Here: Design as We Speak → Stéphane Barbier Bouvet’s practice defies categorisation, combining as it does furniture making, display design, sculpture, social critique and a singular humour. There is something to be learned from his objects, and the visitor can only be intrigued by his weird and apparently functional complexes, such as the three cabins Palama, Cévennes and Maloja in the show Design as We Speak at the Zaventem Ateliers in 2019. Named after a beautiful landscape, they suggest at first a kind of romantic survivalism. Yet, once we try to understand how they work, they do not provide solutions for current or upcoming problems, but rather explode in a myriad of open-ended strands. “In lieu of presenting completed prototypes, the exhibition primarily serves to introduce a set of notions at the heart of Barbier Bouvet’s ongoing work, which, bridging contemplative practice and technical rigour, carries a political charge that amounts to a subtle critique of ‘the project’ as a future projection” (Laura Herman.)
Stéphane Barbier Bouvet
Product + Object
There: People → Bouvet’s practice is based on a precise observation of our daily use of things, playing with our alienated attachment to things and simultaneous inventive capacity to repurpose them to adapt our environment. “The exhibition People at the Maniera gallery, Brussels, organises and combines various typologies of newly created objects that, while all seemingly referring to an idea of designing and controlling the public space, suggest purposes that remain ambiguous, by reason of their changing functionality and their undecidable materiality and finish. […] An image of uses and re-uses, of possible diversions by an invisible community, these furniture items reveal the critical dimension, relying on the observation of the everyday gestures of transformation that in fact feed the technical principles that govern the production of other objects in the exhibition: here a lamp is replaced by a beam, there an electricity distribution cabinet becomes a wardrobe.” (Yann Chateigné)
Everywhere: Not a project → Barbier Bouvet’s practice of design and reflection on design also requires him to move between positions, inventing and practising his grammar. He has been included in many group shows, such as Il était une fois dans l’ouest, at the Frac Nouvelle-Aquitaine MECA, and A chair, projected, curated by Burkhard Meltzer at the BolteLang gallery in Zurich. However, a large part of his practice also relies on commissions, including displays for artists Carlotta Bailly Borg and Lili Reynaud Dewar, the scenography of a virtual reality booth for artist Melodie Mousset, a display for the bookstore La Dispersion, together with Elise van Mourik, and for the Bar du Canal in Brussels. Barbier Bouvet has a consistent teaching practice: he has taught since 2017 at the Master in Social Design at the Design Academy Eindhoven and was a founding member and senior tutor (2011–2014) in the Dirty Art Department, Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam.
Stéphane Barbier Bouvet → (*1981), Based in Geneva and Brussels, www.barbierbouvet.com
Education → ECAL, Lausanne