Fabrice Gygi

The Aesthetics of Control essay by Irene Hofmann, curator Orange County Museum of Art.
The Request for Proper Local Authorization Will Prevail (for an asthetics of camouflage) essay by Jean-Charles Massera, Le Magasin, Grenoble.
Project for a Nudist Colony: Some Literary, Philosophical, and Political Fragments essay by John Miller.
Magasin 3 supplement prologue by Richard Julin, curator Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall and installation photos.
Exhibition catalogue published on occasion of the exhibition at Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California, Oct 2005 – March 2006. ISBN 3-905701-26-x. 159 pages, color, illustrations. The catalogue is available in English, French and German edition. Published by JRP|Ringier, Zurich, 2005
Price: 350 SEK (approx. 35 EUR)

The Aesthetics of Control
Irene Hofmann

“For me art is like resisting. It helps me to survive in a society despite the fact that I completely disagree with it.”
-Fabrice Gygi (1999)

Fabrice Gygi’s works take the form of site-specific installations, large-scale sculptures, and functional public structures that reference the often-unnoticed architecture of authority in urban environments. In Gygi’s works, objects such as bleachers, crowd-control barriers, podiums, loudspeakers, and tents become stripped of their civic or military utility and charged with an ambiguous political character. Many of his works take on a dual quality, bearing as much resemblance to a temporary structure to house a party or town meeting as they do to a site for a military tribunal or refugee camp. With recognizable forms and materials, these works are as familiar as they are alienating. Their apparent disconnection from service proposes new readings of their forms and an interrogation of the social, civic, and political power systems that they reference.

The formal legacy of 1960s Minimalism is strong in Gygi’s works, evident in their forms and scale, their industrial materials, and their relationship to the viewer’s body. In Gygi’s hands, however, Minimalism’s inherent aloofness and hermeticism give way to objects that are infused with potent social and political content. While the critique inherent in Gygi’s works can at times be subtle, his forms are anything but. As with strategies employed by contemporary artists such as Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle or Adrian Piper, the impact of Gygi’s social, racial, or political content becomes heightened in the alluring guise of the seemingly incongruous spare, polished, and minimal forms of his sculptures. To understand both the visual source of Gygi’s materials and the forms and the roots of his conceptual vocabulary, it is useful to be aware of how his Swiss background has shaped his work. Born in Geneva, Gygi was raised in a culture in which the military is a pervasive presence and in which consensus, discipline, protection, and order are the hallmarks of public and private life and the basis for the country’s social and political ideologies. With a foreign policy doctrine of armed neutrality, Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as mediator and host to major international treaties and summits. Belonging to neither NATO nor the European Union and having only recently joined the United Nations, Switzerland has maintained strict foreign and domestic policies intended to ensure the stability of its economy and the security and protection of its borders and citizens.

It is within this context that Gygi has lived his life, at first rebelling against rules and policies mandated by family, school, and government, and later presenting his critique in the form of artworks that subvert power structures and symbols of authority in all guises around the world. Whether creating a sculpture evoking Geneva’s exaggerated build-up of riot and crowd control personnel and equipment on the eve of a world summit, a mobile hand-washing facility conceived as a response to New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s “civility campaign” against street vendors, or a menacing watchtower in the middle of an exhibition in São Paulo as a means of addressing the public obsession with security, Gygi skillfully appropriates the materials and instruments of urban structures to present a multilayered critique of the authoritarian systems in our culture that are deployed under the pretext of safety and public interest.

Excerpt from the catalogue text by Irene Hofmann, 2005.