Mediator - Xavier Douroux
Supporters - Fondation de France, Ministère de la culture et de la francophonie (Délégation aux arts plastiques), ministère de l'Education nationale, Université de Bourgogne
Dijon, Bourgogne, France, 1994
The physical education instructors of the University of Bourgogne (SUAPS) wished to assert the special nature of their activity in comparison with that of other activities. Covering a large number of facilities, the sports complex is in fact located at the far end of the faculty campus, and therefore in the background. What is more, this area was being restructured because the building of new university accommodation was then being planned. The patrons took the step of commissioning an artist to produce a work that would serve as a marker and signal in an outside area that was rapidly spreading; its symbolic dimension was intended to enhance the identity of their activity.
A series of five silk-screen printed flags that could be seen from afar, raised high on metal pillars, act as signposts on the route leading to the sporting complex, rhythmically sited at regular and generous intervals. Large-format banners in black and white, they really do create a path of honour, a metaphor for the practices of sporting activity. Four images depict parts of the body framed in close-up: two hands with the fingers outspread, two feet. The fifth, located in the centre, shows an unfolded falcon's wing. The patrons opted for this last image after a lively debate with the artist who had originally suggested the rear view of a shaved head to symbolise the mind. Mastery of the body, maximum exploitation of one's potential, both embody the symbols of a victory to be won. The work has a force of impact both on the space and on the viewer's sensory perception through its minimal sobriety and its factual nature, and as a sign where a part stands for the whole.
The mediator suggested bringing in Balthasar Burkhard with whom he had already collaborated in 1984 in the context of a solo exhibition at the Le Consortium art centre in Dijon. Towards the end of the 1960s Burkhard used to photograph the exhibitions at the Kunsthalle in Berne. The artistic direction he pursued followed on from that experience. He confronts the raw presence of the materials, the physical apprehension of space, seriality and the question of the place and perception of the body. It was more particularly in the late 1970s that Burkhard developed his work. He questions the relationship between photography and artistic creation, displaying an interest in large format. One series followed the other: Autoportraits (1977), Pieds (1983), Genoux (1983), Torses (1984), Veines (1988-1989), Bambous (1990-1991), Montagnes (1993)... The fragmentation of the subject in close-up is emblematic of his art. Each of his works asserts a physicality that conveys a grasp of reality inherent to the photographic medium.