L’Escaut Architectures & Bn PROJECTS are very happy to invite you to TNXCA, the project specially conceived and realized by Enrico GAIDO for the space of L’Escaut Architectures

L’Escaut Architectures may not need to be presented to the Belgian public.
It as an architects’ collective, or rather, an architects’ cooperative, who, over the years, have realized number of projects such as e.g., in Brussels, the Théâtre National, the Ursulines square-cum-skate park, The renovation of the Brasserie Belle-Vue and, more recently, that of the Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth.
Among other projects, let us mention the Musée de la Photographie in Charleroi, the Artothèque in Mons, or the Conservatory in Nantes.
Since their founding in 1989, they have also decided to, metaphorically and literally, « open up  » their premises and put them to the disposal of visual artists such as Francis Alÿs, Edith Dekyndt, Jean-Claude Saudoyez and of creators from the performative and the time-based scene. A programme of residencies, workshops, often coupled with exhibition periods has been thus initiated and developed.
A common feature to these invitations which, far from being systematic, are grounded rather on intuitions and encounters, would lie in a desire to promote a transversal, at times risky, but often seminal cross-pollination of their and their guests’ respective practices.

This is the reason why I immediately thought of L’Escaut Architectures when Enrico Gaido approached me to realize a project with him.
Nourished by a strong background in engineering and an extensive practice of performative installations designed for the stage, Enrico Gaido’s work is structured by concepts of tension - whether it be on the conceptual or plastic level - implemented in a particularly effective and rigorous way.
Gaido’s work often oscillates between antinomic concepts, playing e.g. with the idea of unstable balance, under contant tension, as if it were threatened by a predictable or inevitable, if not programmed, collapse or disruption. Likewise, it reveals a true, if rather contradictory, fascination for archaeological findings, whilst simultaneously playing with the idea of controlled destructions.

As, such, upon his first visit to and discovery of L’Escaut as an organisation nourishing their professional and extra-curricular practice and reflexions by transversal cross-pollinations, but also as an architectural space, rich of its past as a former industrial workshop, Gaido was immediately seduced by the idea of trying and articulating a project which would cross the building through and through, in multiple directions and in its varied dimensions. A project which would expose and reveal itself progressively to the visitor, just as it would progressively unveil the history of both the building and the organisation.
A further ingredient was brought about by his discovery of the origin of the toponymy of the place, with its direct reference to a fluvial element, that is the river Escaut.

The visit of the show thus starts on the ground floor with the concentrated impact made by a 200 kg volume of 12 cement blocks.
Each of these blocks has been drilled into by Gaido so as to insert a liquid betonamit paste , « the non-explosive cracking agent  », which inspired the title of the project, and which by its drying up, cracked them, materializing the idea of a preserved (as if frozen in time and volume) implosion.

Going up the stairs, we enter the actual workspace of L’Escaut Architectures.
This is where Enrico Gaido came up with an integrated « longitudinal  » intervention,
the two common long working tables of the collective being adorned with table cloths which feature printed drawings or x-rays of archaeological findings or tools, alongside representations (drawings, pictures, plans, graphs) derived from the so-called science of destruction mechanics - mostly used in engineering and in the building industry.

On the second floor, the common living area, where the members of the office have their lunches and gatherings, whilst also meeting up with the « residents  » or invited guests, one finds color photographic prints, in an unusual display, with visuals taken from the web illustrating devices of hydrostatic weighing and plethysmography. These techniques are used to measure the relative density of a body, thus providing, whether it be for the medical or sportive fields, useful information about its components, thereby implicitly suggesting, the idea of resistance to the penetration of external / alien elements.

On the third floor, the impressive space in the attic is used to display a spectacular installation where a 130 kg blue stone plate seemingly floats in the air suspended by a suction cup through an intricate play of cables.
Although softened by a glass wool mattress, the inevitable fall of the stone will be organized to take place during the opening days of the show, as quasi-performative moments of disruption.
This installation also allows us to understand the so far discrete presence of a cable, which vertically crosses the building in its full height.

This very cable, which holds back the granite slab through pulleys, brings us to rediscover the exhibition on the way back down to the basement, a space, which is apprehended of course as the foundation of the building but also as a sort of sedimented archival space of its very history and of the activity of L’Escaut.
A video tutorial is projected there, shedding light on the far from fortuitous and specific use of an hydrostatic hook to which the cable is ultimately fixed to in the basement.
As a matter of fact, this kind of hooks are the ones generally used to fix and hold back life boats, for, under the effect of water pressure, they instantly and automatically cut the ropes, allowing to free the small crafts from the sinking vessel.
In other words, they offer a good metaphor for the occasionally crucial and salutary role of sharp cuts in the context of a chronicle of a fall or break foretold.
And this is maybe where Enrico Gaido’s work, beyond its very precise inscription in a space and a context, also takes on its metaphoric social resonance.

Emmanuel Lambion

Vernissage on Saturday 22 April

5-9 p.m.

Exhibition open on Saturdays and Sundays, 2-6 pm
and by appointment during the week
from 23 April until 14 May 2017

Rue de l’Escaut 60,
B-1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean
(5 min from Tour et Taxis / Art Brussels)