The rural municipality of Herzele represents, thanks to its landscape, a beautiful exception in the heart of industrial Flanders. But stone quarries and clay holdings continue to dramatically change the landscape. Where old quarries return to nature, the birth of new holdings threatens this natural environment.
For the patrons of Arpia association, it was important to question, through a work of art, the evolution of the landscape due to the exploitation of clay in their region. In this commission, temporality has an important role to play since it is about making the change visible. This should originally be translated into a short-lived project. To this was added an important condition, that of using landscape-friendly materials which, according to the patrons, are preferably perishable.
Michael Beutler spent time to learn about and talk to clay operators, transportation companies, geologists, conservation associations, as well as to supporters and opponents of the exploitation of clay. As a result, he became convinced that this project offered much greater potential than a temporary project.
He convinced the patrons by presenting them in detail his new concept. A project that consists of developing an artistic process in parallel with the clay mining that will last until 2021 and that will lead to the creation of a lasting memory of the history of this exploitation. This work, although monumental, will integrate perfectly into the landscape and, thanks to its horizontality, will not pollute the panorama.
Michael Beutler's proposal is to dig a canyon, 300 meters long, along the operating area. This same area, once the activities related to the work of clay finished, will become an agricultural territory, but the trench dug for the canyon will still be preserved as a trace of this labour. The protectors of nature, who had strongly argued against the exploitation of clay, will then have a path of walk that will establish a connection between two protected natural environments.
To consolidate it, the canyon will be covered with clay bricks: in fact, the clay that was removed during the digging of the canyon will be subsequently reworked to create a building material. The small size of these bricks is ideal to adapt to the wavy shape that Beutler wants to give to its canyon. By reusing the same material to consolidate the trench as the one that was removed to create it, it is a process of returning to the earth what had been taken from it!
Michael Beutler was born in Oldenburg, Germany in 1976. He graduated from the Frankfurt Städelschule and the Glasgow School of Art. The artist creates imposing works that are in constant dialogue with their environment thanks to their forms, their approximate contours and the simple materials in which they are made. The manufacturing process, often very thoughtful and methodical, is a very important part of his work, as much as the completed work. By the architectural and monumental aspect of his works, he upsets our perception of the place and subtly questions the environment in which his works are located.
Michael Beutler's artworks have been presented at Portikus (Frankfurt - 2007) and at the Folkwang Museum in Essen. He participated in the Berlin International Art Biennial in 2005 and the Moscow International Art Biennial (2005). He exhibited at Secession (Vienna 2002). He had a solo exhibition at the Bonniers Konsthall Museum in Stockholm, Sweden (2008) and he participated in the collective exhibition La vie des Formes at the Abattoirs of Toulouse in 2012. He also participated at many other events (Frieze London, Art Basel, ...).