| A.B. Meadows
The "Speelhoven 01" exhibition
Speelhoven is a place of the arts that has become well-known
among art lovers and artists in Belgium, especially those with a penchant
for minimal and / or concept art. Speelhoven is also the domicile of Leen
Lybeer and Vincent Halflants as well as the location of their studio. It
is practically a farm with typical farm buildings, a barn, for instance,
and outdoor areas that can be used as exhibition sites.
Among the artists taking part in the exhibition at Speelhoven
in 2001, I've singled out two, Delphine Coindet and Alain Géronnez.
Not because the others are less interesting but because I could relate
especially to their installations, for whatever perhaps accidental, perhaps
personal and subjective reason.
Both installations are sited in, and relate strongly and
significantly to NATURE, incorporating it in fact in the work of art created,
just as the work of art is "embedded" in NATURE.
Therefore, to my mind, there is a good reason to speak
of reciprocal interaction (Wechselwirkung), or a dialectical relationship
that affects both the pole of ART (or CULTURE) and the pole of NATURE.
A nature of which we know of course that, as such, per
se, in itself, it exists almost nowhere (or truly nowhere?) nowadays, being
exposed, wherever we may look for it, to instrumentalization, use, social
effects, forces created by human social activities.
But even this implicitly or explicitly used NATURE, subjected
to distant and indirect effects of society or to direct and often rapacious
use, can still be seen as an antipode, a counterpoint, an antithesis to
art, as the 'raw' instead of the 'cooked'. And in so far, being the more
or less unharnessed, the growing (and sometimes wildly growing) part of
(socially affected) reality, it seems to encounter in art a form of existence
that is significantly different. For this very reason it poses a challenge
to artists who refer to it by their works, and even integrate it in their
works. How this challenge is faced can be traced very pertinently
in the works of art singled out.
As a curator of the SPEELHOVEN 01 exhibition, Isabelle
Lemaître (Paris) has seen the pertinence of the relation between
the works exhibited and NATURE very clearly. And in fact, she was aware
that the art works selected DID SOMETHING TO NATURE. If I understand her
point of departure correctly, this seemed to be the case because she thought
of the art works themselves as discoursive, as a concretization of a visually
based semiotics. Art, however, constitutes a specific discourse, different
from that of science.
As Isabelle Lemaître suggests, "nature in our era
is complety caught in the web of scientific discourse, a system that speaks
in terms of cause and effect." In her view, science (striving to be objective)
eliminates the presence of the interfering subject - a claim that can of
course be disputed, insofar as it is a well-known fact that in several
disciplines, there exist scientists and scientific positions which demand
that the existence of the observer as well as his intervention
must be taken into account. Regardless of such an objection,
is is noteworthy to see that artists and works of art attempt and in fact
establish interventions with regard to nature that are different from those
of the natural sciences.
Isabelle Lemaître seemed to regret that "nature,
subjected to counting (mathematics) reveals itself as more and more mastered
and therefore less unforeseeable." But, she said, "nature is precisely
that [reality] of which something that is unforeseeable remains" [le nature
c'est précisement ce qui resterait d'imprévisible!]. She
added, "It is that which places the subject in a relationship with the
real" [C'est ce qui mettrait le sujet dans un rapport au réel"].
Is this a romantic position? A naively realistic one? A beautifully materialistic
but still subjective and non-scientific one? Whatever it may be - I cannot
but recognize the poetry that is alive in her enchanting reference to "a
nature, not too far from its epicenter and its unknown force" [cette nature-là,
pas trop proche de son épicentre, et de sa puissance inconnue].
This nature, seemingly unattainable to science, a nature that harbors (she
claims) an "unknown force" and that holds in store something "unforeseeable",
is attainable only & thus can be reached or touched only "by way of
a detour", for instance that one "which the work of art proposes"
[par le détour, don't celui que propose l'oeuvre d'art].
Having singled out the privileged position which in her
view the work of art can claim, as a route of access or way of relating
to 'living' (rather than dissected and 'counted') nature, Isabelle Lemaître
goes on to say that in establishing a way of accessing, of touching, in
other words, a rapport to nature, art "proceeds by distancing, and at the
same time calling up a thought, through the intermediary of an object which
animates and drives the subjective dynamics, and gives it a concrete existence
[form or body]".
This thought is so indicative of the reasoning at work
in many concept-art-like installations that it is worth to repeat it once
more in the French original which says,
"Cette nature-là, pas trop proche de son épicentre,
et de sa puissance inconnue, ne s'atteint que par le détour, dont
celui que propose l'oeuvre d'art. Celui-ci, en effet, procède par
un mise à distance, tout en actionnant une pensée par l'intermédiaire
d'un objet qui anime et relance la dynamique subjective, et lui donne corps."
Isn't this revealing the aesthetic and perceptual "logic"
(or should I say, anti-mechanistic because intuitive and subjective 'mechanics')
of many 'installations' relating to and/or placed in (or against) nature?
Isn't it often if not always a question of a "mise à distance",
the creation of a (mental) distance that is central to such installations?
Sometimes in the form of an oppposition or contradiction, sometimes as
a 'Verfremdung' or process of making the seemingly well-known appear strange?
At any rate an object or objects (the object or objects introduced by the
intervention of the artist) are offered as a stumbling block, the way they
are inserted into nature. The effect is meant to be puzzling. Nature, involved
in the game, seems to change its quality; it suddenly seems to be seen
(to be perceived) differently, because of the interaction between the 'art
object' introduced into it. And/or the 'art object' is perceived differently,
because of the way it is inserted in 'nature'. At any rate, not only thoughts
are provoked but 'normal' perception is changed; it is de-automatized.
The "subjective dynamics", that is to say, the intellect and the emotions,
the associative potentials of the mind, etc., are in full play.
The "detour" Isabelle Lemaître writes about is,
as we know, the artistic intervention, through the insertion of an irritating
or provoking object, or of several such objects, into the ambience of nature.
It is, in other words, the artist's way of approaching
'the enigma' or the 'unknown force' or the 'real' [in and of nature!] which
is not accessible to dissection and counting.
According to Isabelle Lemaître, it is exactly this
"detour" - that is to say, the provocatice insertion - which as a
result "gives life to that which one calls here a-nature" [l'anature] -
in other words, to the antipode of nature (and the catalyst of a
new, fresh perception of nature) as which the installation reveals itself.
If we may believe Isabelle Lemaître, the aesthetic
process in question (referred to as a "detour" by her) brings about or
"wakes up" this a-nature, giving "life" to it, by way of a 'refuge'
("par voie du refuge" / "door middel van schuilplaatsen", the Dutch translation
says) and through "the shaping of remote and unusual places" ["mise en
form de lieux retirés et insolités"/"het vormgeving van terugetrokken
en vreemde plaatsen"]. Remote and unusual places, she adds, which
"le regard" / "de blik" (the look of the viewer) "appropriates" or of which
it "makes itself the master", "permitting the subject [i.e. the viewer]
to enter into his [or her] deepest dreams and to place, furtively, the
thumb on the unconscious which animates desire."
Here we end up again with a notion of the surrealists
- the connection they made between strange (found) objects and the unconscious,
thus, by implication, their invisible 'threads' linking our chance-governed,
dreamlike discoveries to the Freudian 'wish'. The strange, accidental,
often inconspicuous places where an objet trouvé might by discovered
and the equally accidental and often inconspicuous object or objects picked
up by a surrealist painter or poet have been replaced, in the second half
of the 20th and the early 21st century, by the intuitively and almost accidentally
chosen locations of the installations produced and the objects selected
for them (like bizarre stage props, almost, we might wonder). If a concept
or a moment of reflection enters in the process, as most often it probably
does, this is in many instances intuitive enough to produce unforeseen
effects of strangeness, irritation, and even startling beauty.
[The quotations are from Isabelle Lemaître, "La nature n'existe
pas." (1ere partie; Paris, juin 2001), in: SPEELHOVEN 01, catalogue, s.l.
Tentoonstelling / exposition
(starting Sept. 1, 2001)
Michel Blazy / Delphine Coindet / Cel Crabeels
/ Alec de Busschère / Alain Géronnez / Mara Goldberg / Hans
op de Beeck / Hugues Reip
De Organisatoren Isabelle Lemaître en
Luc Coeckelberghs, Vincent Halflants, Odo
Halflants, Leen Lybeer en Jos Uytterhoeven
heten u welcom.
v.z.v. Speelhoven. Haferbeekstraat 90
B-3200 Aarschot, Tel.-Fax 016 / 56 80 03