Daniel Berset

Born in 1953, Daniel Berset has been awarded numerous prizes and grants, amongst which Federal fine-art grants. The chair recurs frequently as a subject in his work. Year 1997 was marked by the creation of Broken Chair, which rapidly became an icon of the Place des Nations, before the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The chair is an act of civilization, a means of speaking of people without showing them. As the Buddhists say, if a sage points at the moon with the tip of his finger, people look at the tip of his finger.

I have worked on the theme of the chair since the 1980s. It’s a domestic object familiar to us all. In 1987, after a whole series of studies, I finally succeeded in designing a prototype of this piece of furniture whose representation goes beyond all kinds of fashion. Beyond its functionality and its aesthetics, what it represents is more complex than it appears.

It’s an object of comfort and conviviality, but also of power. When I worked with Handicap International, it seemed to us essential not to depict violence, but rather to suggest it. I am interested in symbolism, and there is nothing more powerful in art than the anecdotal. Today, we are bombarded with images of violence that confront us full-on. After the initial emotional shock, we shield ourselves and we forget. The suggestion of violence enables us to reflect. I would never have imagined that this sculpture could be so disturbing. I must say that I have had far more expressions of support than complaints. In any case, I don’t think that it could have been placed anywhere else than within the Place des Nations. It was thought of and conceived for this place. Anywhere else, would it not simply have become a piece of decoration?"

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