Acceleration field

Bénédicte Ramade

Baptiste Debombourg has been working with glass since 2005 and Acceleration Field (Champ d'accélération) is his most intricate large-scale installation (250 square meters) to date, the first one, too, to expose itself to outside natural light. This installation belongs to a cycle where glass colonizes space, sometimes processed to turn into black as in Dark Matter (Matière noire) in Strasbourg (La Chaufferie, October 1-November 15, 2015), or left in the raw with its blue-ish and green tones (Flow, 2013, Québec), or playing with stained glass as in a room of Brauweiler Abbey in Germany, where the material takes over the windows (Aerial, 2012).

Glass doesn’t interest the artist for the artisanal craft it requires, its intrinsic fragility or its purity. Viewed through the prism of Marcel Duchamp’s famed and accidentally cracked Large Glass, glass is for Debombourg the product of a dark alchemy, a lively material. Moreover, the laminated glass plates he uses are fastidiously cracked with a hammer, without scattering (the material is made out of two bonded layers). Glass can then reveal its toughness, its ability to transform itself into a constellation, with a history that comes up to the surface, which until then was smooth, without asperities. Intensely constructed, modeled, submitted to a rigorous leveling, the artwork is nevertheless noticeable for an element of randomness, and a duration that calls to mind its ephemeral and transitory nature, where time keeps on being torn apart.

Baptiste Debombourg has a contradictory spirit anyway. Where we could read the work as an act of aggression against this type of glass reputed to be hard and almost unbreakable, or as the result of a gesture of rage or anger against these laminations designed as so not to break into a million pieces when subjected to violent impacts; where we would feel a subdued latent violence, the artist sees himself more like someone deconstructing and conceiving the accidents that transform the material to get to another level of reality. Where a piece of glass would be rejected for a break, an asperity, a bubble or a hairline crack, Debombourg cultivates mistakes by pushing experimentation to the limits of destruction. Where we would endeavor to closely dissect the glass’s properties, its transparency; the artist transposes his gesture in the realm of painting. Where we would be tempted to see glass objects, the artist dodges the issue and places his artworks close to the wall, to avoid objectification and get closer to painting. When a toponymic title might be expected in front of a glass field, with its soft curves, Acceleration Field leans more toward science-fiction and the universe of space. As the artist states, “the tradition in the history of art is to represent what is beyond us”. Speed, the matter of the universe, particles and black holes all belong to Baptiste Debombourg’s interests.

Acceleration Field is a sculpture, but more importantly it is an in vitro landscape, an axonometric elevation whose structure can be perceived in this incidental topography by following its curves and undulations. With Debombourg’s work, each installation is ephemeral and contextual; moreover here at La Maison Rouge, where time seems to truly stand still behind the patio’s windows, in a suspended state between a fluid, tempestuous material and a certain form of inertia and gravity. Everything is under tension, between a feeling of speediness that dissolves outlines and structures with a wave effect, and one of control and mastery. Nothing is haphazard here; all blows are accounted for with the patience of a goldsmith.

With this work altering the properties of glass, Acceleration Field lightens it, plays with sunlight, and imposes its living, shifting material. It is a place, a décor, a rugged surface, damaged with a paradoxical skillfulness, a delicate game of balance inaccessible to the visitor. The latter is asked to stay behind the smooth, inert and seamless glass wall [of the patio], to look at this other piece of glass that has lived and transcended its constitution to become a sensitive space.
Contextual installation presented at the Maison Rouge, Fondation Antoine de Galbert.
Bénédicte Ramade holds a PhD from Sorbonne University (Paris, France), specializing in the history of ecological art in the United States (The Misfortunes of Ecological Art in the U.S. since the 1960s. Proposition for a Critical Rehabilitation). As art historian and critic specialized in contemporary art, she has spent the past fifteen years analyzing environmental issues.  Recently, she was the curator and catalogue editor of The Edge of the Earth: Climate Change in Photography and Video, an exhibition for the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto (September 14 – December 4, 2016) that looked underneath the ecological appearances of the Anthropocene era. She lives and works in Montréal, and has been appointed a postdoctoral fellowship at Université de Montréal, where she is a lecturer in Art History.