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26 Jan 2012

Argos Centre for Art and Media presents Vermeir & Heiremans, 'Cantemus' and 'Sweet Protestations'

Vermeir & Heiremans, The Residence (a wager for the afterlife), 2012
Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Kristien Daem.

VERMEIR & HEIREMANS - 'The Residence (a wager for the afterlife)'

'CANTEMUS – Choirs, the Sublime and the Exegesis of Being'

'SWEET PROTESTATIONS – Performing Reality in Public Space'


Opening: Sat 28 January 2012 - 18.00 - 21.00 Exhibitions on view: 29.01.2012 - 01.04.2012

+32 / 2 / 229 00 03
+32 / 2 / 223 73 31

Argos Centre for Art and Media
Werfstraat 13 rue du Chantier
1000 Brussels

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Argos, Centre for Art and Media is happy to announce its three new projects:

The Residence (a wager for the afterlife)

In 2006 Katleen Vermeir (1973) and Ronny Heiremans (1962) initiated A.I.R. ('artist in residence'), a collaborative practice that examines the dynamics between art, architecture and economy. The practice encapsulates different projects, one of which defines their private habitat as an artwork. Working reflexively, the artists use their loft apartment in Brussels as source material, producing 'mediated extensions' of their domestic space. Vermeir & Heiremans use A.I.R. as a platform for collaborating with a variety of people. This approach led to research-based video works like The Good Life, that was commissioned by Arnolfini, Bristol in 2009 and later became part of the Argos collection. This video is a meditation on the inextricable relationship between art, real estate, art institutions and the wider structure of the economy, harnessed today by the 'creative class'.

Their new video installation The Residence (a wager for the afterlife) (2012) focuses on the artist as entrepreneur in a global society that qualifies economy as the single measure of things. The work relates to Faust II, in which Goethe presents Faust as a project developer. Conceived during an extended residency in China (2009-10), the project initiated a collaboration with the Chinese artist/architect Ma Wen. Sharing insights on the creative clusters concept, Vermeir & Heiremans documented his practice as a cultural producer.

The Residence features Ma Wen and two fictional characters. One is Hilar, a very wealthy investor who commissions the Chinese architect to develop a house for his afterlife. Through Hilar a world of economic fetishism opens up. The other one – the Mysterious Woman – is a rather allegorical character, enveloping a dozen roles, all of them performed by one actress. Appearing not only as assistant in Ma Wen's office but also as the embodiment of all women in Hilar's world, her multiplicity aligns with the financial market's shiftiness.

Vermeir & Heiremans collaborated closely with Ma Wen, and with British sound artist Justin Bennett. Apart from the soundscape, the artists also commissioned the latter to design an algorithm that is linked to the currency & gold market and that generates a never ending edit of the Hilar footage.

Parallel to the exhibition in Argos, Extra City Kunsthal Antwerpen presents The Residence (reading room), a discursive program on the project. (for more information see the website of Extra City Kunsthal,

CANTEMUS - Choirs, the Sublime and the Exegesis of Being

The confrontation with the sublime and the exegesis of being provide the thematic substrate of the Cantemus group exhibition. Starting out with the motif of the choir, vocal excerpts from Mozart's Requiem, the song Brunnen vor dem Tore from Schubert's Winterreise cycle and Bach's cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, the program of the exhibition examines such aspects of life as destiny and divine judgement, sometimes realistically and sometimes ironically.
As a group that embodies the ties between the individual and the community, the choir is a fitting instrument for this. But in this case it is not employed in a traditionally dramaturgical sense, by providing commentary or personifying a collective conscience. In terms of narrative, Guido van der Werve (1977), Sven Johne (1976) and Artur Żmijewski (1966) take an adventurous and experimental approach to choirs and to music as human passion. Such issues as irrationality, the grotesque and the comic play an ingenious part in this.

Allegorical landscapes and the use of the Rückenfigur in Guido van der Werve's Number four: I don't want to get involved in this, I don't want to be part of this, talk me out of it (2005) make it pictorially indebted to Romanticism. But, by inserting unexpected incidents of slapstick, this meditation on death, solitude and the absurdity of life refers just as much to the work of the very prematurely deceased conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader.

Sven Johne's Wissower Klinken (2007) at first allots a prominent place to the voiceover, after which a chorus of twelve nature guides pay tribute to their colleague Klaus Bartels, who was fatally stuck by a falling rock. Since his passing, they have ruminated on the questions 'Were higher powers involved?' and 'Is this wrath or punishment?'

Artur Żmijewski's Singing Lesson 2 (2003) is all idiosyncratic sublimity. In the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach was appointed cantor and where he is buried, a choir of deaf children performs a cantata. With the accompaniment of professional musicians, this results in a unique combination of cacophony, contrapuntal rigour and perfectly timed ritornellos. As is typical of Żmijewski's work, this moving social experiment is larded with plenty of societal undertones, such as the church's historical refusal to give communion to the deaf.
For the exhibition, the Slovenian artist Tobias Putrih designed seating for the audience that combines the forms of the ladder and the arena.

SWEET PROTESTATIONS – Performing Reality in Public Space

As a prelude to the Festival van de Verwarring (Festival of Confusion) 2012 / Sapere Aude in the Beursschouwburg Argos presents the Black Box programme Sweet Protestations. Five short to medium-long video documents examine and illustrate the role of the artist who enters the public domain in order to question the surrounding 'reality'. In the works the maker becomes personally transformed into a 'sweet' intruder, into an object that encroaches upon the surroundings without concomitantly changing to direct confrontation: interactions which raise a field of tension between the onlookers and the singular actions of the artists. In these 'documents bruts', which engender credence, ridicule and even real civil protest, the artists employ an idiosyncratic jargon which often borders on ritual.

In The Intruder Vincent Meessen moves silently through the busy shopping streets and market squares of Ouagadougou, cocooned in a suit of cotton blossoms: Burkina Faso's 'white gold'. The white figure expresses the object of attraction and surprise or of aggression and ridicule: for the passers-by he is an image susceptible to appropriation, a symbolic mirror bulging with implicit political, social and economic significance.

A 1995 cultural exchange project between Europe and Africa forms the introduction and gives rise to Messieurs Delmotte's Tourist Renouncement, an artist whose filmed mini-performances attempt to transcend reality and its limitations. This early work strings together critical actions, steeped in bitter-sweet humour in which he theatrically interprets the historical relationships and clichés between the two continents.

Less direct in nature is Straatman Lottery in which Angel Vergara Santiago chops up recordings of performances in Birmingham under his alter ego, Straatman, with images of the city's population, an entirety interspersed with sketches and textual comments. Although the title refers to an imaginary lottery which he organized there, Léo Ferré sings/muses on L'impossible to a text by Arthur Rimbaud.

Although Zwei Betoncadillacs in Form der Nackten Maja on close inspection forms a documentation of the realization of the sculpture of the same name by Wolf Vostell in the West Berlin of 1987, this period piece – at the time the work was inaugurated to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Berlin; in 2006 it was restored to its original form – can also be read as a recorded performance. The debit for that is the role of the onlookers who protest against the work ('Wasting tax money is no art', 'That kind of art here? No thank you') but also the position of Vostell himself who as a real maestro directs his team and the works.

In addition, the historical Inktpot (Ink-well) by Luc Deleu, Filip Francis & De Nieuwe Coloristen (The New Colourists), in which the artists transform an abandoned Second World War bunker in the Koksijde dunes into an ink-well, the register of recording rises as a result of inserting items including animation and images of a snow-covered Brussels during the editing.

Screening program:
Vincent Meessen - The Intruder

2005, 7’26”, colour, multiple languages spoken, English subtitles.
Messieurs Delmotte - Tourist Renouncement
1995, 19’07”, colour, sound.
Angel Vergars Santiago - Straatman Lottery
2000, 5’41”, colour, sound.
Wolf Vostell - Zwei Betoncadillacs in Form der Nackten Maja
1987, 6’30”, colour, sound.
Luc Deleu, Filip Fancis & De Nieuwe Coloristen - Inktpot
1971, 5’14”, colour, silent.