Art within Architecture
Between reality and fiction, the Belgian artist-photographer Filip Dujardin recovers the art of collage to create a new language based on the modernist architectural tradition. He shoots real buildings and masterfully abstracts them to create his extraordinary ‘Fictions’.
His works may look “normal” at first, but after a second You notice that something is missing and you can’t understand what you see. This is good point to start re-thinking why buildings are as they are, or as they could…
Although he’s from Ghent, a historical city filled with picturesque buildings, that’s not the sort of world photographer Filip Dujardin creates in his own photography work.
Filip Dujardin’s mastery of Photoshop is complete; the “seams” where he’s mixed together his source photos are nonexistent. While many of his buildings would be structurally impossible, his ability to create illusions is so good that the buildings begin to seem real.
Filip Dujardin began his photographic practice as an architectural photographer honing his eye on the sculptural qualities of buildings. Recognizing their volume in space with their own laws of proportion, he explored their eloquence and expressiveness.
“Perhaps the works come out of frustration. That I actually want to play at being an architect, instead of only recording the buildings of others.” – Filip Dujardin
After documenting works that existed in reality, he soon felt the need to control their aesthetics and emancipate himself from existing forms to create his own. Without the traditional architect’s restraints to build with engineers and regulations, Dujardin designs with complete freedom. He shoots actual buildings transforming them with advanced technologies into post-modern “Fictions”. Dujardin projects his own ideologies into futuristic and non-functional forms.
Filip Dujardin takes the architect’s role removing the unavoidable and compromising responsibilities of the designer to express pure sculptural form.
Dujardin began photographing architecture in a conventional fashion, after studying at the Academy of Ghent, but soon felt an urge to control the aesthetics of his subjects. Using the wonders of Photoshop, he erases windows and doors, changes proportions of columns or roofs, and then uses his large digital archive of concrete walls, patinas and architectural details to create his futuristic, non-functional forms.
For extra plausibility and a sense of scale, he often adds details like a man standing in front of building holding a briefcase.
‘Fictions’ by Filip Dujardin at Highlight Gallery
His latest collection of photographs – were recently exhibited in the Highlight Gallery, San Fransisco.
Building designs can often be too controlled, or uninspiring, encumbered by programme, building cost, etc. and so he set to create his own. He used collections he had gathered of various building types, and abstracted certain typologies and archetypes, by scale, density or gravity, using computer software to enhance certain aspects of the architecture. Dujardin explained to Frame, ‘As I am not an architect, I cannot build actual structures, but doing it in a virtual way was something that opened a whole new way of working for me.’
Many of the resultant compositions are decontextualised, which makes them seem further abstracted. Dujardin also restricted himself to using buildings with a certain ‘patina’ or archaic look. He felt the contrast between history and his abstraction would create the ‘historical’ expression he looked to achieve, as if they were ancient monuments being rediscovered my architectural lovers.
The result is a series of buildings that have been pushed to the limits of reality, whilst ensuring they are still readable to the viewer. They instantly grab your attention. They are beautiful, striking and playful. On closer inspection one realises there is something unusual about them, something not quite right.
It is then clear that they are an invention of the mind, and you want to look even closer, and scan each of the foreign facades, and imagine yourself in each new environment
While Dujardin’s work is mesmerizing on its own, it also taps into a rich history of architecture, both utopian and dystopian and gives a sly commentary on the current state of architecture
One thinks of German Expressionists and Italian Futurists who drew grand, unbuildable schemes in the early 20th century.
Every montage, says Dujardin, is one project. It begins with an idea for a specific image. Often he starts off by building a model of the form he is trying to achieve – at first in cardboard, but he has recently discovered SketchUp. He then goes on a photo safari, often just around the corner, to find suitable buildings “with a lot of the same things,” so that they can be cut and pasted and serve as building material. In fact most of the fictional structures are buildings in Ghent, just resampled
The resulting projects look like “informal and often dilapidated structures with unspecified functions” – or, in some cases, new projects by LOT-EK, Simon Ungers, or OMA.
Filip Dujardin also fits in a few nods to a fellow Belgian artist, the great surrealist René Magritte.
In one of Dujardin’s photos, we see a businessman from behind as he enters a bizarre, angular office building. A faceless member of the bourgeoisie, clad in a trench coat and toting a briefcase, the man recalls similar anonymous figures in Magritte paintings.
And here’s perhaps the greatest trick of all: while Dujardin’s fictional buildings are divorced from reality, they give a sly commentary on the current state of architecture. Seeing his series, you can easily image one of those buildings in your street. Reminiscing the banality of everyday bland architecture..
Freed from building and engineering restraints, his structures have a strangely mesmeric pull.
Consider the widely applauded design extravagances in buildings by architects such as Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid or Daniel Libeskind. How much more outlandish are Dujardin’s windowless honeycomb of peaked-roof house forms or his shipping container high-rises?
Students and critics of architecture used to be – and perhaps still are – taught to scrutinize building facades for how they reflect, disguise or otherwise play upon interior structures and functions. On that score also, Dujardin’s hypothetical projects hint at forms of social or economic life bizarrely, often comically, disfigured, even by the measure of the world we know.
Filip Dujardin Shed and Chimney Works
About Filip Dujardin
Born in Ghent, Belgium on the 14th of july 1971.
Studied History of Art on the University of Ghent, specialized in architecture.
Studied photography on the Academy of Ghent.
Technical assistant of Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer.
From 2000-2006 a professional collaboration with Frederik Vercruysse-photographer.
2007 : works as an independent photographer for private and public clients, in the field of architecture, interior and design. Publishes his work in national and international books and magazines
2008 : first presentation of artistic work ‘Fictions’ in BOZAR (Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels). Group-exhibition ‘Exister contre les faits’ in the Centre de Design’ in Montréal-Canada
2010 : “Imaginary Architecture: Photographs by Filip Dujardin” Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, WI U.S.
2008 : BOZAR (Center for Fine Arts, Brussels)
Select Group Exhibitions
2010 : “Tranquil Dynamism” Jeonju Photography Festival, Jeonju, South Korea
“Vero, Falso, Verosimile” (True, False, Plausible) Casabella Labratorio, Milan, Italy
2009 : “L’Alibi Documentaire” Photography and architecture at Centre Wallonie-Bruxells, Paris, France
“Ostrale 09″ International contemporary exhibition, Dresden, Germany
2008 : UQAM (Center of Design, Montreal Canada)