Michel de Broin

From the Work to the Artist

Michel de Broin was born in 1970 in Montreal, Canada and today lives between Montreal and Berlin, Germany.

Outside Agent _ For over fifteen years, Michel de Broin has moved between Canada, France and Germany, distilling his experiments and inventions which expose the exertive and insoluble contradictions of power systems. Whilst obtaining his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Montreal, his parallel first-exhibition in 1997 at the Circa (Montreal) named L’Opacité du Corps dans la Transparence des Circuits appeared like a manifest, already laying the ground-rules for his concerns. An electric circuit composed of a cable connecting two mineral oil recipients where respectively immerge a glass of red wine and, in the second, a light bulb. A vain attempt at a scientific experiment? The wine acts as a slow conductor, disturbing the energy flow thus the visitor operates a counter current between what it seen and the installation’s underlying message: an invisible loss of energy, a “weak” form of sabotage and a resistance by an impenetrable body - an inner agent. The video Fuite (2009) pursues this experience, producing an off-beat sense of humour with fine water sprays coming from the two holes in the wall plug. The visitor could just as easily call this potentially dangerous work, the Fountain.

Against the Grain
Michel de Broin never ceases to decline seemingly inoffensively contrasting systems, which are nonetheless profoundly disturbing. Révolution (2010), a monumental 40-metre high spiral staircase installed in the Rennes Jacobins Convent’s cloisters for the Biennale, offers those who desire the climb, a bizarre experience of “endless return”. A indirect tribute to the Tatlin Tower? The two functions of any staircase are to walk up or down but here they become interwoven – going up is like going down, similar to the unsolvable labyrinths of M.C. Escher, the lines of an infinite cycle.
Michel de Broin also explores art history, the different outlooks on works with a particular interest for avant-garde work at the beginning of the 20th century which broke with all classic codes. Matière dangereuse (1999-2004) exploits the analogy between two pictures and two function of the black square. On road signs placed at tunnel entrances of major axes around Montreal, Michel de Broin sees a reproduction of the Black Square on a White Background (1915) painted by Kasimir Malévitch and considered at the time to be the first logo. In wanting to confront the law, he drove onto the motorways with a giant black cube on the roof of his car. This led to a whole series of photos to be taken as well as a staged arrest with policemen.

Reciprocal Energy
Reciprocal Energy is the MAC/VAL exhibition title following his artist-in-residence in 2008. This work can summarize in itself, the work of Michel de Broin. The exhibition brings together all his concerns as well as the various mediums he enjoys using. Four works, Interpénétration Profonde, Sans Titre, Station, Transestérification, between sculpture, film and scale-models, proposing a more or less improbably alternative to the present-day energy crisis.
His proposition in Transestérification…the crisis of natural and energy resources is also a violently absurd and destructive issue in the contemporary world. Transestérification is an incredibly ludicrous film or scenario resulting in scouring realism where obese people produce gas through liposuction. Surrealist but efficient alchemy between CH40 (alcohol) and NaOH (caustic soda) – the oil obtained is equivalent to petro-diesel. From fat to natural essence, the man pours this mixture into his car which is therefore “fed” by the car driver…. The circle has come a full circle. The car is an extension of him-self, like a second pollution-free home. Station pieces together the possibility of this experience, modelling interdependent relationships. This demonstration is visualized by the essential phase before the project-realization – the model. From scale 1/100 to scale 1, Reciprocal Energy awaits the daring-enough entrepreneur who ingeniously links a liposuction clinic next to a biodiesel service station.
Scenario for a B movie or potential Cronenberg script? A “feasible” Utopia? da “Ferocious” irony?

L’éclaireur éclairé L’éclaireur éclairé (2000) is the title of one of his sculptures representing a protagonist-like figure brandishing a public street light like an act of vandalism. We can but agree with the evocative title and its wordplay with “turnaround” - the street light turning around on itself, lighting up the school and not the streets, recalling the phrase by Marcel Duchamp “it’s the spectator who makes the picture”.
Next up in his MAC/VAL exhibit, Michel de Broin displays his sculpture Interpénétration profonde which pushes game and life logic to an extreme. Two cubes are linked by a membrane and feed from a refrigerator attached to a column. At a first glance, this complicated-production hydraulic installation appears …. empty. The device materializes the idea of turnaround – a machine where one becomes the other, where energy travels from one cube to another, from a column to a refrigerator. Production of otherness and identity, and repeal or uniting of differences, all in the same movement.
Finally we come upon Sans titre, a normally-lit advertising sign which has been gutted of its electrical systems, similar to the previous idea of suction. A skin-coloured thermoformed plastic film conceals its cored-out shape from whence hangs an electric wire, and exposing the back elements which emerge as the surface. Sans titre is a formally negative echo of a refrigerator back, two objects stripped of their operational value, seemingly established in monochrome and waiting on the neon.
All his works resonate with one another and the visitor, the on-looker perceives these productive functional and operational movements between order, disorder and return to order. The artist’s undeniable irony nails it on the head with his references to current events.

Biographical Extract

Born in Montreal in 1970, Michel de Broin has been exhibiting his sculptures, installations and videos since 1993, ever-dictated by the principle: "introduce a heterogeneous component within a normal system to see how this agent operates in this new context of unheard-of reactions, initiating intensities and favouring encounters”.
It’s all about transforming reality, playing with it to produce events, fictions, thoughts capable of inciting us to think and understand differently.