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Art For Conversations Sake: An Interview With Fabian Bürgy

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Swiss-based artist Fabian Bürgy fuses sculpture, installation and digital imaging to create artwork that resists convention. Through “random encounters” of materials with new environments, he explores the themes of transformation and misplacement.

Bürgy takes everyday objects and subjects them to what he calls a “slightly violent and disturbing process of transformation.” From bollard cones to playground swings to metal crowd barriers, he deconstructs the objects that we see every day by presenting them in comical or unsettling ways. The result is sculptures that continually perplex and provoke curiosity. Often, Bürgy’s objects are left stripped of their function post-transformation: a slide that cannot be accessed; a set of bollards that reduce in size like a matryoshka doll; a leash chained to a heavy block of concrete. Curious to find out what attracts the sculptor to the mundane, and how he feels about making people uncomfortable, we spoke to Bürgy himself.

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Your work was exhibited at the Miami Art Basel and is still being shown as part of the group exhibition ‘Transform’. What does the theme of transformation mean in relation to your work?
Transformation is a central aspect of my work. I am fascinated by the misplacement and metamorphosis of things. It represents the harsh truth of reality. Change is a basic condition of life. This is what my art is all about — the things I don’t understand and the things I start to understand. I try to find connections where there’s no obvious link and transform them into a meaningful statement. Then, and only then, many things start to make sense.

What makes you so drawn to the mundane or “every day”?
It’s the invisibility, the understatement of small, unspectacular objects which surround us every day. With age, I have started trying to appreciate the simple moments in life. They are pretty valuable, and I want to be aware of them. That’s why I work with mundane elements. They need a stage to be seen on, they deserve a voice and they are very good companions to work with.

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Some of your work can make people uncomfortable or “disturbed”. To what extent do you make art to shock or provoke thought?
I don’t want to shock or provoke anybody, at least not on purpose. Of course, there is a certain disturbing element in many of my works; but that happens to be just my signature. The fact that it can be perceived as uncomfortable shows that my work is communicating, that there is something in it. Art that interacts and that starts a dialogue with the spectator is good.

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While your work is quite dark, there is an element of comedy too. How do you aim to strike a balance?
Throughout nature you can observe that everything is built on two poles. I am fascinated by these extremes. There is night and day, cold and warm, birth and death, happiness and sadness…even the faces of humans are similar in extreme sadness and during sexual excitement. Everything is often so amazingly close. Every extreme needs its opposite power.

This is basically what I am exploring because I still don’t understand it. This is what my art is all about. About the things I don’t understand. I try to find connections where there’s no obvious link, combinations of the impossible that becomes obvious. From the moment when two extreme opposite elements are merged, a new meaning and condition evolves around it. They get a different soul and a specific meaning. And somehow it appears that the harder the statement, the more “comedy” appears to come along. It’s nice when people see my work and their first reaction is to laugh before they reflect on the darker side of it’s meaning.

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Can you tell us about your creation process and how you see the interaction between sculpture and digital imaging?

It’s never about the material itself, the material is just the medium. New forms of expression can always be considered to get in-line with all the other art forms which evolved through time. Sculpture, painting and literature are the oldest; video and performance are younger forms of expression, and digital art can become another medium of creation in the future. But that doesn’t even matter. It really is just another tool to explore and visualize, and art should never be about the tools or materials. It’s about ideas and the reflection of contemporary phenomena. If an idea is best created digitally I will give birth to it on a screen and print it. If it has more impact as a physical sculpture, I might create it in concrete. After all, some things are very simple.

All images © Fabian Bürgy