Stefan Bruggëmann - 'oK', UntItled ActIon

Site-specific installation
ST20 Part 2: ‘Contra-Culture'

Images by Nina Shen-Poblete

‘OK’ (untitled action) is a public-facing, monumental installation produced under lockdown in Folkestone. Developed in dialogue with its commissioner, HOP Projects CT20 during physical and social isolation, it comes at a time when HOP launches its most ambitious and radical arts programme to date – Surface Tensions 2020 (ST20), which also marks a pivotal point in Bruggëmann’s artistic career that calls for new creative directions.

At a time when galleries and museums alike face an unprecedented shift in the way in which art is to be presented to the public, forced by COVID19 and rules of social distancing to retreat indoors and turn to the digital, we feel it ever more urgent to turn these extraordinary times into a bold and defiant physical gesture:

The entire frontage of HOP Projects CT20 has been turned into a monolith – its shutters drawn and windows blocked, completely and painstakingly gilded in gold-leaf, on top of which is inscribed with – in a gesture wielding a fire extinguisher, thick lashings of black paint and with excess dripping down in black lines from the bold calligraphic strokes – the word ‘OK’ scrawled over the gold surface, gleaming and staring back at the on-lookers. 

‘Untitled action’ deliberately provokes by juxtaposing contrasting elements that convey meaning through a heightened sense of drama and tension. Gold leaf, historically reserved for those artworks intended to convey spiritual or indeed economic power, is here a canvas for an unceremonious and immediate form of expression: graffiti. Bruggëmann, in an unapologetically punk-esque manner – simply spells out ‘OK’ over the top; the precise and minimalist abstraction of the adjective – is it a sigh of resignation, an ironic text message, a telegram of hope, a signal of universal feeling of helplessness?

Within its layering, rather than proposing any fixed definitions, ‘OK’ aims to provoke and enliven the viewers to question the illusory and unstable nature of power as we know it – taking the form of a palimpsest upon historical baggage with a religious grandeur that meets a nature of protest and vandalism not only with modern law but with a colloquial language. Such sensationalism played with as a mere image proves to be a façade in its meaning, yet a meaning which unites and radicalises in its mocking physicality. Additional to the architectural interpretations which come with it, this artwork as a complete representation relies on being seen through a particular time and space in order to piece together, provoking an underlying fear of uncertainty upon the onlooker as if it could disappear at any moment.

In Bruggëmann’s words: ‘gold in our society has been fluctuating between the economical power and the spiritual power, how it fluctuates during this time of uncertainty really makes you doubt. It is a projection of our current situation.’

 

Stefan Bruggëmann:

Born in Mexico City, Bruggëmann is an artist whose work associates a conceptual practice with a raw attitude and criticism that simultaneously calls into question his own approach while it reflects on the present societal context. Even if the artist works principally with text, using the materials of vinyl and neon lights, he explores a wide array of mediums, ranging from video, to painting and drawing. His work draws their meaning from a strange combination of philosophical concepts and popular imagery, often inspired by punk ideals and attitudes (nonconformism, provocation, and cynicism), which emerge from tautological expressions. They rely on a certain self-contained logic, but also point to the context in which they were conceived and the goal of eventually inserting a pop sensibility into certain conceptual practices. 

Bruggëmann is represented by Hauser & Wirth. He recently exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Kunsthalle in Bern, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Yvon Lambert Gallery in Paris, the Blow de La Barra in London, the Bass Museum in Miami, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfort and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cincinnati.


Bruggëmann’s work kickstarts ST20 Part II: ‘Contra Culture’, which commissions 4 engaging site-specific installations that subvert established powers & narratives, by deliberately imitating, appropriating and mirroring existing conditions, and juxtaposing them through a kaleidoscope of lived experiences.


Surface Tensions 2020 presents art that is deeply immersed in the traumas, struggles and violence of our time, from the perspectives of those on the margins, subverting established powers and narratives in a collective act of creative resistance, and questioning our relationships to Western identity and nationalism.