Oriol Vilanova (ES)
06/05 – 17/07/2017
Oriol Vilanova (°1980, ES – lives and works in Brussels) visits flea markets all over the world to collect antique postcards. The cards he buys can depict everything: from kittens to architectural highlights and from archeological artifacts to sunsets. These postcards can be seen as mass-produced reliquaries, tangible memories or souvenirs from places or periods.
Vilanova’s collection contains over thirty-four thousand postcards, which he classifies in over one hundred sections, and presents accordingly. The most interesting section would be the one reserved for cards the artist calls ‘unclassifiable’ – as they are often the starting point for new ways of making sense of this ever-growing collection.
While this collection of postcards lies at the core of his practice, Vilanova extends this act of collecting to secondary collectibles such as printed advertisements and the typical haggling conversations between sellers and buyers at flea markets. So far, nothing of these secondary collections has been made public.
For this new Billboard Series, Vilanova presents I.M.D.A. – an image for one of these secondary collections, for the first time. The artist esteemed the context of a billboard an interesting moment to publicly present a part of his collection of printed publicity matters. While this image on the billboard has a clear commercial character – in both the way of presenting the depicted object as in the design of the ad – it is actually showing a dysfunctional object.
By re-contextualizing an object of desire to another time, in another culture, and on another scale, it loses its value as an object of desire and becomes an evocative and enigmatic image. As such, I.M.D.A. could be seen as a short poem, referring to both the industrial past of neighborhood around the billboard and the transition the area is in, but simultaneously open to many different readings.
Oriol Vilanova has had solo shows at institutions such as Fundació Tàpies, Barcelona; CA2M, Madrid; M-Museum, Leuven; L’Appartement 22, Rabat; Nottingham Contemporary and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Group shows include FRAC, Nord Pas-de Calais; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich; Kunsthalle, Mulhouse; FormContent, London; Jeu de Paume, Paris; and MACBA, Barcelona. He is represented by Parra & Romero, Madrid / Ibiza.
Billboard Series is
Thomas Caron, Valentijn Goethals, Tomas Lootens, Olivier Goethals, Sophie Verhulst & Tim Bryon
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The work of the Iranian-Belgian artist Sanam Khatibi (° 1976, Tehran) explores power structures and primary instincts which are situated on the divide between human and animal. In her paintings, embroidery, tapestries and ceramic sculptures she questions our relationship to excess, loss of control, dominance, submission, and the male-female relationship.
The female figure takes central stage in Khatibi’s work. The artist calls these figures ‘nymphs’, and portrays them naked in Arcadian landscapes. The male figure in these colorful, idyllic landscapes is represented by animals – deer, crocodiles, snakes or lions. The relationship between these male animals and the nude female figures often is one of power: the animals are being ridden or skinned, or make bestial lovecto the women at night. It is a relationship which recalls the one between witches and their faithful animal companions.
The Arcadian landscape and animals are an important part of Khatibi’s work. She is inspired by stories of her childhood – such as Shahnameh (the Book of Kings), an epic that was written by Persian poet Ferdausi around the year 1000 as a collection of poems. The poem tells the mythical story of Iran from the creation of the world, and covers subjects such as the formation of human society, the domestication of animals and the fight against Evil. Another important source of inspiration is Khatibi’s family collection, a Wunderkammer-like collection of ethnographic, anthropological and archaeological objects.
For this sixth Billboard Series Sanam Khatibi painted With Tenderness and Longing. In the painting two women are about to skin a hare – flaying stone in hand. They seem to be at it for a while, as a series of recently skinned animals is hanging on a nearby branch. The skins are stored in Chinese ceramic bowls, copies of bowls from the ceramic of the artist’s mother. Obviously plenty of parallels can be drawn between these women taking the first step in the domestication and domination of an idyllic landscape and the gentrification of Dok Noord into a new quarter of the city. The work of Sanam Khatibi was shown internationally in solo exhibitions – most recently at The Cabin, Los Angeles and Super Dakota, Brussels, and in group exhibitions in Vienna, Antwerp, London, Brussels and Milan. Her work was also included in the most recent Belgian Painting Biennial.
Aline Bouvy’s multidisciplinary practice is a way of expressing her refusal to compromise and adapt to systems in our society which aim to regulate our longing, conforming it to the norms and values which shape that same society. Bouvy questions and denounces how the images we have of ourselves and of humanity are determined by this morality. In this way, Bouvy is attracted to the non-conventional – not to fetishize elements from the margins of society, but from a wish to normalise what is considered out-of-bounds, and thereby adjusting the prevailing morality.
In earlier works, Aline Bouvy used with images of stray dogs and weeds, or made bas-reliefs of anuses with phallic shapes stuck in them. The male nude is a recurrent motive in her work, again not as a fetish but rather a counterweight to the naked female body that seems to be everywhere, not only throughout art history but also in our contemporary visual culture.
Aline Bouvy questions how we handle contemporary cultural production and takes a stand against norms and values society imposes upon us. The work she made for Billboard Series – entitled Heavy Fuckry / I don’t need you to feed me – follows this disruptive way of thinking. Because it was commissioned for a billboard and is displayed literally within the context of the advertising billboards – where an accepted but unrealistic view on humanity is displayed so eminently – Bouvy decided to subvert these advertisement strategies.
Aline Bouvy started working from the concept of the car, omnipresent around the Billboard because of the proximate city ring and the surrounding parking space. She revisited the relation between men and their cars. She created an image which is absurd – even clownish: two white males lie on top of obviously fake, toy-like cars, in a position better fit for a toddler than for a grown man. The men are curled up like fetuses, wearing pants nor shoes. Scattered around the cars are pieces of bread, shaped like bones and ribcages.
This absurd advertisement seeks a place for itself into the evolution of the imagery of car-advertisements. These have shifted from an over-sexualized approach to a more environmental awareness. Performativity however – or a focus on how owning a specific car can shape our identity – has always remained at its core. It’s this insistence on performativity that Bouvy wants to question, and oppose to the growing deficit in human performance – or how we seem to lose our ability to truly connect to one another. This feeling of loss is also echoed in the bread – an important symbol of our evolution as a species, in which the cultivation of wheat to make bread was an important step. It’s like we still remember how to make dough, but have forgotten what bread is supposed to look like. To underline this confusion, Aline Bouvy baked bread shaped like body parts and offered these to the visitors at the presentation of the new Billboard on November 19.
The practice of Nástio Mosquito (°1981, Luanda, Angola) deals with cultural inheritance in the broadest sense of the term, addressing problems of identity, contemporary culture, politics and post-colonialism. He approaches these issues in a multi-disciplinary way; floating freely between installation, performance, video and music.
His practice often is a collaborative one. Having started as a cameraman and director, Mosquito understands the necessity of exchange and communication to create. Performance, however, remains to play an important role, and Mosquito generally takes center stage. Often assuming personas, the characters he plays don’t necessarily reflect his own beliefs, but are rather based on observations of today’s human condition. As a performer, Mosquito consciously opens up space to interpret identity in different ways, trying constantly to offer different perspectives.
Looking to blur distinctions – especially binary ones such as truth or lie, or right or wrong – this ambivalence is never gratuitous, but rather a way of looking at the world, of being able to pose questions and finding them an audience.
Nástio Mosquito’s practice points us towards a future in which the categorization of cultural identities, and the clear division between art forms, between low and high culture, sole creator and collaborative gesture, will become either redundant or irrelevant.
With this billboard, M.F.H.N.S.(#II), Mosquito poses an urgent question about the linked concepts of identity and authority. By stating that his father has no surname, Mosquito not only questions the concept of identity, but also removes the authority that comes with it. Because, as Mosquito puts it: “whomever or whatever you recognize as an authority, rules you. We all give it to someone, or something.” As a spectator, you automatically pose yourself the same question; which forces define me and have therefore an authoritative power over me? Who or what do I follow?
Every night, between 22h30 and 6h30, a sound piece Nástio Mosquito composed layers another meaning over the billboard. The eight-minute piece plays four times every hour and builds up a narrative that, free-floating through different musical styles, tracks the historical journey of music as a tool of empowerment, celebration and liberation.
The work of Nástio Mosquito has been shown internationally, at venues such as Tate Modern, London; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; 29th São Paulo Biennial; 9th Gwangju Biennial; Muhka, Antwerp; MIT List Visual Arts Centre, Cambridge, Imma, Dublin; Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moskou; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; Walker Arts Centre, Minneapolis; and ICA, London. Nástio Mosquito was the recipient of the 2014 Pinchuk Future Generations Art Price. Current and upcoming solo exhibitions include Fondazione Prada, Milan and MoMa, New York.
M.F.H.N.S.(#II) is created by Nástio Mosquito in collaboration with Johannes Elebaut.
Kasper Bosmans (°1990, Lommel) dives deeply into the rich cultural history of materials, objects, traditions and customs. The references in his work betray a broad spectrum of sources, from folkloristic stories and cultural practices to historic research on painterly techniques or botanical cross-breeding. He continuously expands on his interests, subjecting them to careful scrutiny. Legends is a series in which this affluence of references is clearly visible. The title refers to both a story of the past, as well as a brief explanatory text.
Billboard Series deals with change and transformation. These ideas are present in Bosmans’ new Legend, entitled Smalt (Cobalt Filter and Cream). This is the first Legend to be created and presented on such a large scale.
The starting point of Bosmans’ research for this work is smalt, a pigment made of ground cobalt blue glass. Smalt was a commonly used pigment in European painting from the 15th to the 17th century. Pieter Paul Rubens used it, as did Antoon Van Dyck. The vibrant blue hues of the pigment however discolor to grey over a period of a century.
In this work by Bosmans, the actual subject of research (the smalt blue) is physically integrated in the work. Bosmans painted two surfaces on the billboard with a mixture of smalt and an acrylic medium, playing on its transformation over time. Though the blue hues inevitably will fade, no one will ever see the colors change – as the time the work is presented is only a few months.
Science, culture and history really come together in this work. Because smalt is basically finely ground blue glass, there are also quite some references to the history and use of this specific material. Since the 18th century, a lot of the cobalt blue glass has been produced in Bristol, England – hence it’s also dubbed ‘Bristol Blue’. The geometric background of Kasper’s legend is based on the label of Bristol Cream, a Sherry that comes in a typical Bristol blue bottle.
The hand-painted cobalt filters and the flame on the work refer to the scientific use of cobalt in flame tests. This procedure is used to detect the presence of certain elements, primarily metal ions, based on each element’s characteristic color emission spectrum. Cobalt filters are used to block out yellow light in these tests, as the yellow sodium flame shines so bright it makes any other element invisible. The image of the flame also refers to ancient Eastern cultures. Culturally speaking, smalt was used for the first time by the Chinese Tang Dynasty in the 7th century to glaze their ceramics.
By combining all these references and compiling the different elements from his field of study – in this case around smalt – into a new visual narrative, Kasper Bosmans creates a highly poetic visual mythology opening up the possible meanings all individual elements might have.
The work of Kasper Bosmans has been shown internationally, including at S.M.A.K., Ghent; CIAP, Hasselt; Pakt, Amsterdam; Muzee, Oostende; Wiels, Brussels, Spring Workshop, Hong Kong; and Kunstmuseum Stavanger. Upcoming solo exhibitions include S.M.A.K., Ghent; Witte de With, Rotterdam; and De Hallen, Haarlem. Kasper Bosmans is represented by Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles.
DIRK ZOETE (BE)
The artistic practice of Dirk Zoete (°1969 Roeselare) is circular. He makes models, photographs, drawings, sculptures and installations, all resulting from and influencing each other. A model setting sometimes becomes a drawing, which might result in a large sculpture, which in its turn can function as an element in a larger installation or a prop in a new photographic series.
A term he often uses himself for this practice is Brincadeira, the Portugese word for ‘play’. Dirk explains: “ It’s a term I picked up from a Brazilian who helped me out around my studio. I initially thought the term referred to ‘do it yourself’, comparable to the Dutch term ‘bricoleren’. I was wrong, but immediately felt attracted to the tension between the do-it-yourself aspect and the idea of play. I now use it as an umbrella term for my practice: all models, decors and theatre scenes I use for my photographic series, the drawings I make, which are either based on or literally drawn on the printed photographs, the sculptures that come out of this process; etc.”. The image Dirk Zoete constructed for our second commission of Billboard Series is a perfect example of this practice.
Quatro Grãos is a drawing made on a studio photograph of a theatrical model. The artist blackened four bread buns in an open fire and used pins to give them facial features. He started setting up various small scenes in his studio with these heads, a paper coffee cup and a miniature table. He documented these different scenes, and started drawing on some of the photographs.
Dirk Zoete doesn’t differentiate between the photographs he makes of these models, the drawing he makes on these photographs and the drawing on paper that originate from these photographs. “They are all drawings,” he says, “ for me, a photograph is as much a drawing as a lead pencil drawing on paper. They are a way of understanding the world.”
Dirk Zoete’s practice, though theatrical, has little to do with theatre. He rather investigates how a situation can come into being, how his studio can function as a pedestal for new situations. The driving force behind his work is wonder. By creating images, sculptures and model settings of things he never saw before, by adding something new to the world, Zoete gets the momentary pleasure of wonderment.
At the same, his practice is an exercise in relating to the world; Zoete explains how at first his models were an research into scale. How all the objects – tables and beds for example – he used in his models were based on things he saw in his daily life. He would measure them, scale them down and insert them in new setting.
Lately, his interest is shifting more towards the transformation of the materiality of objects, and this shows in the work he is currently making. He experiments, transforming masks from cardboard to veneer, or casting them in aluminium. But the core of his practice stays the same: these wooden or aluminium masks also remain building blocks in his ever-expanding personal archive, showing up in drawings, which in turn could be used as design sketches for new sculptures. Every work he makes is a starting point to a new object waiting to come into this world.
Catherine Biocca (DE/IT)
18/09/2015 — 29/01/2016
In her work, Catherine Biocca (°1984, Rome) merges different levels of dimensions, reversing and swapping diverse media to generate an unfamiliar reality. The result is a mix of bi- and tri-dimensional elements dealing with displacement, layered with cartoonish imagery and details from science fiction, and boasting a view on human brutality throughout our cultural history.
Schadenfreude – a guilty pleasure
The characters in her works call to mind cartoons or animated figures that are embedded in uncomplicated events and simple settings, burdened by the comic brutality inherent to their existence. Biocca stretches the moment of recognition to absurd lengths, questioning why we accept violence as a form of entertainment. “Schadenfreude” – an untranslatable German term for the pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others – forms the basis of her research.
Exploiting an unprocessed and raw form to question a rather violent – and yet tremendously entertaining – side of life, Biocca understands art as a tool to reveal the emptiness and nonsense of life as its only real sense. The violence Biocca exhibits is nevertheless treated with so much humour and wit that one cannot but happily embrace her cruel universe with guilty pleasure.
The low-fi character of her work occupies a wide variety of media, ranging from drawings made with industrial markers on waxed cloth to computer animations, and from space-filling installations made of tape and pvc to lazer drawing on styrofoam.
For her on-going series 100 Better Ways to Die, Biocca asked a real estate manager (who has nothing to do with the art world) to imagine and draw 100 ways to die. She then reproduces these drawings in their actual size by scratching them in aluminium panels painted with automotive paint. Typical of Biocca’s oeuvre, the panel works evoke a plethora of associations that in the end reveal man to be a cruel child – as capable of violence as it is of beauty – taking it all in, spitting it out again, tongue in cheek.
Billboard Series: National Character
For the first commission of Billboard Series, Catherine Biocca proposed National Character, in which an animated head of a classic sculpture winks at passersby. It is an extension of Blushing Sculptures, a series of drawings from 2013. This series developed from Biocca’s research on classical Hellenic sculptures and depicts these sculptures as ashamed of their nudity.
Biocca is interested in how there is no real emphatic bond with a sculpture that represents a realistic – even perfect – naked human being, while at the same time our identification with cartoon figures on television is undeniably strong. This anthropomorphic approach is a continuation of the disturbed of the specifics of different media that is so characteristic for her practice. A statue has no emotions, it does not move and it certainly doesn’t wink at you when you pass by.
The combination of an image of a classical Greek sculpture (the image of Meleager, one of the Argonauts), centuries later appropriated by the Romans and currently in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and the overlaying text “National Character” naturally also poses questions on what defines a national identity. The subtle reference to the origin of our civilisation and the displacements of its artefacts throughout history, places the current European debate of migration in a broader historical context.
But while the nature of a billboard normally is one of statements – one of telling you what you need or what solves your problem – Biocca’s Meleager knowingly takes an enigmatic stance. Rather then proclaiming an idea, it poses a question. It retains an open structure of communication, clearing space for the ideas of the viewer. In winking at you, it makes you an accomplice to its questioning.
Catherine Biocca studied political science in Rome and obtained her Master under Georg Herold at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf. She has exhibited at, amongst others at Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf; Galerie Martin van Zomeren, Amsterdam; Basis, Frankfurt; Galerie Tatjana Pieters, Gent, Silberkuppe, Berlin and Ginko Art Space, Beijing. Upcoming exhibitions include Frutta Gallery, Rome. Catherine Biocca is currently in residence at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam.
Friday September 18. An evening of lectures and performance
For the inauguration of her billboard, Catherine Biocca had curated an evening of lectures and performances. She gave a lecture on violence in cartoons and how this relates to her own practice, and invited Mercedes Azpilicueta (AR), Liv Schwenk (DE/US), Victoria Wald (DE) and Geo Wyeth (US) to perform new and existing works.