Sophie Langohr, Jacques Lizène, Marie Zolamian, De vous à moi, galerie de Wegimont

Ernest Marneff

Ernest Marneff, tête de femme, huile sur carton

Sophie Langohr, Jacques Lizène et Marie Zolamian participent à l’exposition « De Vous à Moi », exposition sur la thématique du portrait . Au travers des collections de la Province de Liège ou sur des invitations faites à des artistes résidant dans la dite province.

Galerie de Wégimont
Domaine provincial de Wégimont
Du 11 novembre au 17 décembre

Vernissage ce vendredi 10 novembre à 18h

Jacques Charlier, Une rétrospective, La Panacée, Montpellier (4)

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Les employés du STP vous remettent leur bonjour, 1971
photographie NB, 25 x 35 cm

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Sculpture horizontale, 1970
plans et photographies couleurs, 200 x 75 cm (x2) et 140 x 75 cm (x2)

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Paysages professionnels, 1970
photographies NB et texte imprimé, 70 clichés, 9 panneaux, (9) x 50 x 60 cm

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Papiers de protection de table, 1972
bandes de papier de protection utilisés pendant un an par les dessinateurs du STP, (4) x 30 x 40 cm

End of the sixties and beginning of the seventies, one of the fundamental practices of Jacques Charlier consists in pulling from their context a bunch of professional documents of the Provincial Technical Service (S.T.P.), where he is employed as an expeditionary drawer, and to distil them in the artistic field, to “present” them. Some of those documents said to be “essentially professional” are well known, this photographic documentation made by A. Bertrand, employed by the S.T.P., documents destined to the elaboration of road improvement projects, dewatering, waterways normalization, industrial zoning implantation, etc. But those are not the only documents Charlier extracts from their context. There are also the ones he names the “relational documents in relation with the professional universe”, documents bearing witness to, for example, a retirement, or a group trip to Antwerp offered by the solidarity fund of the Service.
We could store these with the “professional signatures”, a sequence of volumes regrouping the attendance sheets of the office staff (from 8h to 16h45) starting from February 68 and that Charlier presents in various artistic contexts, contexts in which the signature is precisely cultivated, although it’s the signature of the Artist, or even his famous pen dryers, these pieces of fabric of various sizes whose first function was to dry the graphos pens of the drawers of the Service. Jacques Charlier will hang these pen dryers in tight rows through various exhibitions, among others the Bruges’ triennial in 1974, in collaboration with Yves Gevaert or, a few months later, at the Oxford museum in collaboration with Nick Serota.
About these pen dryers, since then acquired by the museum of contemporary art in Gent, Gilbert Lascault, professor of art philosophy at la Sorbonne, wrote in 1983: “At about the same time, Jacques Charlier (who defines himself as a presenter of documents) presents rags in cultural centres: the pieces of fabric of various dimensions that were used to dry drawing pens. Those are canvas on which appear blotches. They can evoke non-figurative researches. They can remind the desire some artists have these days of collaborating with chance. They are presented without frames, not stretched, “pinned to the wall in a single point at the height of the drawing tables”: nothing keeps the specialists of art from seeing a thought (close to other artistic thoughts) in the frameless canvas… Jacques Charlier can’t forbid this way of reading them. However he always insists on the origin of these pieces of canvas: they are rags, used professionally, extracted from a very precise context, taken away from a technical service whose function is defined.
A conversation recorded between employees from the S.T.P. accompanies the exhibition of the rags. One of the employees asks: “Can we find this beautiful while knowing where it comes from?” It’s certain Jacques Charlier hopes the insistence on the origin of what he shows suppresses the seduction. Indicating the origin of the pictures and objects shown should, he thinks, “unexalt” them. But maybe he’s wrong on that score.
So Jacques Charlier extracts these rags from the S.T.P.; he does the same with their inevitable corollary, usual in this kind of professional environment: the blotter papers. Or instead, if we want to be more accurate as to the original function of these objects: “the protective papers of the drawing tables of the S.T.P.”, that he pulls away from their context in September 72. Charlier cuts them somewhat in A4 sizes and, to affirm their origin and their primary function, places on them a strip of text typed with a typewriter, a note identifying the object and the date of the excerpt. This identification is very important since, like the pen dryers, these papers are the backing of these same “non-figurative researches”, these blotches, strokes of pen, coffee stains, quickly written additions of measures, a few scribbled notes taken as reminders. All of this has the feel of tachism, of automatic writing, a lyrical abstraction contained, randomly, until exhaustion of the pattern, withdrawal of the figure, in short papers to be classified in a graphic department. Or this is all part of daily labours, hours and hours spent bent on the drawing table, the drawing that underlies road and piping maps. And in the fact of Charlier, a backward practice going against artistic appropriation, a query of the sociological neutrality of the object, a social perspective, the exact opposite of any illusionist’s trick. (JMB)

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Paysages professionnels, 1963-68
photographies NB et certificat, (4) x 50 x 60 cm

Those seventy black and white shots are documents born of a determined social-professional milieu embedded in an artistic context, accompanied by their certificate of origin by Jacques Charlier, expeditionary drawer at the Service Technique de la Province de Liège (S.T.P.; Provincial Technical Service of Liège) between 1957 and 1978. Jacques Charlier calls them “Paysages Professionnels”[1] (Professional Landscapes). Assembled nine by nine in eight panels, they are supported by a certificate written on the letterhead of the Provincial Administration. Charlier confirms that these photographies he pulls away from their context since 1964 have been part of the documentation of the project offices of the Provincial Technical Service and that they’ve been made by André Bertrand, chief data-processor of the Service. A photography of the building in which the Service and the transcript of an interview between Jacques Charlier and his colleagues, three pages of a tight typescript, complete the certificate. These photographs are absolutely not auratic and are in no way spectacular. They are only documents destined to the elaboration of projects of road improvement, waterways normalization or industrial zoning implantation, crude shots, a banal recording showing the reality of public works and other industrial wastelands. Even by their “presenter”’s words, they mean a complete expulsion of every traditional framing notion and even of a systematic “incomposition”[2]. In the beginning, this interview between Jacques, André, Joseph, Claude and the others who accompany these shots is published in November 1970 in MTL Magazine, at the moment when Charlier presents, for the first time in an exhibition, a large selection of these landscapes, invited to do so by Fernand Spillemaeckers, owner of the MTL gallery in Brussels. Jacques Charlier, already a fan of shock effects, titles it Les coins enchanteurs (The enchanting places). Enchantment, indeed, is absent. Already an ironic disenchantment transpires, characteristic of all the works of the artist from Liège, an activist who practices, as he says, “without exaltation”.

Jacques Charlier begins his collection of professional documents in 1964[3]. “I make friends with the office equipment operator and the photographer, whom I get to know since for whole days I made blueprints of roads, plans measuring six to seven meters long. I discover in the trash of the office equipment operating service some small pictures of a beet field. Those are perfectly banal pictures destined to illustrate the Service’s reports. What fascinates me is their brutal, unsightly aspect.”[4] Making a list of his activities at the S.T.P., Charlier will point out that André Bertrand’s photographs have been pulled away from their context as soon as July 64. Jacques Charlier considers this gesture to be the foundation of a research that will quickly become more precise, the one now called “of the S.T.P.”, to which we will associate his “Blocs” paintings, his works on the piping or of course the establishing of his Absolute Zone.

Self-educated, cannibalizing every information on art and its world, observer of the transatlantic flux — Pop Art is already well in place and soon the New York conceptual art will barge in Europe —, Charlier applied at the Provincial Technical Service in order to escape the factory. He becomes a drawer for public works projects while reading the works of Franz Kafka, by day working in an insurance company for work accidents in the kingdom of Bohemia and writer by night. Charlier, slightly romantic, identifies with this duality. He socializes with Marcel Broodthaers, with whom he made friends; both men share the same worries. “When Pop Art and New Realism barged home, he says, we were wondering how we could affirm our identity in relation to this American steamroller. How to do it also in relation with Pierre Restany and his French New Realists. Where could we find our place? More or less, I was considering Pop Art to be the result of considering publicity as a found object and to literally throw it in the artistic field after imbuing it with some aesthetic alterations. Warhol uses press pictures, Rosenquist publicity, Rauschenberg uses Schwitters’ Merzbau and set it in the American landscape. With Wahrol, all publicity is monopolized as a found object. Everything becomes found image, unvulgarized, crossed, culturalized”. In answer to American Pop Art, but also to the French New Realists, to the torn poster slices of Villeglé, the meal remains stuck by Spoerri, Arman’s buildups, this vast and systematic appropriation of the world, Jacques Charlier picks out of the trash of the office equipment department of the S.T.P. these few shots of beet fields, and decides to thus appropriate his own social and social-professional realities, to introduce them in the context of art, to sign them and to make a critical engine out of them. For Jaques Charlier, artwork has always been a Trojan horse.

Not even claiming to be part of Duchamp’s ready-made, Jacques Charlier simply declares himself “presenter” of those found documents whose origin he claims through protocol or certificates. He designates them, affirms their first function, confirms their attribution to their original signatories. In fact, by insisting on the ownership of these documents by his professional milieu, Charlier takes at the same time the opposite position of artistic appropriation while playing its game. He signs the work, or at least the presentation in an artistic context of those pictures and found objects, while clearly disclosing the manipulations of appropriation. The certificate of these Professional Landscapes attests it: it’s at the same time signed by Jacques Charlier and André Bertrand. Thus he sets his finger on what he will finally call the pompous art of the century, this principle of appropriation of any object, converted into an art form, an appropriation he qualifies of quasi-religious, that he considers to be a true transubstantiation, where any simple breath of air can become godly, resurrected, saved from the apocalypse and become, by the grace of this theology of art and the intervention of its preachers, a redemptive object destined to collectors. Charlier affirms it: “Telling that the object is only itself and nothing else is like still believing in miracles”[5].

The method will first be to “present” them to the actors of the world of art. Expeditionary drawer, Charlier goes for an expedition, his photos under the arm. He shows them to, among other people, Michaël Sonnabend. Admittedly, the artist looks for a place where he can exhibit them; notwithstanding, here are the Professional Landscapes already introduced in the artistic field, since shown to some of its actors. We can’t help but think of the driving principle of André Cadere’s wanderings: “the work is exhibited where it is seen”. They will finally hang, exhibited for the first time in 1970 at the MTL gallery in Brussels, then at the museum of Antwerp (1971) during Bruges’ second Triennial (1971), under invitation from Anka Ptazkowska at the Galerie 18, in Paris (1974), afterwards at the Vereniging voor het Museum voor Hedendaags Kunst in Gent and at the Museum Boymans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (1981).

These Professional Landscapes are a single aspect of this documents collection. Charlier, very quickly, distinguishes between specifically professional documents and documents about friendship in the staff. Little by little, he pulls from their context prints, letters, communications, pen dryers, blotter papers and table papers, presence signature lists (entrance at 8h00, exit at 16h45), blueprints of his own road plans, souvenir documents about important events of professional life, like a goodbye party, Mr. Merciny’s retirement, or Mr. Herman and Mr. Tennet, a group trip to Antwerp organized by S.T.P.’s solidarity fund. It’s finally the entire S.T.P. that seems to become a found object. The word “seems” is the important one. Jacques Charlier writes it in a tract signed in 1973: “The experience comments backward this aesthetic-sociological current that, under the guise and the aura of the artistic signature, has simulated a vertigo of reality. As if from the things surrounding us, we could erase the meaning, the hierarchy, the origin of the objects”. I think again of Harald Szeemann who, speaking of his exhibition Grand Père, un aventurier comme vous et moi (Grand Pa, an adventurer like you and I), has written in 1974: “We don’t even discuss the thing any more, we discuss the frame that has, anyway, become perfectly boring: to fight for artistic reality is a fake fight, because we’re laughed at by the consensus beyond any controversy, or else it becomes a political fight, which is also a fake fight. Where then does the real rejection exist, the real enthusiasm, the bewitchment?”[6]

While he extract from the S.T.P.’s technical documents a sequence of printed pictures of piping public works, Jacques Charlier writes, in the protocol accompanying this reflection about his purpose: “Their enigmatic character, he writes, can not only rival some contemporary plastic researches, but surpass them through their tremendous expressive ability. But this is something no one will ever tell, or maybe too late. So it is today with art, turning to its profit under the guise of esoteric creation the reality of work, unbearable for the dominant cultural minority”[7] The Professional Landscapes wonders at these relationships with appropriation and estrangement. As a corollary, they also evoke anonymity. These landscape photographs are in fact poor and minimal; we could find similarities between number of them and Land Art or some minimalistic practices. Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria, Richard Long, Carl Andre are in fact not far; maybe, but here, the pictures have been taken by André Bertrand focused on his professional occupations and far from those of the artists. Their presentation is part of a completely conceptual frame, documentary inventory and certified protocol supporting it. Chameleon of the style and perfectly aware of the artistic practices of the time, Charlier therefore gets comfortable with the rules of art and its actuality in a time when grassroots, the streets and the banality of reality strongly imprint on the minds. Some have linked André Bertrand’s photographs and the great work developed then by Bernd and Hilla Becher, a windfall of sort for Charlier who challenges the title of “anonymous sculpture” given by the German photographs to their industrial typology. And Charlier makes a fuss about it: “Yes, those are industrial tools made by ground workers, conceived by engineers, used by workers, owned by bosses, every single one of them has a name”[8] All of this, for Jacques Charlier, is far from anonymous. It’s a testimony to the reality of work, it’s already signed. At the heart of this apparatus staged by the artist, Charlier naturally points at a social reality, a sociological reality. Undoubtedly the collection of landscapes also has a documentary value on the evolution of regional landscape, but that’s only a side effect of the purpose of the artist. Exactly as in the Photographies de Vernissages (1974-75) that, today, have acquired a documentary value regarding “who is who?” in the public of the exhibitions.

In fact, we could nearly paraphrase Harald Szemmann and subtitle the Professional Landscapes: “Jean Mossoux, Pierre Chaumont, André Bertrand, Jacques Laruelle, adventurers like you and I”. Their commentaries on the Enchanting places of the province of Liège are part of the works by themselves, starting with their own. Let’s revisit the situation. It would be like the prequel to another individual mythology, a collective mythology by proxy. After all, Jacques Charlier claimed to be the Director of the Absolute Zones the way others became Curator of the Eagles Department or flying Russian general on the Pan American Airlines and Company.

[1] The Smak in Gent, the M Museum in Leuven and the BPS22-collection of the Hainaut Province in Charleroi keep various series of Paysages Professionnels.[2] Jacques Charlier, Dans les règles de l’art, Lebeer-Hossmann, Brussels, 1983.[3]Dans Les règles de l’art, opus cit. Recently, during an exhibition on the Belgian landscapes, these Professional Landscapes have been part of the catalogue under the double date of 1964-1971. The date of 1971 is a mistake. It’s in 1970 that they were shown in an exhibition for the first time. The date of 1964 only represents the beginning of the adventure.[4]Jean-Michel Botquin, Zone Absolue, une exposition de Jacques Charlier in 1970, l’Usine à Stars edition, 2007[5] Dans les règles de l’Art, op.cit[6] Harald Szeemann, Ecrire les expositions, La Lettre Volée, Brussels, 1996[7] In the protocol certificate of Canalisations Souterraines, 1969.

Jacques Charlier, Jacques Lizène, Pol Pierart, Marie Zolamian, carte blanche à Françoise Safin

Jacques Charlier, Jacques Lizène, Pol Pierart, Marie Zolamian participent tous les quatre à la carte blanche offerte à Françoise Safin par le Centre wallon d’Art contemporain – La Châtaigneraie à Flémalle

Marie Zolamian

Marie Zolamian, Charpie, 2017

Vernissage le vendredi 10 novembre 2017, à 18:30 à La Châtaigneraie, Flémalle
Exposition du 12 novembre au 15 décembre 2017

avec des oeuvres de : Marc Angeli – Michel Boulanger – Sylvie Canonne – Jacques Charlier – Patrick Corillon – Alexia Creusen – Michael Dans – Gerald Dederen – André Delalleau – Catherine De Launoit – Eric Deprez – Emmanuel Dundic – Benoit Félix – Daniel Fourneau – Florence Fréson – Bernard Gaube – Pierre Gerard – Anne-Marie Klenes – Jacky Lecouturier – Michel Leonardi – Jacques Lizène – Paul Mahoux – Jean-Georges Massart – Johan Muyle – Olivier Pé – Pierre Pétry – José Picon – Pol Pierart – Jean-Pierre Ransonnet – Pascale Rouffart – Juliette Rousseff – Francis Schmetz – Guy Vandeloise – Cécile Vandresse – Dan Van Severen – Bernard Villers – Marie Zolamian…

Jacques Charlier, Aperto, Montpellier, les images

Né à Liège en 1939, Jacques Charlier est un plasticien dont la démarche est sous-tendue par une analyse approfondie du monde de l’art et des différents courants dits «avant-gardistes». Privilégiant l’adéquation entre idée et médium, il choisit tour à tour la peinture, la photographie, la vidéo, la musique, la sculpture, l’installation, la BD ou l’écriture. Au fil du temps, ses expositions,  ses chroniques d’expositions, billets d’humeur et autres textes critiques régulièrement publiés composent un ensemble soulignant et caricaturant les atouts, les contradictions et les régressions des courants artistiques dominants à l’échelle internationale. Depuis toujours, il réalise ce dont Warhol avait la nostalgie sans l’appliquer : Comment peut on dire qu’un style est meilleur qu’un autre On devrait pouvoir être expressionniste abstrait quand ça nous chante, ou pop, ou réaliste, sans avoir l’impression d’abandonner quelque chose.*
Les œuvres montrées à Aperto sont extraites des dernières séries de styles abordées par Charlier (de 2012 à 2017). Elles sont uniquement picturales.

En parallèle avec l’exposition à la Panacée. Jusqu’au 4 novembre.

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Survival, 2015

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Peinture cervicale, 2016

Jacques charlier

Jacques Charlier
Quatre saisons, 2016

Jacques charlier

Jacques Charlier
Fractal 1, 2012
Fractal 2, 2014

Jacques charlier

Jacques Charlier
Peinture de contact, 2016

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Transparency, 2015

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
L’Art caché, 2016

Jacques Charlier, Une rétrospective, La Panacée, Montpellier (3)

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Zone Absolue, 1969-70
photographie NB, impression sur toile, 100 x 120 cm

Jacques charlier

Jacques charlier

Jacques Charlier
Zone Absolue, 1970
photographies NB et autocollant, 60 x 70 cm

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Zone Absolue, 1969
Collection privée

Jacques Charlier

Jacques charlier

Jacques charlier

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Zone Absolue 1970
Photographies NB et autocollants, (9) x 54,5 x 47 cm

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier

Jacques Charlier
Zone Absolue, 1969
photographies NB et autocollant, 50 x 40 cm

Jacques charlier

Jacques Charlier
Tableau béton, 1968
photographie NB impression sur toile, 100 x 120 cm

(…) – Let’s just say that in these days, I try to paint in every style, for every time I have an idea, I try to go about it in the style best suited for it. I have to admit that the hardest part of my work, the professional photographs, doesn’t make it. Marcel Broodthaers, to whom I show them, doesn’t really encourage me; he claims it’s very hard. Sonnabend just doesn’t want to hear about it. The reason is simple: there is no intervention from the artist in those works. Despite the fact I had such a great, well substantiated theory to explain that those photographs were the absolute opposite of the found object, the critics didn’t care. I had already plotted my Absolute Zone plan, some sort of urbanization full of concrete, some sort of satire of urbanization. The strong point, for me, was the highway project that was supposed to go through Liège, the senseless scale models made by “urbanization believers” and that they show to the public, this urban delirium. I show the plan to Marcel Broodthaers, who looks at me as if I had fallen on my head, and very realistically advises me to make a series of tableaux on the theme of concrete instead. He even promises to find me a buyer. I therefore find a nice block of concrete in a technical journal and I paint on fifteen or so canvas of every size blocks of concrete in every position. Yvan Lechien, who held the Cogeime gallery in Brussels, sees them and, surprise, buys them.
– It’s the “Blocks” exhibition in 1969 in Brussels?
– Yvan Lechien exhibits my tableaux, moreover selling most of them. It was a surprise. Broodthaers takes advantage of it to introduce me to a few Brussels based avant-garde spirits, Marie-Jeanne and Jean Dypréau, Fernande and Jacques Meuris, Marcel Stael, Jean Ley, Isy Fiszman, Nicole and Herman Daled, Jean-Pierre Van Thiegem, Denise and Karel Gerilandt, Betty Barman… following this exhibition, I tried to convince Yvan Lechien to go farther and create an Absolute Zone since he had already shown the propaganda paintings of that concrete universe that’s invading us. I, for myself, draw pipelines; Yvan Lechien shows a little more interest for this work, but Absolute Zone is a no go.
– You have accompanied this plan, drawn in 1968, by a kind of founding text that will be published in 1983 attached to the book “Dans les règles de l’Art”, a text whose title was “What is the concrete-urbanization of a city? How to realize it?”. In that text, you propose to “solve in a savage and extreme way the problems of housing and traffic in the cities”. There is a number of methodological recommendations: the psychological conditioning of the average citizen, the use of evening classes on how to mix concrete, the overall mobilization of the entrepreneurs. You add a description of the tasks: systematically filling the sewers and pipelines, pouring concrete on historical monuments and folk statues, building barricades made out of concrete on the road accesses to the city and, finally, concreting the city. It’s perfectly delirious. In addition, you institute yourself as Director of the operation and create a Research Committee on Absolute Zones’ establishment.
– Absolutely, I declare myself Director of the Absolute Zones. It’s the time of poetic appropriations. Marcel Broodthaers will soon afterwards become Curator of the Musée des Aigles, Filiou takes care of his Poïpoïdrome, Ben creates his gallery, Panamarenko moves around wearing his military uniforms, and let’s not talk about Beuys or his office in Düsseldorf. I, however, only became Director of the Absolute Zones as part of this work. During the 70s, I did it again, instituting myself as the Director of the C.I.D.A.C., a centre devoted to the dangers and the toxicity of art, a detoxification structure copied on Alcoholics Anonymous. How does someone get detoxified from art and from the addiction to creation? In fact, another inverted satire. Inventing such a role means creating for yourself an underground world, parallel to reality, reaching a pseudo-legitimacy.
– This project of Absolute Zone, what is it, beyond this delirious fiction of the all concrete. How do you see it?
– Reading this situationist, anarchist literature, everything I receive by mail ends up calling to me through its artistic side and its meaning through time. I end up wondering if we shouldn’t reconnect with a form of collective art, with extremely simple things that can make us think about the world, like some sort of symbolic criticism.
I look at this urban inrush with a very critical eye, but at the same time, I do the same with some ecological ideologies advocating nature every time they can, a return to primary agriculture, the “all natural”, a fantasy fashionable at the end of the 60s. I’m therefore seeking to create an object that would be like a symbolic and critical picture of those two extremes. I envision this: let’s put a slab of concrete, which is the transposition of my professional universe, those slabs of concrete making the roads and the works of art. It’s the A zone, like a piece of road. Besides it, let’s demarcate a piece the same size of agricultural zone, with good ground. It’s the B zone. On D day, the day of inauguration, we invite the public to come plant in the B zone, anarchically but under notary convention, vegetables as well as trees or flowers. The protocol I imagine is the following: those two zones will coexist as a sculpture. Through the years, the concrete will suffer the ravages of time. And the natural zone will grab its territory anarchically, because it is stipulated, to heighten this naturalistic and nostalgic fantasy, that the hand of man will not domesticate, will not negotiate this Absolute Zone. It will stay absolutely natural in its progressive entanglement. Both fantasies will therefore last side by side.
The Absolute Zone is like twin zygotes. They always have the same size, but their materials are totally antagonistic. Like with fraternal twins; they are totally identical and totally different. We always have some sort of fascination for the double. Warhol understood it, Magritte before him too. This fascination with twins have always existed, from Rome’s foundation to the destruction of the WTC towers. On one of Total’s covers, I drew two angels, “Total’s energetic”; they are copies each one of the other. It’s the monozygotic universe that can reflect only itself, indulging like Narcissus facing its physical double.
– Was it a way to imagine environmental art, land art or minimalism in a critical fashion? A minimal concrete slab in a landscape, would it be like environmental art?
– There is also in nature a space for critical thinking. I knew all the positions of Land Art then. In fact, like a lot of people, I knew them through the photographic renderings made of them, those clean photographs of Land Art works people placed in art galleries. You have to admit people very seldom take a walk where those works are conceived; those photographs telling their tales end up into collectors hands: they are like a new school of Barbizon. I find this type of sculpture and investigation interesting both from the plastic and art history point of views, but I feel no evocation of critical thought, nor political point of view. To propose an Absolute Zone in the urban universe, to do as if it was a section of road, to juxtapose to it this vegetal area that will stay raw, but created by the people, this becomes a collective gesture, all of this inducting an area of intention that’s not purely aesthetic, but it also criticizes the times in which we live. It was, somehow, a fracture with what was happening in the galleries; it was also a direct take on my professional universe. There was some kind of a blending. People often blamed me then for having no unity of style in my works, for using varied mediums, for being at the same time involved in the system of art and away from it, as if I was running in circles around it. I had — and the paradigm of that idea will nonetheless slowly appear to the eyes of some people — the intent of criticizing art, like I had the intent of criticizing urbanization and the delirious fantasies it was then possessed of. I had the same intent to criticize ideologies, facing the effects of those mainstream truths, including those of this burghers’ pseudo-revolution. I repeat it, even though I found some good ideas in the movement of 68, I was shocked by those revolutionary daddy’s boys invading the factories and the working class they didn’t know anything about. I was the son of a worker, I had to draw road projects to live. I picketed during the strikes of the 60s.
– In march 1968, you wrote a short text perfectly illustrating those words, a text destined to accompany a series of pictures. I quote you: “This series of press clipping has been taken from public works journals that reached the S.T.P. of Liège. Those press pictures are somehow professional publicity shots, boasting about the merits of drain technology. Their enigmatic character can not only rival with a few contemporary plastic researches, but surpass them through their tremendous expressive capabilities. But this is something no one will ever say, or maybe they will but too late. Thus today’s art, under the guise of esoteric creation, distracts for its own purpose the reality of work, unbearable to the dominant cultural minority”.
– This photo series has been made into a slide show to be projected over the super 8 film “underground pipelines” at the Absolute Zone exhibition. Yes, those pipelines are the fruit of the labour. At that time, I’ve been flabbergasted by Bernd and Hilla Becher’s positions, among others. I’m thinking of a text from Carl André written on their “anonymous sculptures”. This proclaimed anonymity mocks the social reality of the objects photographed.
– Let’s get to the exhibition itself. What do you show in it?
– This exhibition is also the fruit of a dilemma. It develops at a time when people responsible for the Apiaw, the association for intellectual and artistic progress in Wallonia, a major group with, among others, the function of telling what was happening in Paris. This association is pushed aside by the movement of 68. We must not forget the Academy of Liège has long been occupied, an occupation I don’t participate in despite pressures from Marcel Broodthaers, who was conducting the occupation of the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Brussels. Broodthaers tells me we have to occupy the Aca, he even adds he’s going to join us, that I need to prepare an action, to go there with Total’s transparent flag. My wife, Nicole Forsback, knows the context; she’s just out of the engraving workshop of the Academy. Until the day before the action, I’m somewhat divided. I’m seduced by the efforts of some, Nyst, Yellow, Lizène, but I’m telling myself it is still marginal, that an invasion of the insides of the academic system wouldn’t breed a new academism. In short, I didn’t go. End of 69 then, the steering committee of the Apiaw prefers to let go and to leave the programme to a group of artists from Liège. I remember two meetings held in a brewery in the city centre. From the first vote, they choose me for the next exhibition. I’m very surprised. Of course there are disagreements, but a second vote confirms it. I go further by declaring to the assembly that M. Schoefeniels has to be told I want to be the master of the place, for I want to make an exhibition completely different from what “they” expect. For better or for worse, this assembly just wanted me to turn this into a provocation. Since I had my Absolute Zone plan in my boxes, I thought it would be the right moment to show it.
If I remember correctly, Léon Wuidar had the exhibition before mine. At least I have a blurred memory of him being there when I carefully swept the floor to put squarely in the middle two strips of white tape, therefore splitting it in two equal areas. This double strip foreshadowed the zones A and B, the areas to be covered in concrete and on which to plant, like a plan of what could happen on a real scale. On the back wall, in view of this double strip, a red and white signpost: “Here soon Absolute Zone”. On one of the two picture rails, just stuck on two wooden bars, the long drawing of the Absolute Zone. I refer to it as the most collective work there is: place a strip on the equator and thus demarcate the most complete absolute zones, North pole side, all concrete, South pole side, all vegetation. On the wall, more drawings and graphics: a plan for the establishment of an absolute zone in Liège, another to make one in the Apiaw room. (..)
– On another document, we see you with Marcel Broodthaers, standing on both sides of the demarcation of the Absolute Zone.
– Marcel, learning that the exhibition would happen, offers to do the opening. Magnificent! Broodthaers is eloquent and he’s from Brussels. It’s perfect for me. I thought he would make a superb presentation of my Absolute Zone; I was expecting a speech.
– De facto, the photography shows Marcel Broodthaers standing in the middle of the room, hands behind his back, somehow in the attitude of a condottiero. And the public, standing tight, facing him at some distance.
– The public had some trouble entering the exhibition. For a while, they just stayed tight at the bottom of the room. Marcel Broodthaers stands very far, trying to bring them closer. He’s nearly under the Absolute Zone sign. I was expecting a speech. Well no. Marcel just said a few words, declaring that my work was actual and it was a must see at this time. He finishes with a simple toast: “Cheers”!
The pressure in the room was terrible, some sort of fear, a total lack of understanding, even greater since even before its opening the exhibition had made such a fuss in the whole city. It was awaited. With the Total’s group, we had advertised it in every possible way. At the cinema, they were showing Z, the 1969 Costa-Gavras’ film. In town, there were therefore posters of the Z film everywhere. We outdid them by painting “Z” on public buildings and by turning the Z of the posters in Absolute Zone.
– Nice coincidence since Costa-Gavras’ film denounced a totalitarian regime, the one of the Greek colonels.
– Yes, yes. We also stuck our posters “CivilizaTion” with the totalitarian T. Even better, at night with Philippe Gielen we traced a demarcation line of the Absolute Zone in the middle of the city. I still remember sitting with paint cans in the trunk of Gielen’s minivan. He was driving around the block and I was discharging, can after can, a long coloured line on the street. It wasn’t dry in the morning. The “effects” created by car tires were… surprising. We went at it hard… I received a call from Robert Stéphane telling me to “order my people to stop” after we painted the front of the RTB. Schoefeniels and Jacques Parisse, responsible for the Apiaw, have been called to the police… In any case, the evening of the exhibition, the public is puzzled, even scared. The evening will end in tremendous libations. The people were so disturbed by the situation that they just drank. Schoefeniels was furious, he called me asking “Do you think I pay heating bills for empty walls?”.
The provocative side of the exhibition’s aesthetic even takes more importance than its content. People understand next to nothing of what I’m saying. It’s put away with the hardest of conceptual art or theoretical Land Art. In any case, it’s all drowned except for a few, the Totalitarians, the Jazz Crapuleux band, those visiting the Yellow gallery that will soon become a cutting edge gallery. Antaki was there, Richard Tialans, Alain d’Hooge, Jacques Lizène, Michel Lhomme, Sangier… later in the evening, Broodthaers tells me he would also like to exhibit in this Apiaw room, that this association has a nice tradition. I tried to introduce him to Schoefeniels and to explain Marcel’s work. Schoefeniels says “Oh, no, that’s enough! No mussels pans here!”. Broodthaers will not exhibit in Liège, at least not right now. There will be some sort of a feeling of regret later on: Robert Stéphane and Annie Lummerzheim will organize a small exhibition “Broodthaers, Christiaens, Charlier” in the RTB rooms. At the exhibition, there will be five of us, yelling loudly.

Translation of Jean-Michel Botquin & Jacques Charlier, « Zone Absolue, une exposition de Jacques Charlier en 1970 », Editions L’Usine à Stars.