'Everybody Nobody' @ Galerie Fortlaan 17 - Ghent (B) , 18 May - 29 June 2008
Lawrence Malstaf, MIRROR 02002
'Everybody Nobody'. The present and the absent body. A group show around the theme of the body in contemporary art. A selection of installations, photography, video and paintings with a focus on the vulnerable, the erotic, the ritual, the political, the performative, the sculptural, the gesturing and the painting body.
With works by Lawrence MALSTAF, Hermann NITSCH, Eva SCHLEGEL, Milica TOMIC, Bruce McLEAN, Günter BRUS.
LAWRENCE MALSTAF (born 1972, Brugge, Belgium) creates works of art that belong somewhere on the borderline between visual arts and theatre.
In Malstaf's installations, the experience of 'being in the middle' is very important as the visitor himself can experience abstract or concrete situations. One could compare them with anti-automatons. Machines or mechanical spaces that are constructed very precisely but once activated they become subject to a series of coincidental parameters inherent to the materials, the light and surely the presence of the visitor.
The publication 'LAWRENCE MALSTAF THE LONG NOW 01997-02008' gives an overview of his installations of the last ten years and documents his unique position as an artist between visual arts and theatre.
During the exhibition 'Everybody Nobody' Lawrence Malstaf is presenting his installation 'Mirror 02002' at Galerie Fortlaan 17.
'Mirror 02002' : A dark room with a large vibrating mirror deforms the reflection of the visitor (The installation is to be visited individually). At first the vibrations are so subtle that you might wonder if your own eyes are having trouble to focus. But gradually it becomes more obvious that the mirror is moving and mutating the mirror image into a blurred portrait. Yet the visual impression is so real that some people feel the urge to check if their body is actually decomposing or not. In the end the body evaporates and disappears.
HERMANN NITSCH (born 1938, Vienna, Austria) is legendary on the postwar Austrian art scene as the founder of the Orgien Mysterien Theater (OMT).
He is also one of the leading artists of the Wiener Aktionismus, a movement, which, like the happenings of the sixties, sought to break new grounds. The 'actions' are, as it were, extreme explorations of the forces and experiences which are central to the existential meaning of art. From an aesthetic point of view, Nitsch prefers 'action' as a means of expression, because of its directness and the tense sensuality it involves. From a psychological point of view, Nitsch mainly appeals to a cathartic effect. He sees himself as a Dionysian artist, who, through his actions, resuscitates and reinterprets a mythically primeval history. What he finally wants to achieve, is a re-mythicization of the process of life. In Nitsch's universe painting and theatre are closely linked. Because Nitsch practices painting as an action, as a sort of performance, it is obvious that the link between painting and theatre is to be found at the level of the temporal development of the creation. The artist's view on painting has its origin in the contacts he entertained during the 1950s with action painting, and informal and abstract expressionist painting. Nitsch produces his paintings in series. For example, preparing a performance for the OMT, he spills red paint on the canvas which he then works with his hands. The act of unburdening oneself plays a major role in Nitsch's actions. In this way, painting becomes part of a process which reveals the core of our psyche. Photographs, relicts and paintings bear witness to the actions and refer to the main project of the artist, ie, the OMT. Though they were produced within the context of the OMT, the separate 'action relicts' have an autonomous identity. Nitsch's art is particularly significant, because he creates a myth which acknowledges plastic forms of expression, while at the same time it is related to a social and intellectual environment which can decipher its message. The surface of his 'action paintings' show the traces of the blood and paint he uses during the actions and remind us of the excesses. Nitsch introduces the direct existential experience as a universally valid form of perception, while carrying this to absurd limits. He uses the idea of a global work of art to weave the sensual and physical into a complex network of emotions. In his view, this is the main element of the aesthetic consciousness.
'In virtually all of MILICA TOMIC's (born 1960, Belgrade, Serbia) work, the underlying subject is the Big Lie and how it operates. Whatever blatant falsehood is currently being disseminated to justify a unilateral action by an autocratic power is more interesting than the sin it is intended to conceal. In My Name is Milica Tomic, the hollow triumph of the artist, identifying herself as belonging to a number of different nationalities while slowly revolving on a pedestal, is sharply contradicted by the painful welts, cuts and bruises that begin to appear all over her body. None of these identities, it turns out, changes the fact that before anything else she is a human being, with all the vulnerability one associates with that less polarizing status. (...) Container is the first work by Tomic to establish a link between the contemporary geopolitical arena of war and the lingering issues that began to surround her country and people in the wake of the Balkan crisis ten years ago. For Tomic, the notion that the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq can somehow be thought of as 'just' wars, while the civil strife that tore her country apart in the late 1990s is routinely discounted as a 'dirty' conflict of unjustifiable aggression, is a perfect example of the double standard that comes into play when the actions of superpowers are compared to those of much smaller and weaker states. This point here is not to diminish the horrors of war in any circumstance, nor to downplay those crimes against humanity that are the frequent by-products of more conventional military campaigns. It is simply to highlight the immense hypocrisy that comes into play not just on the battlefield, but increasingly in the way that public opinion is molded and mobilized. In this regard, the bullet-holes in Tomic's 'Container' play a role akin to that of the gaping spear-wound which Jesus invited Thomas to probe with his own hand, in case the latter had any lingering doubts over Christ's resurrection from the dead. For those who of us doubt that such a terrifying event could have happened in the first place, or that the lives of those killed have been blotted out from collective memory, a short inspection of the container's perimeter is enough to determine that these were real bullets that tore open the metal skin, even though the presence of human blood in the 'original' has been gratifyingly omitted from the artist's rendition. What remains the same is our shocked recognition that this utilitarian symbol of international trade and commerce has been transformed into a sealed mass coffin. The deaths of those whom Tomic's art memorializes may seem the scantiest of footnotes in the history of contemporary warfare, but in the ongoing struggle between symbols of enlightened progress, and forces of repression and autocratic rule, Tomic's grim, punctured cube is a potent reminder that at least one crucial battle has already been lost, perhaps without our even being aware of its existence.' Quoted from 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered', text by DAN CAMERON, New York, January 2006.
EVA SCHLEGEL (born 1960, Hall, Tirol, Austria) is basically preoccupied with the varying possibilities to read or interpret art. Initially she mainly applies graphite on plaster, but soon she starts to use photographic techniques, silk-screen printing and painting. Frequently she uses found materials as a subject for her photographic works. While the latter are two-dimensional, her series of paintings can also be interpreted as objects, as the panels are convexly curved by treating them with plaster. 'Eva Schlegel created a series, so-called 'kitchen porn', based on postcards depicting scenes from Viennese brothels of the sixties, she rubbed the xeroxed pictures using trichloroethylene on a chalk ground and painted up to 20 layers of transparent varnish over them. As a result of the added oil paint, high-gloss color spaces emerged that seemed to be dripping wet and whose sensual presence literally invited one to touch them.
Pornography is generally understood as a universal category for naming the male gaze and the patriarchal mechanism of suppression. Eva Schlegel succeeds in finding the necessary ironical distance vis-à-vis the trivial stimulating material for the elegant gent who, incidentally, camouflages himself in the photographs with wigs and mustaches. And through recycling, transforming and alienating the images she also creates the artistic framework for the actual message: the instrumentalization of clichés only to let them sink in an ocean of paint.' Quoted from 'THE RETURN OF THE IMAGE SNATCHERS. Eva Schlegel and the Art of Disappearence', text by BRIGITTE HUCK.
'Whether he's draping himself across a plinth, painting a giant picture, or shooting a movie, BRUCE McLEAN (born 1944, Glasgow, Scotland) believes that art should both feed off and feed into the world in which we live. McLean makes big art out of small details - the gestures, styles and mannerisms that, whether we like it or not, orchestrate our lives and obsess us all. This concern with seemingly trivial aspects of appearance and body language, and how they inform the different identities we knowingly and subconsciously assume, is one shared by many younger artists werking at the moment - it's perhaps no coincidence that Bruce McLean was one of Douglas Gordon's tutors at the Slade - and McLean has also consistently demonstrated to subsequent generations that art can be serious without taking itself too seriously. (...) Although he first made his reputation with performance, McLean has always considered himself a sculptor; but that didn't stop him sending up centuries of sculptural tradition with works such as his Installations for Various Parts of the Body and Pieces of Clothing (1969) or Pose Works for Plinths (1970), which further fuzzed interdisciplinary boundaries by evolving into photopieces in their own right. With the formation in I971 of Nice Style, 'the World's First Pose Band', McLean went on to parody human behaviour per se. Wearing straight faces and immaculate evening dress, McLean and friends regaled audiences with often farcical enactments of every permutation of Western urban pose - from the quest for the perfect Bogartian mackintosh crease, to the rhythmic banging of deep-freeze lids. Nice Style folded in 1975, but an obsession with live gesture and a preoccupation with the minutiæ of human behaviour - both inside and beyond the art world - has remained at the core of McLean's subsequent activities; even when appearances might seem to suggest otherwise.' Quoted from 'Moving Targets: A user's guide to British art now', Louisa Buck, Tate Gallery Publishing, 1997-2000.
Though GÜNTER BRUS (born 1938, Arnding, Austria) is among the most prominent on the international contemporary art scene, his work can only be understood within the national context of Austrian art. His prolific oeuvre is imbued with Austrian tradition. Brus sets out as a formal painter and tachist draughtsman, who seeks to escape the boundaries of the pictorial plane. With this goal in mind he starts to paint vast canvases without centre of gravity, which evolve into mural installations. Brus's views about art are not determined by the medium he employs. The idea to reintegrate art into life inspires him to create shockingly radical sketches and performances. The human body and pictorial elements are conceived of as autonomous entities in an attempt to return to the roots of art and culture. He starts to paint his own body in 1964. In the same year he founds the 'Wiener Aktionismus' with Nitsch, Mühl and Schwarzkogler. The new movement manifests itself with fierce performances in which ultimate human experiences are invoked: perversity, violence, animal instincts. In fact these performances are in line with what happens on the international art scene, but they breathe a particular Austrian atmosphere. Brus is the first artist to focus on his own body during the performances and consequently he is regarded one of the most important founders of 'body-art'. He does not consider the display of his own body as an artistic medium to be a demonstration of anti-art, but rather as pure an artistic manifestation as possible. In the act of applying paint to one's own body, the usually unequivocal coincidence of the aesthetic and static image is lost. The aesthetic image therefore starts to coincide with the reality outside the work of art. The introduction of his own body is Brus's answer to the identity crisis of art at that time. The ritual orgies caused great upheaval and the reactions of the public were very similar to what happened at the time of the Viennese fin-de-siècle. Günter Brus personally experienced how the second republic in the 1950s and 1960s responded with judicial inquiries to the new aesthetics. In 1968, after the performance 'Kunst+Revolution', in which he defecates from the pulpit, a court order forces him to leave Austria. He moves with his family to Berlin, where he stays until 1979. 'Zerreisprobe' in 1970 is his last performance, staged in Munich. He then applies himself to drawing, poetry and literature.