Peter Buggenhout “The Blind Leading The Blind” at Banca di Bologna Hall, Palazzo De’ Toschi, Bologna
Banca di Bologna is pleased to present The Blind Leading The Blind, the first solo show in Italy by Belgian artist Peter Buggenhout (b. 1963, based in Gent), one of the foremost European sculptors of his generation.
The exhibition, which will be on view in the Banca di Bologna Hall of Palazzo De’ Toschi (Piazza Minghetti 4/D, Bologna), is curated by Simone Menegoi. It is scheduled in conjunction with the 5th ART CITY Bologna, an initiative sponsored by the City of Bologna and by BolognaFiere and aimed at creating a program of high-profile cultural events in exhibition spaces around the city during the weekend of Arte Fiera. The event will also renew the partnership between Banca di Bologna and the Accademia di Belle Arti di Bologna which began in January 2016 with the group show LA CAMERA: Sulla materialità della fotografia. For the entire length of the exhibition, students from the art academy will greet visitors and be on hand to provide information about the works by Peter Buggenhout.
The exhibition is made up of two pieces, both from the series The Blind Leading The Blind. The first (The Blind Leading The Blind #65, 2014) is a spectacularly striking assemblage—some 10 meters long and 6 meters high—incorporating materials such as iron pipes, plywood panels, carpeting, industrial scraps, and bits of mortar: a piece of architecture ambiguously suspended between construction and destruction, growth and collapse. The second (The Blind Leading The Blind #25, 2008) is an enigmatic object with a craggy, irregular shape, presented in a showcase as if it were an archeological find. Both works are being shown for the first time in Italy.
For twenty years now, Peter Buggenhout has been presenting viewers with a challenging paradox: his pieces are elaborate artistic creations which at first glance seem like the product of chance and time. The sculptures from his series The Blind Leading The Blind look like wreckage, ruins, rubble: works springing from a rational design, but shattered and mutilated by some unknown event. In other cases, we feel like we are looking at organisms whose haphazard proliferation has been suddenly cut short. All the works in the series are partially or wholly covered in a layer of dust, as if they were happened upon after decades of abandonment: critics have called them “archeological finds of the future.”
This use of dust as a sculptural material is one of the most fascinating aspects of Buggenhout’s oeuvre. Associated with the passage of time, with decay and dissolution, it suggests that the Belgian artist’s works could be seen as melancholy vanitas, still lifes meant to remind the viewer that everything is transient. The sculptor warns us, however, against interpreting his work in a purely negative sense, as a sort of monument to entropy: “The opposite may be true. I let the viewer to decide. Destruction leads ultimately to reconstruction, in the same way that dead leaves nurture trees. We are confronted with a constant back and forth. The situation is in flux,” he says.
Buggenhout belongs to a long line of artists—not only in the visual realm; for instance, the sculptor lists the work of author Georges Perec among his influences—who have tried to depict the world in all its inexhaustible, chaotic complexity, putting aside the hierarchies of value and yardsticks of meaning that guide us in everyday life. Completely “abstract,” (in the artist’s description), his sculptures nevertheless stand as an analogy of reality itself, both in their form, which combines planning and chaos, growth and decay, and in their range of materials, which includes almost everything imaginable. (For the sculptures in his Gorgo series, Buggenhout even uses animal entrails, hair, and blood.)
The aesthetic and intellectual principle underlying the Belgian artist’s work is that any attempt to impose a rational order on reality will always be partial, limited, and doomed in the long run to failure. It is no coincidence that Buggenhout has titled his main series of works The Blind Leading The Blind. This is a reference to one of the sculptor’s favorite paintings, the homonymous work by Pieter Brueghel the Elder at the Museo di Capodimonte, but also to the passage from the Gospel of Matthew that this painting illustrates, a proverbial reference to the fallacy of human knowledge: “They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”
The exhibition will be documented in a forthcoming monograph on the most recent exhibitions of Peter Buggenhout, soon to be published by Banca di Bologna in collaboration with its institutional partners.
at Banca di Bologna Hall, Palazzo De’ Toschi, Bologna
until 19 February 2017