History, memory, masculinity and power balance

History, memory, masculinity and power balance are central themes in Marc Bauer’s work that consist for a major part of black and white drawings, but extends to animation film, ceramics, oil paint and sculpture. He describes drawing as “a way for me and the viewer, to comprehend reality in all its complexity – subjectively, politically, symbolically – and show how history, memory and shifting power structures shade the present.”

Marc Bauer: Untitled, Group of People 4, 2018. Pencil on paper, 30 cm x 42 cm

Richard Bright: Can we begin by you saying something about your background?

Marc Bauer: I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, and I did my bachelor in the art school there. At this time, it had a different name, today it is called HEAD. After my Bachelor, I did a postgraduate study at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. It was a great time; Amsterdam was much more attractive to creative people than it is today. There was also a vivid art scene. Then, I went to Brussels for 2 years, I was broke, and Brussels was very cheap. I did a residency at the Swiss Institute in Rome, and then another residency in Peking. My Partner was tired that I was always somewhere else, and we decided to move to Berlin. We arrived there 13 years ago. Now, I am also living in Zurich, it’s quite different as well, but meanwhile, Berlin changed a lot.

RB: Have there been any particular influences to your art practice?

MB: The work is always under influence of something, but I think that my way of developing drawing has been mostly influenced by different media, such as films and paintings. In my studies and until 2004, I made many videos and films. I was and still am very interested by cinema. To edit, to tell a story, the language of film is quite close from what I developed in drawing. I learned with painting to define my relationship with images.

 

RB: What is the underlying focus of your work?

MB: I think it is to understand in which situation I am in my daily life, but also politically, psychologically, historically… Since I started, I have been interested to define and reflect power balance and to look in the grey zone of history or in my personal life. I am also interested to see how we build our personal narrative. How we create a coherent story for ourselves.

Marc Bauer: Untitled, Group of People 1, 2018 and ongoing. Pencil on paper, 30 x 42 cm

RB: What inspires and ‘informs’ your work? And what attracts you to drawing over other mediums?

MB: Everything can trigger me and stimulates or inspires the work. It can be a feeling, music, a book, an article; but it must be something that resists my understanding, something that opens a door in me, that keeps me busy. Drawing is a very interesting medium because it is a very slow medium to produce an image. The viewer will see an image once the drawing is finished, but me, I saw the whole process, I see it in a duration, more like a movie; every moment of the process has left a trace. The final image is a result of this process. The viewer may not be conscious of all of this while looking at it, nevertheless, he feels this duration.

Drawing is also a very simple way to produce an image and it links the head and the hand, I find it extremely elegant and rich.

Marc Bauer: Untitled, Group of People 2, 2018. Pencil on paper, 30 x 42 cm

RB: Can you say something about the exploration of memory and the use of narrative in your work?

MB: Outside my work, I am not someone busy with the past, I always have the feeling that I forget everything continuously. I always been very conscious that I am the result of something that came before me: that my way of thinking is the result of my education, my family, that I inherited also images, traumas, family secrets, neurosis etc. So, this work is an attempt to find my way in this. I think that narration is a crucial point, we spend all our lives talking to ourselves, creating versions of reality easier for us to digest: we edit, delete, change and modify our memories consciously or unconsciously, I found this process fascinating.

Drawing is a very phenomenological medium, you start with a line and it develops into something else and in the finale image you can still see, if the drawing is really good, how it has been made.

 

Marc Bauer: White Violence: an Index of Torture, 2019, wall drawing, charcoal, 8,58 meter by 3,39 meter

RB: Can you say something about your large wall drawing, White Violence: an Index of Torture (2019)?

MB: It is a work I developed for a chapel in Brittany. L’Art dans les Chapelles is a group exhibition where each artist does an intervention in a chapel in Brittany. My chapel was dedicated to Sainte Tréphine, who was beheaded by her husband. The whole roof is covered with paintings depicting her life and her martyr. So, the violence was everywhere in the chapel. I wanted to take this as a starting point and then reflect about our relationship to violence. If you are catholic, the first images of violence you will see are in churches. You are in a way educated by this imagery. I was interested to question the relationship we have with this imagery. I did an atlas of violent images from the early Christians martyrs to Guantanamo, ISIS, and war press images from the news. These images were drawn directly on the wall of the chapel with charcoal, in different layers, so you will have some strange editing that, at the end, forms a kind of history of violence.

Macr Bauer: Untitled, Group of People 3, 2018. Pencil on paper, 30 x 42 cm

RB: How is drawing on walls different from drawing on a piece of paper, from the point of view as yourself as an artist and the point of view of the audience?

MB: As an artist it is really exciting because I don’t do sketches also for the wall drawings, I have a limited time to produce them, it creates a tension, it has to work. You cannot really erase large surface in case of mistakes, that creates something special, there is no safety, no possibility to do it again, you have to be brave. The wall drawings are also very physical, some of them can be really large like 4,50 meters by 10 meters, it is a process where all your body is engaged.

I think the viewer perceive it, and it creates a certain fascination. There is something a bit magic about it, in the sense that the viewer perceive the duration and the effort to produce such an image but he/she knows that it will disappear at the end of the show, that it is here just for now and then, it is gone.

Marc Bauer, Mal Étre / Performance, co-commissioned by Drawing Room, London and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea. Photo: Rob Harris. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann.

Marc Bauer, Mal Étre / Performance, co-commissioned by Drawing Room, London and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea. Photo: Rob Harris. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann. 

RB: Your exhibition, ‘Mal Ȇtre / Performance’, shown at the Drawing Room, London in 2019 explored the motif of people on boats throughout history, from ancient Greece to contemporary media footage of the migrant crisis. What was the starting point for the drawings in the exhibition and how did they develop?

MB: I saw an image in the French press and I was shock by my lack of empathy. It was representing people, seated in a boat, they had some safety jackets on and they had been just rescued by the boat Aquarius. It was a very dramatic image. I was thinking how come I am not horrified by it, so I decided to draw it large scale to understand it. This drawing is not part of the show, but by doing it, I realised that there were other images of people on boats through history and that those images conditioned my way of reading this image.

This whole project is about how images are conditioning us to think in a certain way. By doing this research it appears to me clearly that the people on boats represent a radical alterity: they are the slaves, the madmen, the criminals, the cannibals. They are a group where no individualities can be perceived. They have literally nothing, no belongings, no identities. They are just existing as a group.

Marc Bauer, Mal Étre / Performance, co-commissioned by Drawing Room, London and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea. Photo: Rob Harris. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann.

RB: You re-presented the original source images for this exhibition through drawing. Why did you decide to do this?

MB: I drew very famous images, even the general public knows these images and we have assimilated them, even unconsciously. To draw them again created a filter between them and the viewer who can, in a way, see them in a new way, to rediscover them, in fact to see them again with a fresh eye. By doing so, we understand them differently.

Marc Bauer: Untitled, Hukosai, 2019. Pencil on paper,, 100 x 140 cm

Marc Bauer: Untitled, Gericault, 2018. Pencil on paper, 100 x 140 cm

Marc Bauer: Untitled, Delacroix, 2018. Pencil on paper, 100 x 140 cm

Marc Bauer: Untitled, Ex Voto 1, 2019. Pencil on paper, 70 x 50 cm

Marc Bauer: Untitled, Ex Voto 2, 2019. Pencil on paper, 70 x 50 cm

RB: The subjects feeding into your work originate in historical imagery as well as social and political events. Would you say your work is political and/or documentary?

MB: I think art is always political, as soon as you represent something it is a choice that implies a moral, ethical and political view. Should I draw a white girl or a black girl. In a passive posture or an active one. Should I break a stereotype or reinforce it? How can I twist it?

At the same time, this body of work could also be read from a different angle: much more auto-biographical and in a psychological context. During the last years I have been struggling with a depression and I see it today more as a depiction of this mental state and the latent fight to overcome it. There are always many different ways to look at it and to be touched by it.

Marc Bauer: Untitled, Ex Voto 3, 2019. Pencil on paper, 70 x 50 cm

Marc Bauer: Untitled, Ex Voto 4, 2019. Pencil on paper, 70 x 50 cm

RB: What projects are you currently working on or have coming up in the future?

MB: I am interest in the development of the internet from the 90’ to now. At the beginning, the internet was perceived as a utopian, a democratic and a social space and tool; today it has become Orwell’s nightmare. I want to understand what happened in between; of course, it is linked with politics. I am the recipient of the GASAG prize 2020 and I will have the opportunity to show this important project in the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin, next September.

Exhibition view – Mi Piace Commenta Condividi, A Rhetorical Figure, Swiss institute Milan, 2020 (Photographer Giulio Boem)

Exhibition view – Mi Piace Commenta Condividi, A Rhetorical Figure, Swiss institute Milan, 2020 (Photographer Giulio Boem)

Exhibition view – Mi Piace Commenta Condividi, A Rhetorical Figure, Swiss institute Milan, 2020 (Photographer Giulio Boem)

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www.marcbauer.net

All the works courtesy the artist and galerie Peter Kilchmann

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