'Drifting / Dérive': The "Speelhoven 03" exhibition
Drifting / Dérive, Leen Lybeer and Vincent
Halflants called the exhibition at Speelhoven in 2003. The artists who
participated were Karel Breugelmanns, Johann Creten, Joris Ghekiere, Allart
Lakke, Michael Sailstorfer, Johan Slabbynck, Christoph Terlinden, Herman
van Ingelgem, Pieter Vermeersch and Jenny Watson.
Speelhoven at the time was described as a "protected place
of the arts" - a "kunst-matig en beschermed domein". It was a place of,
above all, the Belgian avant-garde, of artists that were in some way or
other, close to minimalist and concept art.
Modern artists, from Picasso to Joseph Beuys, had already
introduced a rupture with every conventional understanding of beauty in
their approach to aesthetic production. This rupture was, in specific ways,
present as well, in the works that were selected for the Speelhoven exhibition
in 2003. As Luk Lambrecht wrote, in the catalogue produced on this occasion,
"Het is niet denkbeeldig te verzanden in een ongelijke strijd om de schoonheid."
He added, "Om die reden is de kunstenaar verplicht heel sterk na te denken
over de positie van de kunst als toevoegende waarde. De aanwezigheid van
de kunst moet zich als het ware beschermen tegen de overweldigende kracht
die uitgaat van de cyclus van leven en dood in de natuur."
It is of course open to debate in what sense art can be
understood as an "added" or "adding value", and whether the "presence"
of art works, in other words, their visual (aesthetic, emotional, and intellectual)
impact, can be defined in other than ideological terms as "het ware" (das
Wahre rather than die Ware; the true rather than the commodity).
But it makes sense to speak of the moving force, the impact
that art can have - a counter-force, we might say, that in Luk Lambrecht's
view might protect against the "overwhelming force that is emitted by the
cyclus of life and death in nature" ("de ... kracht die uitgaat...").
Nature, in other words, was not seen in a romanticizing
way as harmless. Apparently it is something raw. Our part in it seems to
be most terribly obvious in our own mortality. Is art therefore stylized
as a civilizing antidote, as an embodiment of culture, the 'cooked', the
made, the produced, the constructed? The conceptualized - as against the
'raw'? Is the artist tempted to seek permanence, some sort of survival,
in the concept, the invention, the idea of a work of art, juxtaposed or
placed against the awareness of his frail body?
But then, aren't the works of the artists shown here,
whether conceptual or not, often in themselves tender, frail, revealing
no more than a fleeting presence, exposed to the onslaught of time and
natural forces? Fleeting, drifting material, shapes, forms, colors? All
but permanent objects and installations?
Lambrecht was right in claiming that a need continues
to exist for artists to break with conventionalities and this was clear
for long in much of the 20th and in this young 21st century, regardless
of any fashionable reference to "these modern and highly informational
and formatted times".
"In deze moderne en hoog geinformatiseerde en geformatteerde
tijden is het ondenkbaar dat een kunstenaar zich nog beroept op 19e eeuwse
recepten [...]", we read, and looking at the works of the artists he introduced
to us, it seems inevitable that I ask myself: was he having in mind
artists who, in obvious opposition to dated concepts of art, longed for
everything that was, perhaps playfully, anarchic?
Daniel Spoerri's oeuvre had projected such a tendency,
and the oeuvre of Robert Filliou. It is enough to think of his tongue-in-cheek,
faintly Surrealist Parisian cityscapes. The Arc de Triomphe, for instance,
with a large bowler hat placed on top of this 'heroic' monument of bureaucratic
imperialism. An intervention, conceptual in a way, by which this phallic
symbol is veiled, softened, disempowered and ironically 'displaced'. One
of Filliou's artist friends, in their Dusseldorf apartment, once pointed
to the sky outside the window, looked at me smilingly and quipped, "There
goes that cloud again!!" It was true conceptual poetry integrating nature
(the sky, clouds) into a performance directed by the human mind. It was
The title chosen for the Speelhoven 03 exhibition was
more serious than such playfully absurd use of words. It was imbued with
the awareness of a learned discourse embraced in Paris by Lacan, Derrida
and others, and pre-dated by the situationists, who were anarchically if
not fashionably "updating" surrealism. It was indicative of the conceptualist
way in which the works of the artists selected were relating to nature.
As Lambrecht put it, "Speelhoven '03 met curatoren Bert
de Leenheer en Dirk Vanhecke circelt rond een term van Guy Debord die als
'lijsttrekker' van de Internationale Situationisten er een anarchistische
en grootstedelijke kijk op kunst op na hield. 'Dérive - drifting'
is in het concept van Speelhoven een zijdelings thema om de nadruk te leggen
duidelijkheid, op de 'bijna' onmacht van de kunstenaar (en curator) om
de natuur te lijf te gaan met kunstinterventies."
The precarious or 'nearly' powerless way, then, of artists
involved in their attempt to 'tackle' nature by way of artistic interventions,
seems to be what produces a 'drift': A double drift or displacement, in
fact, that affects both the work of art (unsettled by its placement in
nature) and nature (unsettled by becoming 'part of a work of art').
* * *
vzw Speelhoven asbl
Vincent Halflants / Leen Lybeer / Luc Coeckelberghs / Baudouin Oosterlynck
/ Jan Uytterhoeven / Isabelle Lemaitre
Organisatie / Organisation
Bert de Leenheer