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Martine Feipel & Jean Bechameil "Garden of Resistance" (Audio- + Miniguide)

Commissioned to devise a unique project for Mudam’s Jardin des Sculptures, artists Martine Feipel and Jean Bechameil (b. 1975, Luxembourg/b. 1964, Paris) have conceived this exhibition especially for this glass-roofed space, responding to its function as a ‘garden’ for artworks.

Rich in visual references to the avant-garde movements of the early twentieth century (including the Bauhaus, Constructivism and Cubism) the work of Feipel and Bechameil addresses the complex relationships that exist between technical progress and industry. Reflecting, on the one hand, a period of considerable growth and change, and on the other, the social revolutions that took place and the accompanying hope and disillusionment, their work draws attention to the discrepancy between social progress and an improvement in living conditions, and the slow dehumanisation and fragmentation of the human body. Today, our societies are composed of individuals who depend on technological ‘prostheses’ meant to assist them in their everyday life.

At Mudam, the artists address this question of allegiance to technology in a new light.The exhibition, entitled Garden of Resistance, consists of three sculptures, including a new work. Together they create an artificial, automatised landscape intended to ‘unite the inert and the animate’. The work questions the capacity of our natural environment to develop strategies of resistance to the pressures brought to bear on it by industry. At the same time, the exhibition proposes a fantastical scenario; a hybridisation between nature and technology as opposed to the familiar nature/culture binary. Conceived as a garden of a different nature, its components are not plant-based but metallic and electronic. Nature is denatured; and becomes monstrous.

Two sculptures, both entitled L’Immortelle [The Immortal], represent respectively an unclassified tree, whose bark is composed of aluminium, and a pumpkin displaying the same characteristics. The principal work, and the one which gives the exhibition its title, is also made of aluminium and includes several painted elements. Visually, it has the appearance of a felled tree, its cut trunk lying across the exhibition space. Yet, on the upper part, some coloured shoots survive, suggesting the resilience of nature. In forested areas, dead trees remain a source of life and hospitality. New habitats develop there, and fauna and flora are reborn. This cyclical notion of time contradicts our cultural habit to perceive time as linear, as a succession of events with a beginning and an end.

The notion of linear time is yet further endorsed by a world where technical inventions that punctuate the march of progress are stamped with obsolescence, and thus programmed for destruction. The sculpture Garden of Resistance also suggests life through the continuous rotation of a section of the tree. As if autonomous, this purposeless, mechanical movement can be read as an act of resistance against obsolescence.

The slight background rustling that can be heard in the installation is intended to confirm the transition from a natural, open space to a place of architecture where the sky, seen through the glass walls of the Jardin des Sculptures, is the connecting element. These enclosed forest sounds which bring different forms of life from the outdoors together in a single space, append the living to the artificial. Feipel and Bechameil make no statement here; they are simply opening up spaces for reflection – in the first place, upon technology. Can technology, by following a model based on that of nature and the law of evolution, enable a technical object, a robot or a machine, to move beyond its current stage as a closed object? Can this object become a thing capable of regeneration, of engendering new forms of life – something which at present remains the privilege of nature?

The artists also consider nature itself; kept at a respectable distance for centuries and so brutally mistreated in the early years of the twenty-first century. The capacity of nature to adapt and its resilience often wrongly appear to us to be limitless. Is it possible that a transformation of natural material into processed materials could give birth to a new kind of environment? On their detour through the imaginary world, Feipel and Bechameil’s works lead us back to the realities and challenges of today.