elaborate structures.

Supporting one another, showing their undersides and legs in an almost defensive manner against surrounding threats, the picnic tables of the Tortoise series form towering look-out and fort-like structures, defining and guarding their inner space. In this way, this symbol of leisure is turned inside out to create sculptures that resist their essential banality.

Mediaciones: Festival de artes electronicas y video / Transitio_MX 5

Centro Nacional de las Artes

21.09.13 - 29.09.13

Mexico City

Transesterification [2008] HDV video, 2 min 33 sec
Transesterification is a chemical process whereby human fat is transformed into anthropo-diesel fuel.  The chemical reaction is catalyzed by the addition of alcohol (CH4O) and caustic acid (NaOH).  The video depicts a suspicious car in a deserted parking lot performing a senseless dance. The vehicle’s interior is saturated with smoke, as if processes of combustion were occurring inside the car. The driver disappears in the dazzling white light.