Encounter with Isa Genzken
Isa Genzken and Robbrecht en Daem architecten have collaborated several times over the past decades, in the context of the exhibitions Floor for a Sculpture, Wall for a Painting and Documenta IX and the art integration Camera on top of Galerie Greta Meert in the Brussels city centre. Of the three collaborations, the latter can perhaps be called the most iconic.
At the top of Galerie Meert—on the roof terrace that houses a penthouse and also guesthouse for artists and art lovers—Genzken placed the artwork Camera. It shows a tilted steel window frame that seems to defy gravity. The work seemingly leans far over the railing, and a ‘what if?’ feeling reflexively looms over anyone who takes notice of this event. With this work, Genzken disconnected the form of a window from its original architectural purpose, which she has been doing with window sculptures since the 1990s. Here, looking out over Brussels, she poetically reframes the city, the landscape, time and everyday reality. Like a still life of constant change. By offering only the frame and not what takes place between the lines, she invites the viewer to make their own interpretation.
Genzken often connects painting, sculpture and architecture, but more than in the previous collaborations, the boundary between her artwork and the architecture of Robbrecht en Daem on this Brussels roof becomes very fine, to almost non-existent. “Nothing articulates the transition from sculpture to building,” writes Wouter Davidts. Camera’s steel window frame gently rests on the terrace tiles. The artwork subtly blends with its architectural context, while the building as a whole generously acts as a socle. Together, sculpture and building generate a captivating story about the potential rapport between art, artists, architecture and the city.”1 This ambiguous coming together is also a quality of the other collaborations between Genzken and Robbrecht en Daem. In the exhibition Floor for a Sculpture, Wall for a Painting, for example, a dialogue emerged between the pictorial and the architectural components. Here, Genzken's work was placed next to the wooden floor, making the floor a forecourt for the sculpture, as it were.
1 Original Publication: Wouter Davidts, “Double Up or In Unison. Encounters of Art and Architecture in the Work of Robbrecht en Daem architecten,” in Maarten Van Den Driessche, ed., Robbrecht en Daem: An Architectural Anthology (Ghent, 2017), p. 161.