Bruno Lefevre Brauer, a French graphic designer, better known in the world of artists as Brauer+, found a special passion for collecting historically-infused industrial scraps and helping us see them in an entirely new light. Literally.
Brauer uses metal waste to compose unique works of art, vintage robots, which he fits with lighting to imbue the cold metal with life. We visited him at his house, one of the oldest in the outskirts of Paris, where he also works. As soon as we cross the threshold, we're greeted by a pair of gleaming eyes, a testament to his hearty devotion to work. "This was my first," says the artist with pride, as he invites us into his venerable world of mechanics, patina and lights.
He collects waste material from anywhere, from old factories, car junk yards, or often from friends and craftsmen who know of his love for scrap iron and other metals. Bruno selects individual pieces for his art as he goes, after he has disassembled the original item. "I never know in advance what will become of a particular scrap of metal. Sometimes I see heads in them, bodies, other times I don't touch them for years, it depends. But each time I see a piece of scrap metal, my head fills with ideas. I'm most interested in hidden parts, which are sometimes very difficult to get to. As a result, they're even more magical," explains the artist, while removing varnish from a metal part using sandpaper.
But this is only the beginning. The end result cannot be completed in just a few short minutes. It takes hours and hours of meticulous work for the robots to acquire a desired image, at which point Lefevre also gives them a name. "I've always been drawn to industrial materials, I couldn't but admire them. I find every little scrap has a story of its own, and by combining them, I can create a new one. Being able to build my own toys keeps me young at heart," confesses Bruno, who occasionally struggles to give up his products.
"Robots are like children for me. They all have to leave home at some point." Once they're put together, there's the final moment: the activation. Pushing the light switch breathes life into them, and once discarded and forgotten pieces of waste are now friendly creatures with a unique story, conveyed by each of their constituent parts.
The series of 14 hand-made robots is displayed at M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva, Switzerland. In the meantime, Bruno is already preparing a new exhibition, with which he'll be traveling to Dubai.
What is the art of "upcycling?" It sounds like recycling, right? No, it's something completely different. It's a process of converting waste materials, raw materials or useless products into new creations, offering better quality or better environmental value. The term itself is quite new. In 1994, it was first coined by Reiner Pilz, in an interview he gave to Thorton Kay, about the European systems for waste management: "With 'upcycling,' we create less garbage, lessen our impact on the environment and also save money."