“La Flotte” (French, slang meaning: ‘water; drizzle’) is a site-specific installation by multimedia artist, Anthony Brazeau, opening to the public on Saturday, May 21st from 6-9pm at the corner of Gratiot Avenue and Joseph Campau (next to PLAYGROUND DETROIT gallery at 2845 Gratiot Avenue). The installation will be on view through Summer 2022.

Anthony Brazeau is a multimedia artist harvesting sculptures made from discarded objects found throughout Detroit. His work focuses on the combination of found and fabricated objects. The works, be they sculptural or 2D, are culminations of physical acts and temporal limitations. In creating these pieces, he places restrictions of time and salvaged materiality (scavenged) upon himself and the resulting works created are the manifestations of this rigid practice.

Image credit: @samanthaslist

Discarded items from a metropolitan city- empty bottles, car parts, and broken objects- are reimagined and formed into water-harvesting vessels using resin, screws, and various binding elements to create functional sculptures. The harvested rainwater supports the growth of flower and vegetable gardens by use of corresponding handmade jugs. The sculptures will stand tall in an empty urban field, alongside planters containing fruits and vegetables grown with the intent to be shared and available at no cost for whomever may desire or need the produce cultivated.

Through collecting discarded materials found in Detroit, Anthony documents places in which he spends most of his time. Afterwards he manipulates the objects to an array of disorderly forces: disassembly, tearing, melting, and covering them in substances to bind them together to eventually create a homogenous structure that has both skeleton and skin, alluding to the human form.

The ‘skin’ that stretches over these forms act as concealments, they hide or accentuate the trauma involved in their making. Ultimately, the flaws in them are left apparent as necessary imperfections. The impurities and haphazardness are linked to the process of entropy that our bodies undergo. The structures are solid, but not sturdy. They are similar to bones that heal improperly, creating a malunited fracture- almost, but not healed.

“Community is a key word. Art, in conjunction with community, is an essential part of life, it enriches and enhances. Art without a connection to the community cannot function. My goal with this project is to grow- grow the idea, grow food, grow as an artist, grow as a person within the community, grow with the community, and grow sustainable art practices.”

Artwork, Anthony Brazeau. Image credit, @samanthaslist

As a part of exhibition programming, Brazeau will lead a public workshop to teach the practice of making these water harvesting sculptures so others may create their own, to inspire and encourage sustainable food and art practices.

“I hope for this project to have a communal impact. People can visit the water harvesting sculptures, made of materials otherwise seen as city waste, but instead gather water for plants. The concept behind the sculptures is a circular act of community: inspire an idea, share the idea with others, put into action, they can teach others, and as a result, the city gets cleaner, there is more abundance to go around, and the cycle may repeat and repeat and repeat.”

When did you know you were/wanted to be an artist?

Art has always been a part of my life. Some of my earliest memories are summer days spent at my father’s studio in Pontiac. He is a metalsmith and sculptor, so those days were filled with the sound of bandsaws and the smell of the welder from the other room while I read and played video games in the office. I’d often spend my afternoons at the studio popping in and out of the other artist’s studios, seeing their different practices up close. I’d also often hangout in the hallway at the studio, using it as my own studio, and cobble together purely constructed sculptures with scrap wood. This early introduction of art and what being an artist meant instilled in me a sense that it was an achievable path to take.

As I began to focus more on my own artwork, I’d say my classes at the BBAC and the overall experience while going to CCS and working with there, I was able to hone in on what it means to be an artist as well as how to implement that. Namely, care deeply about what it is you’re making and also I want to treat it as a 9-5 job. For me having a sort of set structure like time limitations helps get the pieces out.

Artwork, Anthony Brazeau. Image credit, @samanthaslist

What concept or theme and medium are you most interested in currently? Why?

A concept that I’m interested in especially at the moment is Animism, or the belief that objects (along with animals and humans) have a spiritual essence. I believe in this deeply. When amongst objects, be they artifacts in a museum, art in a gallery, handcrafted wears at a market, or even at a supermarket seeing the rows and rows of plastic toys, a spiritual feeling can come over me.

What is it about using found objects that is the most interesting to you? What is the biggest challenge?

Image credit @samanthaslist

The use of found objects is central to my work and practice. I’m first drawn to the collecting aspect of it. Finding the discarded objects that make up a sort of flotsam of a city. Driving on the highway and seeing car parts on the shoulder, or walking along the downtown and seeing empty bottles or various piles of detritus near a park. Part of the collecting is my small act of cleaning up, stockpiling and removing objects and then taking them to the studio to try to reimagine them. The biggest challenge I find is trying to manipulate them so that they are at once recognizable as their original form and also so that they are abstracted.

What’s the main differences between your 2D or 3D work?

The main difference between my 2D and 3D work is with my 3D pieces, I’m aiming for them to have a particular function, such as collecting rain water. Both are created in similar ways, but the 3D work has a utilitarian aspect to them.  

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by everyday objects like tools, bottles, bed frames, garden planters, window frames, car parts, etc. Seeing an object instantly inspires me into thinking of how I can work with it to create something new. 

Has the concept that your work revolves around evolved over time?

My thinking of the 3D work has grown from viewing them strictly as sculptures, to now seeing them as vessels for further growth, use and exploration.

Do you have a favorite technique?  

My favorite technique is the wrapping of objects in various materials, fabric/tape/wire/clay, to both conceal and accentuate their forms. What about your creative process have you found to be the most successful for you?I think the most successful part of my creative process is never going into a piece with a form in mind. I will have the ultimate point of the piece figured out, such as these pieces need to be able to collect water, but I will let the materials guide me with how to put them together. This freedom helps me play with forms and discover more techniques and ways of making. 

Image credit @samanthaslist

What inspired the concept behind the show you are installing?  

This show was inspired by my drives into the cities that I live, be it Detroit/Hamtramck/Hazel Park. While on the highway and seeing car parts of various items and wanting to grab them and take them home to nurture them. Or seeing bottles spilling out of a punctured garbage bag and wanting to recycle them, as art and at the recycling plant. I wanted to use these items of the city and create them into forms that can help contribute to growth.

These sculptures are made from the cities and they collect rain that falls into them, from there the garden beds next to them will have plants and veggies that can be watered with the collected rain. I hope for more of them to be made and for more veggies and plants to grow, and for people to learn how to make them themselves if they’d like. It’s a sculptural practice for sharing.

La Flotte: Site-Specific Installation

Opening to the public on Saturday, May 21st, 6-9pm

LOCATION: corner of Gratiot Avenue and Joseph Campau (next to PLAYGROUND DETROIT gallery at 2845 Gratiot Avenue). The installation will be on view through Summer 2022.