In the spring of 2004, artist Michel de Broin approached a large rock in a forest in the Vosges Mountains, France. He carried with him glue, cement, and pieces of mirror.
Having received an invitation to “reflect upon the notion of transparency,” de Broin responded by affixing pieces of mirror to the rock, maintaining its contours, until the rock’s surface was entirely covered in mirrors. The result is Superficial.
In Superficial, the object’s environment is enlisted as a kind of fifth material. Depending on the position of the viewer, the mirrors render the surroundings accurately while mutating the significance of what’s being seen. The rock seems to disappear into its surroundings while simultaneously appearing highly conspicuous.
Associations traditionally made with mass and transparency are inverted. Contrasts between
natural and artificial are amplified in the form of alien presence. By reminding the viewer of his/her presence, Superficial intervenes in what might otherwise be a continuous experience of nature.
Canadian-born and now Paris-based, de Broin often uses common materials that have been displaced and reconfigured, such as old televisions, light sockets, and street signs. His award-winning work (in 2007 he won Canada’s Sobey Art Award) renders the familiar strange, and in doing so it tends to exacerbate certain assumptions.
De Broin sees his objects as mischievous, intervening in the dynamic between individuals and “modern utopian aspirations.” He reminds us that any reality, no matter how well accepted, is still an interpretation or representation of itself.
“The main idea for me regarding art is to try to open a small gap in the meaning/construction of reality so that viewers can construct a meaning for themselves,” De Broin told the art blog View on Canadian Art. “The subject succeeds when people are questioned by it, [when] they have to participate in the creation of meaning.”
Making Strange: micheldebroin.org