ARTHUR CORDIER                                                                                   ︎      ︎


RAVI Liège. Residency & exhibition, in collaboration with AAIR Antwerpen. Liège (BE)
01.09.19 - 31.12.2019
Video installation

'La Tonnelle Universelle, Section Touillette a Cafe'
Duration 9''
HD - 16:9


I arrived in Liège with the intention of pursuing a photographic documentation on commercial sites in a peri-urban context. During my preparatory walks on foot or by bike my attention was drawn to the Albert Canal, the autonomous port and, to a large building in red brick. It’s a landmark; "remarkable" if it wasn’t in ruins, closed-off with concrete blocks and flanked by a muddy parking lot where rest abandoned scooters. Yet it retains a majesty, something from a glorious past. 

It is the Grand Palais des Fêtes of the City of Liège, erected for the International Water Exhibition of 1939. The international exhibition consist in national pavillions spread over a large area in the outskirts of the city. Designed by Joseph Moutschen The Grand Palais des Fêtes was a piece of architectural bravery planned to remain after the exhibition ended; until 2011, it hosted the Coronmeuse ice rink. Unfortunately at the time the building couldn’t be completed in its entirety. The German pavillion was erected where Moutschen had initially planned the central café-restaurant for the exhibition, as an extension to the Palais des Fêtes.

I later learned that the International Water Exhibition had an abrupt end due to the invasion of Poland by Nazi troops, which led to France and England to declare war to Germany. Consequently the ‘neutrality’ of Beglium fell apart. The municipal archives keep the trace of the political discussions overlapping with the inauguration of the International Exhibition.

On the photographic documentation the imposing building in style of the Third Reich is adjacent to the Palais des Fêtes.
During the residency I developped a video-installation. And gathered all the unsigned and preliminary sketches of the Café-restaurant from the archives.

I am interested in historical coincidences, overlaps between reality and fiction as well as the connections between history and speculative narration.

The genre of twentieth-century Universal Exhibitions involves the presentation and display of national narratives and various innovations, notably on urban-planning, culture and economy. Similarly advertising reach still makes sense today, at a time of hyper specialization where all tastes and hobbies have a dedicated fair ranging from wedding fairs to automobile, garden or holiday salons. Then comes the oddly-specific fairs such as the Frog Festival (obviously France), the Edible Book Fair or the Salon for Supermarket Lighting. Soon to come is the Hair Brush Exhibition and the Stain Resistant Mirror Festival.

All of this pushed me to develop my own oddly-innovative product, intentionally slightly archaic: The Coffee-mixer Distributor. The device is available in a range of models, colour and sizes. In other words it is an excessively specific yet plausible product. Its promoting fair is titled of ‘La Tonnelle Universelle - Section Touillette à Café’ and presents the best of innovation in terms of blenders and coffee spatulas. And event not to be missed!