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14 Dec 2008

Power to the People !

Power to the People


Tuesday-Friday 11.00-18.00
Saturday 14.00-18.00
or by appointment
closed on Bank Holidays


32 rue blanche, 1060 Brussels, Belgium

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Power To The People

The title of the exhibition is expressly ambiguous: does it have to do with putting power in the hands of the people [as in the Sixties' sense], or rather in the hands of the 'people' [the English word here used as adopted in current French parlance, meaning 'celebs']? From one's entry, the visitor encounters the photo-booth snapshot by Vincen Beeckman of an old man, anonymous and heavily marked by life, keeping company with a portrait of Jean-Claude Van Damme ('JCVD') by David Nicholson, as well as that of singer Plastic Bertrand by Jacques Charlier – two typically Belgian « people » who are also icons of popular culture. This is equally evoked in works like Predictable incident in unfamiliar surroundings by Douglas Gordon (slowed scenes of a rare Captain Kirk kiss in Star Trek), in images (post-cards, holiday shots, or artistic views) of Fujiyama recuperated by Bernard Gigounon or, further, Emilio Lopez-Menchero's Let Me Be, a look-alike remake of the famous (Let It Be) record-sleeve for the Beatles, with the artist himself posing as each of the «Fab Four».

This sort of re-appropriation is the exhibition's second common-thread. « Power To The People » had its origins in reflections upon the complex relationships that artists have with power at its various levels, be it political, institutional, financial, the world of galleries, collectors, etc. In short, so many spheres that in one way or another come to exercise influence on the creative process. Each sphere has its own codes, and these the artist may choose to adopt or, alternatively, transgress, a metaphor for the natural desire (not limited to artists alone)to take one's destiny into one's own hands. Such led Alain De Clerck to assemble a collection of works that he offered in legacy to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Liège, an ironic response to the lamentable state of public institutions that are incapable of supporting young artistic expression («This System Is Corrupt Be Happy», proclaims the neon by Delphine Boël). Kamargurka inverses the relationship between the subject of portraiture and the portraitist: the artist no longer obliged to take the model before him as starting point. Rather, his portrait starts as an imaginary person for whom he then finds - via appeals in the mass media - its real-life match as determined by Kamagurka himself. But the liberty also consists of putting a twist on others' works, as does Eric Delayen with his interpretation of James Joyce's pornographic letters to his fiancée Nora; Patrick Corillon – by way of his fictional creation Oscar Serti – with literature's classics; or Gianni Stefanon employing works by his contemporaries (Damien Hirst, Wim Delvoye – with the latter also taking part in the exhibition). We cite, too, Jérôme Considérant, who transforms the protagonists of Gustave Wappers' famous canvas depicting a crucial moment in the founding of the Belgian state, Days of September 1830, into a masss of anonymous pictograms.

This Belgo-Belgian component - within a political and cultural context that quite needs it - is present in various gradations throughout this exhibition. The 'film-maker of the absurd' Jean-Jacques Rousseau evokes a Belgium fallen prey to civil war after Flanders takes a grip on power (with only Charleroi able to resist the invader...); from the celebrated Musée du Slip, come portraits of former king Baudouin by Jan Bucquoy, echoing the portraits of «rois morts» by Jan van Imschoot, while the lion, monarchic symbol par excellence, sees itself reduced by Walter Swennen into a humorous offhandish sketch. Ann Veronica Janssens casts an ironic eye on the «âge d'or belge», of which the World's Fair in 1958 marked both its culmination and beginning-of-the-end. Underscoring this was an 'altered' newsreel that documented the demolition of the Civil-Engineering Pavilion, a masterpiece by Jacques Moeschal. Placed nearby, the photographs by Karine Marenne situate this problem-set within the context of today. Self-derision, as well as a particular humour based on word-play or a turn of linguistic direction, also finds an especially fertile Belgian ground: one sees this in abundance with Marcel Mariën and his descendents – André Stas, Jacques Lizène,Messieurs Delmotte, Johan Muyle, Sneed, Pol Pierart, Bouli Lanners, or with the young collective HAP, with their Zorro criss-crossing the Flemish landscape on his appointed rounds. As for Christophe Bruno, Internet-based program presents a real-time analysis of convergent and divergent interests as presented on both sides of the Belgian linguistic divide, drawn from Google News from the respective communities.

Finally, certain of the works presented invite reflection on the very notion of 'power' itself, civil, political, religious, and the tensions, the wars and the massacres that come in its wake: images from the Third Reich treated by Steven Brouns, video by Hänzel & Gretzel on the Rwanda genocide, the Turkish flag painted with pig's blood by Selçuk Mutlu, or the scenes of riot and the evocation of female kamikazes from David Pirotte.