Adrien Tirtiaux

° 1980

Works in Antwerpen (BE), born in Brussel (BE).

Adrien Tirtiaux graduated from the Catholic University of Louvain-La-Neuve as an architect-civil engineer in 2003. That same year, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, graduating with a degree in sculpture & performance in 2008. He received the Pfann Ohmann Prize in 2005. In 2013, he was selected for the Young Belgian Art Prize. His work One Step After Another earned him the Bernd Lohaus Prize in 2018. Tirtiaux lives and works in Antwerp.

In 2009, Tirtiaux founded the research project HOTEL CHARLEROI with Antoine Turillon (France) and Hannes Zebedin (Austria). From 2010 until 2014, the platform brought more than 100 artists together in the city, exploring art's relationship with the city's public space, its connection with its neighbourhoods and population.

His work must be situated at the intersection between architecture and art. Tirtiaux observes our relationship with the world, in an attempt to grasp it and intervene in it, exposing the socio-economic, political and socialisation processes behind it.

"What interests me is something site-specific, but which also has a metaphorical, symbolic, and political value that can be applied in a broader context."

Typically, Tirtiaux starts by examining the context, after which he identifies potentially problematic situations. He then explores the artist's relation to this. The making process is crucial as it is intrinsic to the work, creating momentum and offering opportunities to adapt to the circumstances and its actors. After consultation, he wants to build a bridge, which is often fragile, vulnerable and unpredictable.

In 2013, he literally built a bridge on a school building for Coup de Ville (Sint-Niklaas), based on the principle toujours plus haut (always higher). He started from a sturdy, robust structure similar to the concrete structure of the school building itself above the school entrance, making his way across step by step at height.

"The bridge starts out wide, tapering and becoming narrower, becoming a metaphor for students' expectations and their path in (life) where the possibilities are narrowed down as you move along."

His artworks resemble architecture, although they often lack architecture's functionality. Moreover, Tirtiaux attaches great importance to the art of tinkering with the making process, which has become an essential aspect of his work. He believes that many artists have lost the ability to tinker, to discover and understand something through play.

The relationship to space, the environment and its participants are all important. Performances interpret the plans and concepts behind his work. He pits different relationships against each other: the public and the space, the institution and art, the artist and society. Performance seems to be a way of getting the creator, the public, the artwork, its environment, society and its politics to engage with each other, 

as in The Great Cut at De Stroom in The Hague. This installation literally drew a line through the building. Tirtiaux was inspired by the Dutch budget cuts, which impacted the arts centre. From 2012 until 2014, everyone in the building was forced to take this intervention into account by way of exercise. Tirtiaux's approach is mainly poetic, contentious, and humorous.

In Boven de muur (Tracing The Future, Leuven, 2016), Tirtiaux builds wooden structures on the wall between the city park and the adjacent gardens in an attempt to bridge private and public space, almost forcing residents and passers-by to take a position, to break through the private space and take or find freedom in it. Performers reinforced and articulated the mental space around the work, diminishing the boundary between the work and the public by taking the place of a possible passer-by/viewer/participant. Among other things, the work seems to be a flippant comment on Western individualism.

In Heaven and Earth (2018, Middelheim, Antwerp), the artist wanted to connect earth and (the gaze to) heaven.  The design consists of a scenario. The artwork is its execution. The earth served as the mould for the artwork. The four piles were cast in concrete. After drying, they were lifted from their mould into the ground. A circle, also cast in concrete, is suspended between these piles. The mould in which the circle was cast can still be seen on the ground. It forms an integral part of the artwork and the place where it is located. The work seems to have emerged from the earth, from the place in which and from which it was made, a place like the museum, in which art can exist through a concurrence of circumstances, its elements, its representatives, and all the machinations and strategies that intervene.  

Tirtiaux's work has been shown at Manifesta (Italy, 2008), IKOB (Eupen, 2014), Kunsthalle São Paolo (Brazil, 2016), Martha Herford (2017), Le Magazin (Grenoble, 2018), and in Antwerp at the Middelheim (2018), at Otty Park and M HKA (2020), among others.


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