Johan Muyle

° 1956

Born in Charleroi (BE).

After studying art in Charleroi, Namur and Brussels, Johan Muyle settled down in Liège in 1980. He created performances, public actions, objects and installations in a ‘news item’ mode. As of 1985, his production concentrated on what he calls ‘assemblage sculptures’, made from collected objects. They are essentially composed of statuettes, especially religious, which are found on flea markets. The objects found are loaded with a past, a history, a context to which are added the meanings of the other elements assembled in the same sculpture. The ensemble of works made up of contradictory elements tackles the complementarity of differences, be they sociological, philosophical, religious or cultural, and includes both an ethical and a poetic dimension around two notions: the World and the Other.

In the early 90s, the sculptures became animated while leaving their mechanical process visible. As of 1993, Johan Muyle started to make extensive trips to Africa and India. First in Kinshasa, where he made pieces with local artists and craftsmen, and then to Madras, where between 1995 and 2004, he collaborated with poster artists[1]. These created monumental portraits of the artist, which were placed in large devices animated by an electromechanical process. These collaborations reinforced the artist's approach, which advocates cross-breeding as an identity value. The artist's approach tries to highlight issues, not judgments. They are conveyed by his singular sculptures whose poetry and style resist all the clichés of contemporary art. In addition to his artistic activity, Johan Muyle taught contemporary practices at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Valenciennes (FR) from 1994 to 2006. Since 2006, he has been director of the Atelier de Sculpture at ENSAV-La Cambre (Brussels).

For example, the work, Non si puo ridere della felicità (One cannot laugh at happiness) emanates from his ‘Indian’ period. The artist used his portrait in order to claim responsibility for the message of the work. It questions the relationship to the world of each individual. Is it better to see nothing, to hear nothing, and to say nothing? Should we passively rely on the fortune-tellers evoked by the device or be active with regard to one’s destiny? The title transforms the famous saying "We cannot laugh at other people’s misfortune" but can we then laugh at their happiness? The work ultimately questions what constitutes happiness in a society that multiplies the needs, conditions the desires and defines the fulfillment by having more than by being. Q(c)hi mangerà, vivrà is part of the same period. Of monumental size, the room invites spectators to put their head in the mouth of the portrayal of the artist. The work starts moving. The eyes of the artist open, the laurels, referring to the myth of Daphne, are activated to the rhythm of the Italian revolutionary song Bella Ciao. This time the title distorts the extract from the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St. John "I am the living bread that came down from heaven: if any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever."

[1] Reference: MARCELIS, Bernard, Indian Studio 1995-2013. Johan Muyle, Bruxelles, Fonds Mercator, 2013.

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