Art institutions have enthusiastically morphed into art factories, symbolically blurring modes of consumption and production, leisure and work, while plugging into a collective fascination with performative processes.

But what about more contemporary or more unapologetically banal detritus? What about buildings with dubious historic appeal, those lacking riveted trusses, monumental scale, and the chimerically melancholic atmosphere that makes the post-industrial so uncomfortably tantalizing? Can prosaic sites still cavort mischievously with more urbane and promiscuous cultural appropriations?

For Patrick Beaucé, co-founder of Objectile and associate professor at the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes, the answer is an indefatigable Yes.

For the past year, Beaucé has headed The Apartment, a research initiative and installation project in Bethune’s Lab-Labanque. A former branch of the Bank of France, which drained of its original program following the substitution of the French franc by the Euro, has been transformed in a center for the production and dissemination of visual arts. The early 19th century building is tidy and unassuming within urban context. Inside, the bank’s spatial and structural logics have been left untouched: the office, the vault, the archives, and the bank manager’s domestic space playfully preserved in the condition in which they were found 5 years ago.

It is here that Patrick Beaucé’s work, developed in conjunction with art and design students at the ESBAV, reflects on key issues related to contemporary living through analysis and experimentation. The speculative prototypes on display at The Apartment tackle the social, cultural, economic, spatial and environmental parameters embedded in questions of domestic space, and envision alternate as well as future modes of segmentation, distribution and opportunistic alliance.

AS: Your research deals with individuation, mass customization and the potential for functional realignments in domestic operations. How did you first start working on the Apartment Project at Lab Labanque?

PB: The idea for the apartment project grew out of collaborative desire of both students and instructors in the 5th year Design School of Art and Design in Valenciennes to work on concrete projects and to actually realize them.

 Our first step was to establish relationships and build partnerships with local manufacturers, to merge interests in industrial manufacturing, artisanal production and design. What we are hoping to do is to reimagine the entire manufacturing process, and ultimately, to make new technologies and manufacturing techniques available to everyone.

AS: Tell us a little about the current installation.

PB: The project was launched at Lab-Labanque Bethune where the first collection of objects and design concepts was presented as part of an ever-evolving exhibition titled, “The apartment, a metaphor for the world.” The current Bethune 2011 collection features objects relating to domestic space, and reflects on the attitudes and actions adopted by individuals inhabiting space. The speculative objects that are of particular interest are those that engage issues of performance and industrial remnants as an organizational paradigm, as well as the aesthetic sensibility of the work. What the projects also have in common is that the manufacturing costs are kept to a minimum. So the challenge is to conceive of projective, opportunistic design, using inventive, but humble means.

AS: By what process do the students experiment with new modes of design and inhabitation? Is this a site specific project? Does it relate to the artisanal and manufacturing resources in the immediate region?

PB: Here we are experimenting with several modes of fabrication. But again the parallel between projects tends to be a concern with the intelligent deployment of simple, affordable materials, in other words, we try to limit the quantity of materials used. For most of these objects, the assembly is intuitive, using interlocking fasteners and other simple techniques.

 But more importantly, there are two reasons why my teaching and design research interrogate these modes of production, the nature and conditions of that we find ourselves in when we consider the fabrication of the objects that surround and engage us.

 The first is that there is a pressing moral responsibility to consider the full range of acts and consequences behind every design. The second is that work has become rarified in our society.

 We can observe this phenomenon in technical developments and mechanization. More and more streamlined modes of production continue to make smaller amounts of human labor needed to produce goods. And, of course, we continue to witness the relocation of manufacturing goods to countries with low labor costs. Faced with this worrying condition, anxious politicians advocate re-industrialization.

 So we can see labor issues crossing into the territories of heterogeneous realities: aesthetics, invention, technology, economics, society, politics, history, geography. Our goal, therefore, in fostering these  speculative design proposals you see at the Apartment of Lab Labanque is to attempted to address these different dimensions in production, labor and design and to  begin to understand certain correlations between them.  In the current project students were invited to experiment with five educational proposals in which the nature of work, conditions for its exercise were specific and meaningful. Our aim to have students engage contemporary practice first hand.

 AS: There is something thoroughly peculiar the bank as a cultural instititutions. Video installations in the vault. Dance parties in the archives. The material palette left behind – rugs, ornamental tiles, counters – seems to essentially ask the visitor to occupy the space of capital. Does this change the way the public interacts with the site and installation work? And for the students working on the design projects in the apartment space, does the site influence their interrogations?

PB: It is certainly a very unusual approproriation project – Lab Labanque – with a very distinct logic. I am particularly struck by the quality of the apartment. It belonged to the bank manager, so he lived just above the bank with his family. The scale of the domestic space is phenomenal. And working in this apartment forefronts shifts in socio-economic conditions over time. We ask students to investigate the space in contemporary scales, with a very real set of economic constraints. And I find the dissonance between the former use and the current proposals exceptionally productive. To imagine an alternate domestic realm within an outmoded one is a compelling design problem.

– Anya Sirota


  1. […] headed The Apartment, a research initiative and installation project in Bethune’s Lab-Labanque. 48.390604 -4.486901 Share this:TwitterFacebookJ'aime ceci:J'aimeSoyez le premier à aimer […]

  2. […] Patrick Beaucé, Designer plasticien, diplômé de l’école des Beaux-arts de Rennes et de Nîmes, Patrick Beaucé a fondé le laboratoire d’architecture et design ,Objectile. Il travaille au développement et à l’application des concepts avancés de la CFAO dans le domaine de l’architecture et du design. Le champ d’investigation du laboratoire va de la conception, la mise en place d’unité de production de produits à la recherche théorique. 48.390604 -4.486901 Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Référence on October 5, 2012 by studiourvois. […]