dinsdag 11 augustus 2020

Grande Dame Palais

Trips and travel had been reduced to a minimum since early in the year - only the most essential there and back, if even - the borders were closed for quite a while - carefree jaunts into nowhere quite out of the question… That is why this little investigative trip was such a breath of fresh (well, hot) air: it had been a while since an excursion like this: Avoiding the main arteries we headed down due south form the border, already taking a wrong turn and semi-lost, which is exactly the way we like it… short stop at a quiet Cateau en Cambresis for a croissant and brioche, and on towards Paris along small departmental roads, stopping briefly at Guise - agreeing that this was well worth an extra trip in the future…














But the heat was on and after Laon we stayed on the N2, the old imperial road, being turned into a highway bit by bit… a pity since the agreeable meandering between shady trees and through sleepy villages has been replaced by stress-chasing on frying-pan asphalt framed by cement barriers and beating sunshine: rows of long-distance lorries that want to avoid paying Peage on the highways… in short, even the French countryside is going to the dogs…



















We try not to dwell on that and enter Paris through the gauntlet of the market stalls on the boul Clichy, heading for the quieter area around the Place de Ternes - for it is around those parts we need to be: I had been sent a radio fragment by a friend with an interview about the renovation of the ‘Grand Palais’ - Chis Dercon explained how he had discovered the artist now resident in the vast hall at a small gallery in the early nineties… Frank Scurti did a small show together with François Curlet in the ‘inexistent’ hole-in-the wall place in Antwerp some thirty years earlier… a surprising little flashback I decided I wanted to investigate further… I had come across Scurti in the magazines a couple of times but had not followed his career - nor of any other acquaintance of that time… Dercon was by now a bit of a star curator and the others were not doing badly, whereas I was still doing what I had been doing then: investigating possible leads to new insights… but with a strong nostalgic twist - going for the archival rather than the brand new… So it was also logical that I wanted to see the Grand Palais before it was closed for an overhaul… Personally, I tend to dislike today’s trend to have to pimp up all the old institutions, messing up their interiors at exorbitant prices, giving them ridiculous catchy new names and turning the cultural experience into a disneyland fantasy… (our local more than adequate art history museum is still a messy construction site and financial sink-hole many years after promised completion…)



 I wanted to see the Grand Palais without too much clutter before the renovations… I had never had the opportunity to see it properly - remembering an occasion where I looked up to the fantastic cupola only briefly while installing a sticky-letter sentence by Laurence Weiner during one of the Fiac’s - between stressing around… Here was an opportunity to see the garand old dame ‘in the flesh’ - and well worth it. Aside from a long string of (found) objects hanging from the central apse, the space was empty save for a scattering of ‘bureaux’ in a restricted area near the opulent staircase - giving it a theatrical feel: performance ongoing, arrested, considering… Scurti himself was not there and the activity space was quiet save for an assistent/invitee sweeping up some bits & pieces from the previous intervention… so it was a perfect moment to consider the space and what’s in it rather than being entertained by some artistic activity… Built at the tail end of the belle époque, it’s rather manneristic art nouveau elements are nonetheless prime examples of the industrial production of wrought-ironwork - Eifel tower and bridges nearby making the era apparent - one of the las remaining ‘crystal palaces’ - and upon entering a feeling of being transported back to a copper engraving of the vast hall with small figures scattered about - quite unique, and one had the feeling the visitors too were slightly speechless… the occasional muttering of someone who could not appreciate the moment: “they couldn’t think of what to do with the place and invited an artist who doesn’t know what to do with the space… (and that with taxpayers money no doubt)” - far from it -








Scurti’s minimal intervention of bits & bobs just right to give a presence to the vast space while leaving the space itself uncluttered and free for the light-show of alternating sun & clouds and vista’s that become apparent only after moving around a bit… there was a circuit of information panels for those that wanted to brush op on the palace’s history - form grand exhibition heyday to hospital and convalescence clinic during and after the great war… But it was the space ‘soi même’ that was on show… one could climb the cascading staircase for different vantage point of the hall as well as the intervention by Scruti: he had barricaded a part with apple-crate liners, making for a viewer-performer separation quite apt to the space - one could observe from different vantage points the goings-on (or lack of) and consider the clusters of activity-bureaus - one for woodwork, cutting panels, the other for wire and mesh studies, a beureau de chippotage and a collection of trinkets to be considered - centrally located a plinth-refurbishing area in which large pieces of décollage posters (bluebacks) were reformulated into “socles d’air” - cloudy-like patterns folded into cubical structures… and a table of exposition en cage - much like the Palais itself; caged art, arrested like colourful exotic birds for the amusement of the bourgeoisie - netting hung from the banisters denoted price ranges - the variability of value - seemingly a barometer of the current crisis - free entry with guided visits at around one euro - as opposed to the exorbitant prices demanded for regular exhibitions- this being a work i progress rather with oneself as protagonist… What will become of the grande old dame? Hopefully the renovations are in fact restorations and the many exquisite elements are saved: the terrazzo floors, the brass bannister-railings, even the irregularities of the stucco on the walls, now catching shadows of dust, should be retained - and use of modern materials avoided altogether… but yes, given today’s penchant to ‘modernise’ everything I fear it well become a figment of it’s former self with the more spectacular elements highlighted with difficult to replace hand-made craftsmanship thrown out… perhaps here the aspect of using recuperated material is intentional; though it is well within the vocabulary of the artist - it is still a statement perhaps to not replace but re-use…
















 Normally Paris is pretty good a retaining original elements, but one does not have to wander far to see the onslaught of the mass-produced plastic rubbish packaged in coveted trade-marketing names on the Champs d’Elysée to realise that there are more and more generations out there that have no feeling with basic materials but for whom ‘look’ is all… and longevity a four letter word… kinky lighting and repetitive beats whipping up an ‘experience’ rather than the calm and collected consideration of silence and emptiness… so in many ways this was a unique moment to view the cavernous Grande Palais in it’s own time, no piped music, lasershow or spectacular ‘event’ - just it’s timeless self, with the humble presence of the artist as conduit: reason for coming inside an empty hall ‘with nothing to see’…



 Of course we also took some time to enjoy Paris in a short touristy sort of way, and had a look around the Seine, Invalides, Tour Eifel, Arc de Triomphe and all that - of course the café crème and the croissants, the people watching from corner café at the market, the boulevards with early leaves - fall being precipitated by the extreme heat of global warming - another reminder of the fragility of it all… heading back out of the city through market stalls full of plastic wares from China, riding the waves of automobile haste back to the slightly less exasperated roads to the north, stopping this time at the wondrous mediaeval town of Laon and its cathedral perched high: by now the heat was such that one could easily mistake the moment as being in Aix-enProvenice rather than these northern climes… Phew…


woensdag 6 mei 2020

suspended suspension

been sitting on fragments for ever so long - not quite knowing what to do with them, - every time I thought, well this is a good one for the blog it got sidelined, and then of course it all got shoved due to the corona crisis and all that ( one might think that's a perfect moment to blog- being stuck at home - but nothing further from the truth... more to do than before even...)
so
by way of redressing - a potpourri of impressions perhaps...







the ongoing rock seed situation... more on that later

zondag 23 februari 2020

Yoan horizon

Fascinating exhibition though perhaps edgy event horizon is a matter of conjecture: how is it then that the written word enters it’s new age of oscillating letters projected on prepared pages rather than heavily smudged with ink on pulped trees… and where the pages turn other images of this story or another animate the landscape only just perceived, whittling away at what you thought was stable… no thoughts are scurrying all over all the time, why not literature?



by contrast the reductions of ball-point pen interventions in classic (penguin) paperbacked books: they become as abstract and variable in interpretation as the electronic counterpanes displayed on the other tables - and the hand painted graphics on standard Nepali licence plates, along with the typical shop sign saying just the opposite: words without meaning in that slightly festive curvature used to give a statement somewhat more flair…

























Textile too becomes tactile context woven in and out the meaning of the wooly phrase provided in different colours / wove and weft combinations of two strands together… communication that can keep you warm from the sharp mountain wind, for a while at least, while you consider the meaning of the statement at hand…
























Same with the narrative looking figures - purportedly involved in significant handlings that we are supposed to recognize or at least interpret - correctly is another matter - books become live things, creatures reinventing themselves / seemingly - but controlled by program (in this case at least… beams reading QR codes to calculate which page you’re on… still regognizable, as was Gutenberg’s wooden letter (later lead etc) at some point… but here we are at the threshold, that point of no return when the vision takes over and even the prototype becomes obsolete in the wink of an eye…

sweepstakes.
























all the associations still don’t make a coherent image, but relay the gist. 

Invisible white noise (until moray reveals it) 




unreadable black text (until light strikes it at a angle…) 



we must prepare our tools.

vrijdag 29 november 2019

double perfweek: Jetlag / Pipe

just off the plane for an encounter with B

JETLAG#2

Greeted by what was going to be a volcanic eruption we arrived just in time for the JetLag#2 at the buktapaktop, an encounter of Korean and Brussels-based performers... The volcano caught fire quite a wasy down the slope and had ro be carried out into the rain to avoid the toxic fumes putting an early end to the encounter... Lucky for us the two volcanists had a reserve mini-volcano at hand which they set off for a festive beginning of procedures...   



  i had the luck to be right at the window where the fist apparition from Seoul incanted a text I can not translate, but anyway it was garbled by the fact that the reader was being entwined as to were, so as to make coherent reading a difficult feat, in addition to darkness, rain, glaring light and then the puffed cloud of fine flour on window pane prepared with pictogram or symbol denoting one thing or another, probably explained by the illegible text and presented garbled as a means of communication quite foreign to us... Or so I thought... But it did make an impression even without explanatory context... 






Next was a video of a performance, in which a group of smartly dressed revellers commenced to bite each other sensuously and profusely, repeatedly and serially - no sound but one could surmise the kind of groans and squeals as if one were there oneself, feeling the pain and perhaps the delight as blood was drawn... Quite a constellation if you ask me, but the spades which were lingering in the background initiated the second part in which the group proceeded to the forest to entomb themselves up to their necks in soil, earth and perhaps immobility in order not to devour each other entirely... Who knows, latter day vegetarian vampires perhaps...





Speaking of ritual, the next offering was quintessentially easter, with a small shrine of joss-sticks commencing proceedings in which the protagonist priest donned electronic neck dress in order to manipulate his surroundings.... We the participants were give reflective discs, and one laser beam came down straight, to be joined respectively by the next and next until four enclosed a space in cardinal terms, framed strictly but then defected by mirrors and caught by ourselves, redirected to each other and creating a visual conversation of web-like inference, in some cases a beam would be deflected numerous times across the room, in other instances shared by more than one mirror, multiplying the possibilities... This all in relatively calm and speechless enjoyment of each others company.




Silent was also the bird-man who stripped down to basic shorts & shirt to slowly and deliberately mount a plinth made of slats and tape, on unsteady and undulating ground, to balance slowly upward, slightly shaky but well in control, to finally stand upon his perch, extending wings for balance, moving slowly from one observation angle to the next, to then equally slowly and deliberately retire.... This all surrounded by concentrated silence... The audience was equally involved and perhaps even strained, tense to see it through without mishap.... For once bird-man dropped his perch, it broke up in its constituent parts, making obvious how fragile it was and how amazingly proficient this quiet balancing act in fact was... 























An enigmatic video of close up skin extrusions was shown, abstract and electronically manipulated to identify certain regions on interest, to whom? To what? A strange application of facial recognition technology perhaps to identify just that question... 
 
Two dancers did a showcase intro view into a breakdance hiphopperrave suite, dressed in the obligatory jogging outfits, energetically showing their wares before launching into a more abstract and structural performance of an extremely slowed down version of a decisive move, synchronised perfectly and reversible... Like robots  but human, breaking int a sweat and conversing with the audience - reminding us to keep in touch with the human rather than being fascinated by technical prowess... 




It was a very interesting a sympathetic encounter with a certain eastern calm presiding over the whole proceeding - a restfulness we lack here in the west often...
great stuff! many thanks to our Korean visitors!



same week different venue:

Pipa/Dortrecht (part 1 of 4)


This time I made it to Dortrecht, where I had promised to participate in the first night of boredom, but couldn't get my car started and was therefor a no-show, unnoticed artist... Tho my text was read at the selected site... This time I got there but went astray thinking the venue was at the ( co-) organization Lodge 222... When in fact it was in Pictura...















On time even, with a breathless realist to greet us all, blowing his breath into black garbage bags (or bin-liners you might call them) and adding a pellet of shit to an invisible text-fragment on the wall... His eyes were watering behind goggles, his floppy hat reminiscent of a walkabout... A huff and a puff... And the urban intervention videos in the library/barspace were intriguing... Keeping the passersby from passing by but standing still to block other possible passers to pass by... Lots of south american stuff... Interesting ones, too much to recount here, this being just a subjective passer-by's account...


In the back room a dance-duo was just winding up a paint by gun number... They would react to the public that would react by squirting their pistols laden with green ink either on the dancing targets, the prepared canvasses or the suspended pages... All beginning with virginal white but now spatterd pollock-colorfield....





 In the main room a ladder protruded from a hole in the floor... Basement emmitting strange reverb-sounds while a girl diappeared down the ladder... I followed suit, coming upon an ensemble of guitares resting on their amps... Swinging along as it were... No player, no wind of funny electonics, just the presence of each others company emitting a slow sine-curve of reverb now and again, decaying before becoming feedback... Quite an achievement if you ask me... Cutting it fine just along the threshold of  distortion.... 

While in the next cavernous space a collector was arranging his collection of ... Well... Things similar, the significance of which did not really reveal itself to me, but which fascinated none the lass and had my sympathy even if only for the mere audacity to present these boxes of things neatly arranged in the basemen as a statement of no sort I could fathom... Perhaps there was still something that was going to happen, or associations that would become clear when all had been laid out... 


I would return, I said to myself when re-emerging from the hole in the floor just as someone was taking potshots of the space... I decided to do a little walkabout myself, to feed the parking meter or rather to repark the car in a less expensive area... Passing by the breathless crocodile hunter, now having produced the outlines of a word or two with the pellets I surmised to be rabbit-doo or something more exotic... (kangaroo?) The black begs were amassing too... Filled with carbon dioxic sweat and dizziness.



out in the town my instructions said that I was to turn left if a sound came from the right, so I heard sounds as they were convenient, and enjoyed the rather quaint old town with lots of boats, which is always good in my book... By the time I got back the breathless Australian had been able to spell ... the real... what precisely I don't know and couldn't ask because he was still exhaling into the bags... The place began looking like an upside-down Duchamp... 


The squirt-gun action completed it's second phase, with purple dye this time, making it more Monet and giving the shooting an air of spring, if not the right of spring, the dance being a bit relegated to the action... I would have preferred if they had forgotten about the audience even if they were taking pot-shots...









 But the evening was saved by a gaggle of girls in garish costume, swimming costume, no, bodysuit like cyclists costume, of bobsled perhaps, something competitively sporty, shiny, dynamic and synthetic... There trick girls proceeded to depose copious amounts of plastic on the floor... Household plastic we all know and have come to cherish in our lazy efficiency, throw away society... They began the laborious job of sorting out the diverse types of plastic as we do when the refuse collection is imminent, or garbage truck coming to get it... Once it had all been sorted, or just before perhaps, the girls started playing with the stuff, making at first slight rustling noises as in a dense forest but getting bolder and bolder to more percussionist tendencies to end up in a kaleidoscopic lighting throwing trash and themselves about in flashes of fancy plastic sculptural instances, ending in a heaving volcano...





Resurfacing slowly they began moving the mountain of plastic waste in a sort of pincer movement with their legs, clearing the chaos while churning up a menacing mount... Sympathetically, sensuously, but inexorably towards the increasingly alarmed audience against the wall... Endin up by delving some onlookers under the barrage of poly propylene, ethylene and trichloride combination...
Party's over, time to make away with all this junk.


zondag 24 november 2019

running in Limbo




Having not been so very convinced during the summer, decided to keep it close for the start of the season… a beautiful show of Bernd Lohaus’s work at the Schütte Foundation near Neus… though not a simple space Bernd’s work went well in this environment - the brutish cement patinated coincided with the seasoned timbers, oil-rope and bronze… the lack of a plint just the kind of thing the sculptures could use for the backdrop transition from floor to wall…  the distancing was good - on had the feeling that B. himself inspired the setting up of the work, which at least for me, was a refreshing view, nostalgic in ways, but also surprising - older works holding their own with the recent ones… 

































and even the small blockworks (on woodblock floor, which at first seemed not so successful but eventually fit well…) a few drawings… more was not needed in this sumptuous space, the light filtering in different ways on different days… (went back for the catalogue presentation in completely different weather and it worked well also) Catalogue sumptuous, outside works well placed - bronzes on terrass over landscape, ‘Gelebt/Geliebt’ on the pathway leading to the pavilion… also a pleasant reunion of sorts…




Next up a backflash of Wout Vercammen’s work at H8x12 out in the countryside - also a great initiative of Frank ‘il ventuno’ and a sympathetic combination of archive and works not seen in quite a while (in fact the ‘stress’ work was unknown to me until then… quite a bit of the zen-like period which is nice to be reminded of, and the drawings, something one sometimes forgets when confronted with the bang-boom graphics of the square meter pieces… A very nice homage, and later on finally had the chance to visit his grave, delighted to see in the meantime he has a gleaming black-yellow-and-red tombstone sepulchre… amaai…


















Did quite a bit of bopping around this time, from the ‘inattendues’ in Tournai, where I came across a nice early work by Monica Droste, to the higher floors of the Mas, where Captain Bijl and consort salute the scores of visitors from their precarious perch, right down to the serial presentations by one Wayne St… at Haeken & Ooghen where we saw some recent Klagsbrun works along with another past-participle Jef Lambrecht graphic which we had sort of forgotten… Pinky Bowtie did a wonderful small archive presentation of Roland Rom and Rudi Renson’s “RTVS” with great record release by Ultra Eczema, part of the Tyfus consortium, (see earlier blog in dutch) 














October & we launched into the big leauge with the major Broodthaers show “Soleil Politique” at yers-true (muhka)museum… quite a effort on behalf of the whole team and family, to produce a major overview that includes a lot of never-seen material, smaller jewels and new juxtapositions - proof that there is in fact reason to continue investigating… after having seen the recent international retrospective (at Düsseldorf) I was also curious as to what could ba augmented, but was admirably surprised… well worth it, more than once… LLSpaleis kicked off with an interesting group show concerning the ‘Dulle Griet’ just back from renovations - a wild goose chase around various venues, which was sort of crazy fun admittedly… Mysterious views of an unknown object was the subject Christine Clinckx chose for her study at Eva Steynen, along with a selection of the Kruithof collection - something I am very curious about and want to investigate further… Large Marie Cloquet photo/collageworks at Annie Gentils also impressed, while the “ …des Abeilles “ at Grand Hornu seemed somewhat of a let-down after the great archive show by Fiona Tan… 






Rather intrigued by Goele De Bruyn’s contribution to a three woman show at the Garage in Mechelen, not sure if the empty showcases and embroidered bomb were part of the fire(ing)wall(s) presented in petit-point - but certainly enough to get my curiosity raised… as did Leo Coper’s series of anonymous selfies in front of a plethora of museums all over the world… flanked by two identical (true/false) bustes of the famous unknown, reminding me of Voordeckers’ installation way back in ’88 - some things are timeless, as also the white flag dragged in the video downstairs - cross referencing my mind to Cladder’s White flag project withering away from the Solitude castle (need to do something about that - waving a tiny piece of kerchief on the occasion of the 18th near Louvain, again on the way to H8x12 - this time a nice show by Christine and Dominique Rappez, mathematical playfulness combined with philosphical serieux and interchanging levels of overly, painting as print so to speak, something I myself had tried a hand at back in the litho-days…




ending with a fluxfest in the academy, quite a palette of interesting interpretations of classics, of which I saw only a few: concert for lots of hands and times rightoutstreached as well as a sort of watermusic drip piece… 

















November then saw us returning to the Raketenstation near Neuss, this time taking some time for some other aspects, especially the architectural, and the armistice visits and such… there was Extra City with Hermans & Menxel, and a group floor around Family (fem) Fictions and there was Lille, (Fr) where Grégoire Mott gathered some friends around for a historio-theatrical installation, using works from historical museums, his own ditty-like poetic interventions and works by friends and kindred spirits to make for a slightly askew exhibition of sorts one cannot quite pur in a category… personally I have the tendency to consider live archive, and yes, archival live art is part of it, but still does not cover the whole (or the hole, as might be…) Luc Fierens at Bleck was somewhat poorly visited, but then I just returned fro Dortrecht where the combo Pictura/Lodge 222 just kicked off a series of performance weekends which looks very promising indeed…