"So is he a magician?' - the beauty of Yann Marussich's threatened body

​​When we first discussed presenting Bain Brisé in London, Yann warned me that 600kg of broken glass is hard to get hold of in the UK. I didn’t really believe him. But he was right. It took almost two weeks until we found a company which was not overtly obsessed with health and safety regulations, and was willing to help us.

Jack from Springview Windows was very interested to know what we were going to do with all this broken glass. I explained the work to him as well as I could. After I finished, his concluding question was: “So is he a magician?”. “No, he isn’t,” I responded, “he doesn’t do tricks”. After this conversation, I spent two hours in Springview’s glass recycling bin, hammering broken sheets of glass into ever smaller pieces. I reconsidered Jack’s question. Although Yann doesn’t do magic tricks like David Copperfield, does he not trick our perception in another way?

In Bain Brisé, Yann is covered under a mountain of numerous glass shards in a bathtub, and slowly emerges over the course of two hours. Thinking about this, fills me with a sense of danger: this body is under threat. Threat of suffocation, of being cut, of being crushed. The OED defines magic firstly as ‘mysterious tricks […] performed as entertainment’ and the fact that Yann has shown this work on several occasions without anything ever going seriously wrong, may suggest that it is a bit of a mysterious trick. But the work has another aspect, which takes it beyond straightforward magicianship. The initial sense of danger is interfered by the astonishing aesthetic realm of the work. The crystal-like reflection of the glass in the light, and its reflection on the wall. The slow and gracious movements of the body.

Whilst evoking a sense of danger, the work simultaneously makes one forget the mundane environment of the dirty recycling bin where the waste glass originates. And the everyday person connected to the body we see in the bathtub. OED gives us another definition of magic as well: ‘a quality of being beautiful and delightful in a way that seems remote from daily life’. So Jack was actually right in two ways.

March 2013