Tom Frantzen has been approached several times by district committees and cultural groups to create sculptures relating to Brussels'
It is not surprising. Tom Frantzen, who was born and bred in Brussels, appreciates the "zwanze", a unique form of humour which he thinks is characterized by the absurdity and surrealism that stem from the mixture of languages so typical of Brussels. Because this type of humour is "becoming extinct" (as he says), the artist tries to perpetuate it and to confront the next generations with it. For this "zwanze" to remain integrated in the minds and in the streets, the artist really wanted his works to be sealed in the streets' pavements and he was concerned that pre-existing elements of the surrounding environment (manhole covers, lampposts, mileposts, etc) be used as part of his works.
(1985, Molenbeek, in front of the building of the Communauté Française)
Working on an imposed subject, that of "De Vaartkapoen", which is the name given to the people who were born in Molenbeek
(literally "de vaart" means "the canal" and "kapoen" means cheeky), Tom Frantzen stages a little scene on two levels:
the level of the sewers (which lead into the canal) and the level of the pavement (see the lamppost, the cobblestones and the manhole cover).
Low down, a young rebel, the Vaartkapoen, reminiscent of a jack-in-the-box, topples over a policeman higher up, thus overthrowing his authority. With this statue, the artist makes an implied reference to cartoonist Hergé (who is mostly famous for being the creator of Tintin, and shared the same "zwanze" as Frantzen) by changing the officer's roll number from 22 (22 being a pun, because of the French expression "vingt-deux, v'là les flics"= "watch out, here come the cops") to 15 ("Officer 15" was another of Hergé's famous characters).
In a snapshot-like motion, the two characters gracefully turn into bronze and remain so forever, leaving the rest of the scene to our imagination... which is how the rebellious Brussels artist gets passers-by to share a joke with him.
(2000, Brussels sculpture located at the corner of the Fédération des Mutualités Socialistes du Brabant building)
Designed to create a dynamics between two streets, this sculpture beams with its presence in the space that was allocated to the artist.
The monument is precious to Belgium's (and especially Brussels') collective memory.
It contributes to the connection of "the people who pass by" on two interactive parameters: the space of what is real and the time of
what is imaginary.
Looking at the lady closely, one notices the artist's "zwanze" again: she is fearlessly counting her money in an area of Brussels that is famous for its pickpockets. She even teases them with her unsnatchable bronze wallet!
Madame Chapeau is one of the colourful characters of "Bossemans et Copenolle", a 1938 comedy by Paul van Stalle and Joris d'Hanswijck, which features old Brussels' "petits bourgeois". This play is part of Belgium's cultural heritage.
(1999, Bruxelles, Rue des Chartreux)
This "dog thrown into the Senne river" is named "Zinneke" after a Flemish word meaning "mongrel".
Because he is a dog of mixed breed, he symbolises the multicultural nature of Brussels. He is a proper "street sculpture",
as he really is built-in; his legs are sealed into the pavement and the post he is peeing on had been there long before him.
The post became part of the sculpture.
This sculpture, commissioned by the Chartreux district committee to attract tourists, was created in the spirit of the "zwanze". With this dog, Frantzen offers a visual example of this form of humour to all passers-by, especially those looking for an opportunity to share something and have fun together.