European Think Tank
A group of students of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Lille 3 and the ESAN, Tourcoing, wished to commission an artist to create a collective living area.
In the framework of the New Patrons action supported by the Fondation de France, and the CEAC Master's course "Exhibition – Production", a group of students from the Fine Arts campus wished to commission a work that would bring together the students of the Fine Arts Department (Lille 3) and those of the ESAN (École Supérieure des Arts du Nord-Pas de Calais) around a creation that promoted sharing and interaction. They also wanted this work to create a space of conviviality that was conducive to conversation and embodied the New Patrons process. On the proposal of Amanda Crabtree, Sylvie Amar and Anastasia Makridou-Bretonneau, authorized mediators of the Fondation de France, the artist Sammy Engramer was selected. The work produced was presented during an ART PROD° LAB week organized by the "Exhibition – Production" Master's students (that week, 21-25 March 2011, consisted of lectures, talks, workshops, exhibitions, encounters, and an open day for the Fine Arts campus).
Based on the terms of reference drawn up by the student patrons, the artist presented a sketch of the project that he wished to produce: a sort of "giant puzzle" in which the motifs were European flags. This work consisted of 72 detachable elements, on which the public could sit. The dimensions were 5 to 6 metres long, maximum, and 40 to 60 centimetres high. The materials used were: marine plywood, stainless steel, paint, varnish, etc. These modules could thus be used as stools or as small tables. They were also intended to "travel" around the institutions, between the ESAN and the university, thereby facilitating encounters between the different places and students. The artist invited the students to participate in creating the work, for he considered that it was fundamental for them also to acquire practical knowledge related to artistic production. Sammy Engramer had already worked on the definition of the notion of "Europe" in a text entitled "L'enlèvement d'Europe (FUCK U.S.A)", where he related the myth of the fine Europe in the days of Ancient Greece, kidnapped by Zeus disguised as a white bull. This union (and the fall of the Berlin Wall) spawned "45 offspring". In Chapter III he talks of the European flag: "The 27 September 1953, Europe got a new flag. [...] Of the signs and symbols that bring together a population, the most significant and important of all is the flag: the direct representative of a nation or state. The history of flags seems to go back to the origins of all tribal constitutions wishing to rally the members of the tribe under the same standard, ensign or banner. [...] This ideal form, the rectangle, has the extraordinary faculty of being able to take on multiple representations of nations whose colours differ, depending on the country."
"It's the movement of meaning and the multiplicity of interpretations that I'm interested in". This comment by Sammy Engramer sums up fairly well his work as a whole and his relationship with art in general. Particularly sensitive to literature and to philosophical thinking, he acknowledges the influence of the 20th century's great minds. In each of his works, art is also a game where everything can be connected and transformed: the philosophical concept and the political message, the social message and architecture. By working on forms and concepts, he reappropriates them. His work is an ongoing reinterpretation of the history of art. He uses motifs that have now become part of the collective subconscious, as in Tavoletta N.001 and N.002 (1997-2008), a reference to Magritte's This is not a pipe (1929). The geometric motifs are one of the constants in Sammy Engramer's work, found in the design of logos, plans and design objects (Diagramme (2008) or Something like a complex figure in a Persian carpet (2008)). The artist's approach is complex and multidisciplinary. When gastronomic tools interact with the religious visual markers, the result is Moule (1994). These are cake tins in the shape of a new moon, a Judas star, a swastika, and a hammer and sickle. Sammy also tackles politics. How can one symbolize the meeting between the old continent and the new world better than by Tinckey-Mitin (2004)? Mickey Mouse/Tintin, two halves of a head which, together, form a single entity, a symbiosis of mass cultural products of our Western societies. Finally, with Pavillon pour un kilo de nouilles (2004) ou Résidence d'été pour une saucisse (2004), which is reminiscent of Le Corbusier's architectural work, he produced a series of works criticizing the (overly) consumer society and the dehumanized habitat emerging in the fifties and sixties. By agreeing to fulfil the commission of the "Creation and Study of Contemporary Art" Master's research students specializing in "Exhibition-Production" at Lille 3 University, Sammy Engramer took on a new challenge: to transform a working and exhibition space into a place of interaction and sharing for users of the Fine Arts campus.