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Exhibitions

BRUT Collective // City Remnants

The Belgian design cooperative’s latest installation riffs on the forms and functions of urban life.

Carwan Annex, Athens
24th February – 9th April 2022

By Adrian Madlener / 28th March 2022
BRUT, 'City Remnants' at Carwan Gallery Annex, 2022 COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Giorgos Sfakianakis

Installation view with BRUT, ‘A City’s Bench’ (foreground); Nel Verbeke, ‘Embrace Melancholy’ mirror/hourglass,
COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Giorgos Sfakianakis

AT THE PERPLEXING cultural and linguistic intersection of Germanic and Romantic Europe, Brussels is characterised by an eclectic array of architectural styles, gridlocked politics and economic disparities – a complex situation that manifests in a somewhat disjointed urban landscape. Grandiose archways and palaces erected by infamous kings, towering government buildings, and upmarket residential quarters are flanked by worn-down neighbourhoods, decaying facades and a disorganised infrastructure.

For some, this gritty, contrasting setting serves as the perfect backdrop to work creatively. It’s the ideal place to experiment and, perhaps more importantly, benefit from relatively low rents. In recent years, the Belgian capital has spawned an active design scene that builds on the country’s rich avant-garde spirit and history of innovation by pushing the boundaries of function, materiality and expression.

BRUT, 'City Remnants' at Carwan Gallery Annex, 2022 COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Giorgos Sfakianakis

BRUT, ‘City Remnants’ at Carwan Gallery Annex, 2022
COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Giorgos Sfakianakis

At the centre of this new movement is BRUT Collective, whose latest collection explores the complexity of daily life within cities like Brussels. Made up of five experimental designers – Charlotte Jonckheer, Linde Freya Tangelder (Destroyers Builders), Nel Verbeke, Ben Storms and Ghent-based Bram Vanderbeke – the group takes a deeply conceptual yet craft-led approach to exploring form, utility and cultural association. Treating different themes such as archaeology and the enduring influence of ancient archetypes, the young Belgian designers coalesce their individual practices and interests in immersive installations and exhibitions.

BRUT collective COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Alexander Popelier

BRUT collective
COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Alexander Popelier

The individual pieces they develop often reflect personal lines of inquiry but are unified in their quest to challenge common perception – questioning how ubiquitous objects and materials are implemented. Their shared understanding of various crafts, pared-back yet polished aesthetic and their formal distillation allow the designers to communicate their independent and collective visions.

Destroyers Builders, 'Windows of Bo Bardi', part of BRUT, 'City Remnants', 2020 COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Alexander Popelier

Destroyers Builders, ‘Windows of Bo Bardi’, part of BRUT, ‘City Remnants’, 2020
COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Alexander Popelier

“BRUT stands for bold movements and emotions beyond functionality,” as stated in the collective’s mission statement. “BRUT aims at creating meaningful objects which allow a strong relationship with the user – a relationship that transcends mere functionality. BRUT proposes a sensory and spatial experience in which the scenography strengthens the architectural circumstances and context.”

BRUT, 'City Remnants', 2020 COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Alexander Popelier

BRUT, ‘City Remnants’, 2020
COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Alexander Popelier

The new ‘City Remnants’ installation, on view at Athen’s Carwan Gallery, takes the various modalities of a contemporary metropolis as its main motif and embodies the group’s ongoing exploration of individuality and collectivity as experienced in such a context.

BRUT has created scenographic elements as part of the installation, referencing generic street furniture such as ‘A City’s Low Table’ and ‘A City’s Wall’  – which cleverly serve as functional objects in their own right. Set against this backdrop Verbeke’s timepiece mirror,  ‘Embrace Melancholy’, and Vanderbeke’s architectonic settees, ‘Stackable Stools’, subtly emphasise an extracted urban experience. Together with standing lamps that echo streetlights,  skyscraper-esque shelves, and bollard-inspired benches, this artificial cityscape unexpectedly champions functionality.

BRUT, 'City Remnants' at Carwan Gallery Annex, 2022 COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Giorgos Sfakianakis

Installation view ,’City Remnants’, at Carwan Gallery Annex, 2022
COURTESY: BRUT / PHOTOGRAPH: © Giorgos Sfakianakis

What’s clear is that the innate forms defining the curvature of a road, or the bevelled relief of a facade, can also translate into the shape of a chair, bench or luminaire. Presented in the gallery’s Annex space, the overall staging is at once visual and tactile, iconographic yet abstract, austere but inviting, singularly visual and conceptually rigorous.

BRUT Collective member Linda Freya Tangelder (Destroyers Builders) is also having her own solo show – entitled ‘Rooted Flows: Solidified Reflections’ – within Carwan Gallery’s main space until 2nd April.

BRUT Collective // City Remnants at Carwan Annex, Athens.

 

Article by Adrian Madlener
Article by Adrian Madlener
Adrian Madlener is a Brussels-born, New York-based writer covering a wide range of design-related topics. View all articles by Adrian Madlener