Les Nouveaux commanditaires

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Discussion Island Lobby
Liam Gillick

Patrons - Le Foyer Saint-Gillois company
Supporters - King Baudoin Foundation
10, 12 & 14 Gisbert Combaz street, Saint-Gilles (Brussels), Belgium, 2003

In an urban redevelopment project, the Foyer Saint-Gillois in Brussels envisages renovating and upgrading six blocks of flats on rue Gisbert Combaz, outstanding testimony of social and architectural developments in the 1920s (Modernism). Listed as historic buildings, they are today being used as social housing for people in difficulties. In this not very safe district of Brussels, the inhabitants have expressed their uneasiness due to the down-at-heel, dark and uniform appearance of these blocks, arranged on either side of the road. The patrons are taking the step of bringing in an artist in order to restore the image of the place from both the private and public point of view, and make the tenants feel satisfied with their accommodation while at the same time improving their daily lives.

Bearing in mind the fact that the buildings are listed, only a light-handed intervention in the interior of the six blocks could be envisaged. The six entrance halls quickly struck Gillick as the places offering the greatest possibilities at both the symbolic and artistic levels. In a first stage he individualised the letterboxes by repainting them in a specific colour depending on the building they belonged to. This meant six colours (purple, yellow, ultramarine, orange, red, azure) applied densely but with no gradation, which contributes towards showing up their rectangular shape, while at the same time cheering up the entrance, yet preserving a certain sobriety through the matt nature of the materials used and the choice of elementary shades. The glass in the entrance doors will also be made individual. The names of the residents are arranged in a constellation on identical panels in each entrance, metal instrument panels of radical and futuristic sobriety, rustproof and functional. A small circle under each name acts as a bell. It lights up when the visitor presses the button inserted beforehand on the plane of the panel. Furthermore a piece of music serving as a bell has been specially created for each resident, so reinforcing their individuality and enhancing their identity. The work created by Gillick, using elementary geometry (rectangle, circle) and producing maximum effect within the means available, respects the listed status of the six blocks of flats while fitting in with their architectural style which he updates in the process.

Liam Gillick

The mediator proposed bringing in Liam Gillick. Since the end of the 1980s he has been questioning the identity of art and its contemporary ways of operating by exploring elementary geometric forms which refer to a certain historical abstraction (Modernism), but also to the world of communication (logos carrying a message). These are pure clean-cut forms the beauty of which makes the relationship between fiction and reality perceptible in an overall apprehension of the world. The formal works are never an end in themselves, but can be apprehended as supports for scenarios, real discussion platforms, following the concept created by Gillick in the mid-1990s. He apprehends space as a meeting area between the private and the public.