Michel François

Pieces of evidence


Michel François

Pieces of evidence

Ikon presents the first UK survey of work by Belgian artist Michel François, comprising sculpture, film and photography. It exemplifies the artist’s conviction that the meanings of a work of art are determined through its combination with others in relation to an exhibition space. Visitors to Ikon encounter numerous pieces to be read as a whole, integrated with the entire building.

The exhibition title, Pieces of evidence, refers to François’ fascination with a netherworld, drawing comparisons between the ingenuity of artists and criminals. The key installation here involves a projected film in which we see the hands of a magician skilfully examining everyday objects – drinks cans, cosmetic bottles – before revealing hidden compartments and illegal substances within. The objects themselves are exhibited in vitrines nearby. Another work, Stumbling Block II (Wall) (1989), is a large rectangular block of polystyrene secured to the wall with strips of brown tape, a sculptural translation of a convicted smuggler’s failed attempt to conceal drugs by strapping them across their body. An art object is likened to contraband.

The idea of crossing international frontiers – illegally or otherwise – is conveyed by Surveying (1993), a video of an inchworm walking over a map of the world. This funny creature signifies the artist’s free spirit with respect to art as much as his geographical itinerancy, a kind of energy that spurs us to keep moving, keep looking, and keep asking questions. Likewise, Golden Cage 1 (2008–2009), considers the notion of frontiers. A large free-standing steel box, from which A4-sized sections have been uniformly cut, it is a structure on the verge of collapse. It is a cage with walls thatresemble the gilded left-overs of a manufacturing process, with cut out shapes scattered within. François presents this work as symbolic of human migration across the Mexican/US border, the hollow dreams of finding a better place, the cage being desirable in a way that its contents are not.

A further work, Self-Portrait Against Nature (2002), shows the artist, seen from above, walking around on a hard concrete floor and smoking while empty wine bottles drop and smash around him. It suggests a kind of solitude and self-destructiveness that throw any hints of joy into sharp relief. Broken Neon Lights (2003), has a similar edginess as François stamps his feet through a path of neon tubes, laid widthways, resulting in lots more broken glass. The action is transgressive and the feeling one of anger.

The exhibition is accompanied by a new publication featuring a text by writer and critic Martin Herbert.

Michel François’ exhibition Pieces of evidence is supported by The Henry Moore Foundation; Wallonie-Bruxelles International; Lafarge Tarmac; Bortolami Gallery, New York; Galerie Carlier Gebauer, Berlin; Galerie Kamel Mennour, Paris; Thomas Dane Gallery, London and Galerie Xavier Hufkens, Brussels.




Document Name
Michel François Exhibition Guide
586.6 kB
Michel François Press Release
153.1 kB


See more
Michel François
Déjà-vu (Hallu)
Off-site installationFletchers Walk, Birmingham, B3 3HJ.Open Monday – Saturday, 7am-7pm. Free

1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace
Birmingham, B1 2HS

GALLERY: +44 (0)121 248 0708
SHOP: +44 (0)121 248 0711

Ikon is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and Birmingham City Council.

Copyright © 2024 IKON. All rights reserved. Registered charity no. 528892