Ciel Grommen extended her training in architecture at the University of Leuven (2012) with a master in contemporary art at the HEAD in Geneva (2015). As a researcher, Ciel observes habits and customs, enters into relationships with residents and shares everyday life with them. With models, maps, furniture, installations, events and stories, she tries to invent new narratives of cohabitation. Ciel Grommen chooses places that often symbolize plural phenomena that intrigue her, linking local perspectives to their global scale. In order to be able to understand these phenomena in all their complexity, the artist enlists the help of experts from other fields of knowledge – scientists, academics and residents of the habited place itself.
In collaboration with Maximiliaan Royakkers, Grommen’s work on the threshold of artistic research, education and spatial design questions present social, political and ecological dynamics. Taking complex social contexts and often disturbed landscapes as a starting point, Grommen and Royakkers develop their projects through extensive fieldwork, spatial interventions, and other interactive, participatory formats. Their role as spatial practitioners involves weaving of new narratives into spaces and testing out alternative ways of living-together, inhabiting, and relating to our environments.
In 2018, Grommen and Royakkers initiated Seasonal Neighbours, a loosely-fixed collective or artists, designers and social scientists, focusing on different forms of seasonality and cohabitation. Every member shares a fieldwork experience somewhere on Europe’s countryside. Through art and design interventions, critical conversations, thoughtful representations and written research, this experience is subsequently explored through a myriad of themes: from the evolution of the metabolism of horticulture, the changing rural landscape and European labour migration stories, to questions about the economy of scale in the agriculture sector, domesticity, public space, new forms of citizenship, etc.
In 2019, they initiated an extensive fieldwork at C-mine site in Winterslag (Genk), where CIAP kunstverein is settled. The ongoing project, entitled Le Paysage Ménagé, questions the ability to create an architecture that does not occupy a site, but rather inhabits it. The aim of the project is not only to mark the physical presence of CIAP on the site, but to enter into a dialogue with the local landscape and form new alliances between its different actors (organisations, artists, inhabitants, animals and plants), areas (existing architecture, civic infrastructure, spoil tips, empty lots), and functions (residential, educational, cultural, commercial). Pragmatically questioning land property, through uses and relationships, this research and practice are embedded in Emptor’s framework, Caveat’s new chapter on property.
Together with Maxime Brygo, Grommen works on Metéore, a project in a Valenciennes factory, asking: what does factory work mean today, and what are the prospects?
With Clémentine Vaultier and Royakkers, Grommen is part of Atlas of Ovens, an ongoing collaborative research project on infrastructures of heat, with Ciel Grommen and Clémentine Vaultier. How and what do we fire, with whom do we share the resulting warmth? The artists research how these infrastructures can transform not only matter, but our relationships to communities and territories.
Grommen works on a PhD research at LUCA school of arts (Ghent), in the research cluster Art, Pedagogy and Society. Works have been exhibited in C-mine Genk; Artsonje Art Centre, Seoul; Live In Your Head Gallery, Geneva; Z33, centre for contemporary art, Hasselt; Vai, Antwerp; Red Cross Museum, Geneva… Works even more often appear in the ‘real’ world, such as an asylum centre in Brussels, the post box of a neighbour, the parking lot ofAldi market Borgloon, at the foot of the terril of Winterslag…