With his “On Hold” series, Peter Buggenhout makes sculptures that seem to be in an uncomfortable state between stability and decay, between the notion of “under construction” and that of a completed balance. The spectator is expected to move around a work to get a complete idea of it, and then to reconstruct the various impressions into a whole, but with confusion and blurred recognition as the result. “On Hold”, therefore, refers to both the construction of the installation, the inflatable elements under tension that are part of the work, and the perception of the viewer – the uncontrollable goals that man sets for himself but fails to achieve.
Peter Buggenhout's highly artificial creations are irresistibly fascinating for the beholder. The mere size and variety of the surfaces and materials is impressive and makes viewing the works demanding. But they awaken not just a pleasant sense of curiosity. Although the objects are elaborately produced artifacts, there are saturated with illusionary moments of transience and decay that in their seriousness refer to representations of vanitas in terms of art history. In their emotionality, the physically palpable experience is like an experience of nature.
Buggenhout's assemblages and installations become suddenly legible as dark moments of a constantly changing repetition, that as in nature could also take place in human culture and civilization. Buggenhout works systematically and over the long term on several consistent series that are best identified by the materials used. They are impossible to describe exhaustively in formal terms due to their amorphous complexity. Their titles are each taken from parables, myths, or motifs in which perception is delayed, negated, or mirrored. Different ways of reading the world illustrate the tense relationship between the visible and the utterable, and ultimately between the artwork and the word.
In terms of art history, Buggenhout developed his sculptural work from post-minimalism, overcoming an essentialist understanding of art. Minimal art sought to reach a final point by using industrial forms of production, materials, and surfaces that present themselves as hermetically sealed and adapt spatially to architecture. Despite thematic and geometric reduction, minimalism was shaped by a great deal of theatricality and consciousness of form; despite all the contrasts, this links Buggenhout's work to this important historical position. But minimal art differs in its hermetic self-referentiality, accompanied by loquacious theoretical pronouncements. For Buggenhout creates an oeuvre that is highly suggestive in which a nameless world of destructive and yet creative potential emerges. As he put it, "The world becomes brutally present when deprived of the comforting words that grant us the illusion of understanding that which surrounds us. My work is brutally present and I give no credence to words. (They play games with us)".