Fabrice Gygi is an artist from Geneva who has become increasingly important on the contemporary art scene over the past few years in Switzerland, and more recently, abroad. His work has been shown in various group–Nonchalance, Centre PasquArt, Bienne, Freie Sicht aufs Mittelmeer, Kunsthaus Zurich, Dogdays are Over, Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris, Xn00, Espace des Arts, Chalon-sur-Saône–and solo exhibitions–at the Centre d’Art de Neuchâtel, and at the Magasin-Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Grenoble. He has also produced works for public spaces on the occasion of Over the Edges in Ghent, in Fribourg at the invitation of the Kunsthalle and in Bienne during Transfer. His pieces are also regularly on view at galleries Bob von Orsouw in Zurich and Chantal Crousel in Paris.
Very early, he expanded his art practice from performance to installation and works in public space and from printmaking to the edition of multiples.
At first, he was active in a local art scene closely associated with the squat movement, then very strong in Geneva. In this urban context his antagonist relation to the social order expressed itself through his choice of a nomadic and alternative lifestyle. This position, sometimes verging on anarchy, took form through actions of direct protest–demonstrations, squatting of buildings, opposition to the army–as well as through more personal gestures–vandalism, tattoos, fights–and of course through particularly radical artistic statements where he physically appeared and sometimes even endangered himself. In his first performances he often abused his own body: burns, holes, straps and ties tested the limit between himself, his body, and the outside world. The recurrent metaphor of the skin–expanded to garment-like pieces (survival outfit, chador), and by extension to architectures (tarpaulin covered structures, tents)–plays an important role in defining this boundary, both protective and porous, threatened and constantly unbalanced, perpetually destroyed and reconstructed. The skin carries within itself the question of identity, as it oscillates between the position of the active subject and the one of the object dominated by its social context. This inquiry lies at the heart of Fabrice Gygi’s work.
Gygi’s often theatrical attitude during his performances made him both victim and executioner, creating an atmosphere of tension and dread that left a feeling of danger hovering over the spectators. In an ambivalent turn, the artist showed both his fascination and his protest against power. The origin of this ambiguity lies in his understanding of society, since in his words «every citizen is a potential figure of authority, as he exists in a position of contiguity to the social order.»1
Representing this social and political perspective, his installations–first produced for his personal use and a constantly mobile lifestyle, later taking the form of urban furniture derived from existing equipment–offer spaces for everyday life, pleasures, pains or gatherings. His objects–tents, market stalls, gym mattress, giant airbags, scenes, podiums, booths for sentries or retail–engage the spectator directly and provide him with food, drink and music. But in most cases, recuperating military or paramilitary esthetics, police and nationalist emblems or sports and road marking, they are a cold and silent reflection of our over-organized Western environment and its everyday aggressions against individuality.
These structures are bear witness to the social and civic situations are insidiously imposed upon us on a daily basis. An organization structured according to «markers» which interfere with our freedom of movement and which guide us, physically and morally, in an especially obvious fashion in Switzerland. Like his over sensitive perception, the devices built by the artist remind us the hard way of our physicality, in an inescapable confronted to the social body.
For this new exhibition at the Centre d’édition contemporaine, Fabrice Gygi presents an installation related to our new location. The big windows of the storefront–usually completely open onto the street–will be totally blocked out by tarpaulin blinds, hiding the view from inside and outside. The space will be protected from the curiosity of the passers-by, a rather paradoxical and unique situation for a space which houses an art center. However, the spectators who will dare to cross our door will enjoy the intimacy necessary to the contemplation of art. The multiple produced for the occasion of the show by the Centre d’édition contemporaine is a «tool», a kind of hanging hook, in cast aluminum, in an edition of 30, presented in a simple cardboard box. This object, close to a factory product, somewhere between the useful and the weapon, will be installed just behind our «new windows».