Guillaume Bijl  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Guillaume Bijl (Antwerp, March 9, 1946) is an Antwerp based Belgian artist, especially known for his installation art.

Guillaume Bijl ended up dissatisfied with the cerebrality in conceptual art in the seventies and began to construct spatial installations in which he reconstructed everyday reality literally. He himself claims he shows the 'settings' of our time. The social context and the location stipulate the choice. This enhanced realism transforms into surrealism and absurdism.

Guillaume Bijl's first installation was a driving school, set in a galerie-space in Antwerp in 1979, accompanied by a manifesto calling for the abolition of art centers, and replacing them with 'socially useful institutions'. This installation was soon to be followed in the eighties by a range of installations, like a billiards room, a casino, a laundromat, a center for professional training, a psychiatric hospital, a fallout shelter or a show with fictitious American artists, a hall for a miss election, a conference for a new political party, a rural Belgian model house, etc.. Reality is for Bijl the most captivating material.

With his installations he sows alienation and shows the visitors the "un-reality" of modern-day life. He replaces seemingly 'real' art for 'ordinary' reality, but in the artificial confounds of an art gallery or a museum. It becomes really confusing when interventions appear outside these art circuits: on the street or in parks.

In contrast to the ready mades of Marcel Duchamp, Bijl isolates the objects of their surroundings and does not raise them to art. He only modifies the contexts, and shows thereby the banality and the ugliness of our environment. He creates life-like representations in scale 1/1 of situations and places from daily life in the 'temples of art', so that the visitor almost forgets he sees these works in a museum.

Guillaume Bijl divides his work into four categories: The first being 'transformation installations', where he integrates a 'reality' in a 'non-reality' : he displaces a socially or economically viable entity in a, by definition, non-functional framework of art. He transposes a complete interior or an elaboration of existing objects into the context of a galery or museum. These installations function as a 'cataloge' for conventions and code systems.

The second category are the 'situation installations'. A good example of this is the group-show of fictitious artists: 'Four American Artists'. The 'situation installations' work according to the reversed principle of the 'transformation installations'.

Thirdly there are the 'compositions trouvées', serving as contemporary still-lives .

The 'sorry's' form absurd and poetic shows of a fictitious reality.

Guillaume Bijl created a magnificent display window for a wax-doll museum in Documenta IX, in the summer of 1992 in Kassel.

Guillaume Bijl questions the artificial values of our society. With his oeuvre he anticipates on the phenomenon of cultural tourism and focuses on the banality of mass tourism. Guillaume Bijl questions thereby also the state of contemporary art.

See also

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