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Argos Centre for Art and Media opens group exhibition: Bon Travail
Gustav Metzger, Historic Photographs: To Crawl Into – Anschluss, Vienna, March 1938. Installation view, Gustav Metzger Decades: 1959 – 2009, Serpentine Gallery, London (29 September – 8 November 2009). Image courtesy of Serpentine Gallery, London. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones. Collection FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims.

BRUSSELS.- What is the view of artists with regard to the place of labour in our society? What place has labour in our lives? At the exhibition Bon Travail ten artists and artist duos question the ostensive opposites “labour” and ‘non-labour” (or “leisure”)

With bittersweet humour they defend the right to laziness. Their apparently senseless, but playful actions illustrate the point that working can be totally absurd, or they show us how forced labour can be an instrument of power used to subject them.

In The Mirror of Production (or the Critical Illusion of the Historical Materialism) Jean Baudrillard distances himself of Marx’ and Marcuse’s dialectical view of the active human being as the modeller or “humanizer” of nature. He furthermore rejects the “revolutionary discrepancy” between work and non-work, i.e. between work as “quantity”, presenting the absolute and materialist thesis, and non-work as “quality”, presenting the idealistic and non-bourgeois position. In Baudrillard’s account of the “ethic of labour” and “aesthetic of play”, play does neither dissociate itself from work, nor is it a form of recovery from work. Thus the author parts with the painful character of work and it’s the negative connotations. In other words, in Baudrillard’s view there is no strict distinction between “work” and “play” – he considers the two to be closely linked.

The exhibition presents contemporary artists who in their works illustrate the dialectic situation Baudrillard denounces and who above all raise more questions. From spectacular to intimate, the exhibition presents labour as a (political) performance. In this instance, “non-labour” is considered of equal value, as an element of freedom that contributes to the quantity and the quality of both that which is produced by labour and life itself.

The idea for the project grew in October 2011 when the organizers of the performance festival Performatik (Kaaitheater) and the French dancer and choreographer Boris Charmatz and his Musée de la danse proposed to present a version of brouillon at the premises of Argos. brouillon is quite literally an experimental project that explores how performers can “activate” an exhibition.

Bon Travail presents a number of the works introduced in brouillon in a completely different context, namely in the “fixed” scenography of an exhibition.

In the context of the exhibition, Argos also presents the debate Laziness: The Last Taboo on 27 March. Philosophers Isabelle Stengers (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and Petra Van Brabandt (Sint Lucas Antwerp) explore what our ambiguous position on laziness discloses with regard to the subject of work, pleasure, the contemporary production and consumption model and our being mortal.

With works by Boris Chouvellon, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Pierre Leguillon, Gustav Metzger, Jean-Luc Moulène, Hans Op de Beeck, Jean-Gabriel Périot, Mladen Stilinović, Roberto Verde & Geraldine Py, Angel Vergara.

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