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Dominique Abensour

In October 2005, Aleksander Konstantinov arrived in Quimper from Moscow, bringing with him plans for a large-scale project set in the urban landscape of this Breton town.

 Aleksander Konstantinov is a draughtsman. This may seem hard to believe, given the giant structures that took over a number of buildings in Quimper, but it is nonetheless true: the artist works with drawings, the only difference being that his are to the scale 1:1, the same size as the townscape or landscape which form their backdrop.

In the 1980s, Konstantinov’s art drew on a basic repertoire of elementary geometrical data – vertical and horizontal lines, x- and y-axes. His drawings, though abstract, did borrow their structure from diagrams based on rational thinking, using squared paper, temperature charts, administrative forms, evaluation sheets, and so on as a way of organising, classifying, and measuring reality. However, his drawings rapidly moved from paper to other media and a whole different scale, expanding to cover entire architectural spaces or landscapes.

Konstantinov was invited to Quimper to participate in the exhibition «Bon Voyage». On the Place François Mitterrand, the square in front of the Art Centre, he produced gigantic sketches using coloured adhesive tape on white plastic sheeting hung on wooden frames. The three «drawings», attached to the facades of different buildings, sketched out three architectural styles. The first, propped on a slant against the walls of the Art Centre – formerly barracks – echoed the building’s rather austere, institutional architecture. The second relocated a Gothic-style window inspired by church architecture to a local radio station, while the third was fitted to the gable of a small house at the far end of the square, mirroring the sloping roof and chimney. The three works thus brought together the State, the Church, and the Citizen – in other words, the Art, the Sacred, and the Individual. These large expanses of wall propped against the facades, as if waiting to be reused elsewhere, revealed a mimetic relationship with built space and its history which suggested an imminent departure. The title Bon Voyage thus referred to the whole square about to set out for other destinations.

Konstantinov’s oeuvre reveals further paradoxes; indeed, it positively revels in contradiction. His structures are part drawing, part architecture, the image competing with its built twin as the blueprint tries to take over the whole site. They are both serious and playful, thoughtful and candid, monumental and ephemeral. Using very little in 
the way of materials, they are relatively simple and quick to build. They appear fragile, yet they prove astonishingly resilient, withstanding winds of 150 km/h and a weight of nine tons in Quimper. They are clearly ephemeral, yet quietly challenge the great age of the buildings they have colonised. The barely sketched drawings created an unlikely stage set of a building site, in a tone of bold red that formed a striking contrast with the slate grey of the roofs and the beige tones of the houses. Surprisingly, the constructions were visible from a great distance, from the top of Mont Frugy overlooking Quimper.

Aleksander Konstantinov’s project was made possible thanks to help from a variety of sources. The town hall services ensured the draconian legal requirements governing the placing of such works of art in public spaces were met, while a group of students from the Ecole Supérieure d’Art de Cornouaille worked tirelessly day and night, rain or shine, to produce the structures, under the guidance of the Le Quartier team, who managed this unusual undertaking with military precision and boundless enthusiasm.

Konstantinov’s nomad architecture – modest and yet grandiose – remained in place for six months, rather than two as originally planned. They gave Quimper the taste of a world which may have turned away from modernist utopias, but which has not yet given up on letting itself succumb to enchantment.

Location: Centre for Contemporary Arts, Quimper, France.

Year: 2006


a three part installation created at the suggestion of the Centre for Contemporary Arts Le Quartier in Quimper on the occasion of the «Bon Voyage» exhibition.

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