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Exploring the limits of the medium, Brazilian artist Clarissa Baumann issued a unique challenge to the skilled artisans of the Puiforcat workshops in Pantin near Paris. As artist-in-residence for the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, Baumann’s risk-taking work addresses the erosion and disappearance of materiality in art.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1988, Clarissa Baumann trained as visual artist and designer while pursuing a professional career in contemporary dance. She subsequently enrolled at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, working with Ann Veronica Janssens, her mentor for the residency programme with the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès. Baumann’s work addresses the gestural vocabulary of everyday life, in performances characterised by their extreme economy of means. Taking a cross-disciplinary approach, her residency at Puiforcat led to two projects focusing on the making of objects, and the possibility of non-materiality in works of visual art.
Working with the Puiforcat artisans, a simple silver spoon is gradually extended until it becomes a length of silver wire. Manipulated by two people at its extremities, the wire becomes a vector for sounds which are inaudible in the immediate vicinity of the piece. For the second piece, a silver sphere is progressively polished to its smallest possible size. Both pieces test artisan metalworking skills to the limit. After the performances, the participating artisans are invited to give an account of the methods used, passing the barely visible metal sphere from hand to hand, until (potentially) it disappears altogether.
Each year since 2010, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès has invited young visual artists mentored by leading personalities in their field, to engage with the exceptional artisan skills and materials of the Hermès workshops. The programme of artists’ residencies includes a period of immersion at the workshops, followed by a feasibility study for the resulting project, leading to the creation of a new work in association with Hermès artisans.