Born and bred in Liège, young industrial designer and artist Arnaud Eubelen need only step outside his house to find inspiration. With a keen sense of the connections between the tangible and the immaterial, the transient and the permanent, Eubelen photographs what many might consider mere banalities, and in so doing subtly shifts not only their meaning but also their function in our everyday surroundings. His current exhibition at Les Brasseurs’ Vitrine Jeune Artiste series has him fashioning an ordinary setting for passersby to look into. We popped into his atelier (and home) for a closer look at the galvanising forces shaping his work.
Interview by Gabriela González
Photos by Tiny Geeroms, shot in Liège
Tell us, what are you up to right now?
I finished school two years ago – I studied industrial design in Liège as well as in La Cambre. I’ve been part of a collective called La Superette for five years; we started off as a gallery but in order to pay for the space we started doing parties and concerts where we built entire sets and decors to give them a distinctive touch – we just did our first festival last summer. As for me, I’m still doing design, although it’s less industrial and more in the order of sculptures, as in sculptural design or object-sculptures with a focus on furniture pieces. And then there’s photography, which is a discipline that I carry out simultaneously and that I use as a means to find ideas in terms of textures and finding associations between materials and colours and that kind of thing.
Was there something intrinsic about industrial design that led you to take up photography as an artistic practice?
Photography for me is more a way to diversify in many directions, with the excuse of only taking photos. I’ve worked in buildings a lot, which was annoying sometimes but which also gave some insight into things I wouldn’t see anywhere else and which could be inspiring in their own right. Some people make moodboards by looking up images online; I do it by going out into the streets and focusing on textures, forms and objects – never people.
Some people make moodboards by looking up images online; I do it by going out into the streets and focusing on textures, forms and objects – never people
What is it about these objects that attracts you?
When I take photos it’s mainly a spur of the moment thing: if I see something that’s interesting, I snap it. But indeed there are things that attract me more than others, like buildings and construction sites, dilapidated places where it’s hard to tell if they’re being built or demolished…There’s a lot of places like that in Liège where you don’t really know what’s going on and where places and objects are often crumbling. I like the idea that things have a life of their own and that even if they’re not as beautiful as they once were they are worth keeping around.
It sounds like materiality and physical presence are major tenets of your work.
Indeed, and also seeing how things are made, which is part of what school was about for me: looking closer and understanding the details to see how something was made, who it was that made it, and what it was made for. Photography also operates as an archival tool, a means to fix things in their context and their time, for me to remember the details that I would otherwise forget.
I like the idea that things have a life of their own and that even if they’re not as beautiful as they once were they are worth keeping around
What’s the story behind your exhibition for Les Brasseurs?
The vitrine in question is a super tiny place, hardly a metre wide and about five metres long. It’s a pretty strange place to do an exhibition because you can’t actually go in: you can only look in from the outside. The idea is to stage a somewhat strange and disturbing interior scene where you’re not really sure what’s going on, using photos and a large couch that I built. I call it Interior avec vue, alluding to the fact that essentially it’s only a vitrine where nobody lives, but from looking in you get the impression that somebody lives or has lived there. There’s also artifice like condensation on the windows but it’s the photos that will give a clearer context to the scene.
Is Liège an interesting city for you as an artist?
Personally, I could be anywhere – I’m not particularly attached to any one place. But it’s true that rent is cheap, and there’s not a lot of pressure on who does what. It can be a bit of an aquarium – you have to get out of Liège if you want to get more recognition, and our waves don’t resonate that strongly out there, not even in the rest of Belgium. But I do love this city, it’s very cosy and bon enfant: you can have some great times here but staying here forever is something else [Laughs].