Baptiste Debombourg’s works derive from the relationship he draws together between everyday things and his experiences with art. For the most part his works are sculptural, but he also creates performances, drawings, photographs, and videos. The diversity of means and materials relates to the way he creates artistic tropes out of ephemeral matter — slave objects we use and throw away, like packing material Styrofoam and cardboard, shopping catalogs, cigarette butts, staples — and support materials — the things we take for granted, like walls, security glass, and furniture. Generally he treats the unglamorous slave objects as if they were precious, like the etching by Hendrick Goltzius, a contemporary of Michelangelo, which he remade using staples, in Air Force One, and which reads like a bas-relief about falling from Heaven; while doing just the opposite with the support materials, which he tends to smash up and carefully glue back together, such as Turbo, a ripped open a plaster wall that looks as if it had been rammed by a truck, or Crystal Palace a banged-up, security glass bus stop he reconstructed into a sagging but functional wreck.


In his videos and photographs he engages the real-life activities of hobbyists, like weekend racers who use reconstructed half-sized automobiles — T.C.S. (Traine-cul Surprise), meaning something like “drag-ass surprise” — and people whose passions project a modest personal heroism, such as body-builders or business people. He writes out slogans like “Your Potential/Our Passion” with cigarette butts and draws minute plans for curiously impossible architectural, Tradition of Excellence, the staircase of a small house descending into the earth through layers of longitudinal lines.


The smashed-up works are suggestively cinematic, as if for a special effect. I’m reminded of the robot in Terminator II, constantly remaking itself for another fight. Where titles like Crystal Palace or Air Force One are ironic, they are not cynical, for he looks for ways to add feeling, or affect, to his ephemeral objects and documented space-time events, like the battered furniture. His works aren’t about ecology, recuperation, political identity, or media. These are objects and discoveries transformed into metaphorical questions to contemplate.


Jeff Rian
presse release of the Baptiste Debombourg solo show at the Galerie Patricia Dorfmann.