In 2018 Meessen De Clercq celebrates its tenth year of existence, an excellent occasion to launch an atypical curated project. To celebrate the years dedicated to accompanying the public in its discovery of contemporary art, Meessen De Clercq invites ten artists, who are not represented by the gallery, to develop a personal project. Based on the game Chinese whispers, the projects are successively shown, each project determining the next one. As such, a story spread in time is created by a chain of consecutive acts, written by different artists, taking into account a known and limited space, the ‘Wunderkammer’, visible from the street.
Initiated in September 2018 with Ryan Gander, the project was followed with Navid Nuur, Jonathan Monk, Sofia Hultén, Jason Dodge, Gabriel Kuri, Wilfredo Prieto, Natalie Czech, Marie Lund and Oriol Vilanova, who were all invited artists to propose a project for the Wunderkammer.
For the first Chinese Whispers project, Ryan Gander presents a custom made rug depicting discarded off-cuts and remnants of brightly coloured sugar paper which have been left in a random composition following creative play by the artist’s two daughters aged 4 and 8 years old, made in their father’s studio whilst he worked. Displayed with a set of Montessori grammar shapes, used to explain word usage to children, either strewn across the rug or shown on a shelf or other horizontal surface in the same space as the rug. The rug can be displayed on the floor on a 100mm high kick-plinth with a 50mm border, or hung directly on the wall on heavy duty carpet tack strips as if floating.
I have a very clear memory of hiding under our Persian carpet when I was four years old, with everything around me becoming very dark. Then something strange happened: I saw exactly the same thing I would see when I closed my eyes! I didn’t understand what was going on. How was it possible that when you opened your eyes under your blanket, in the dark, you saw exactly the same thing you saw with your eyes shut? When I tried to explain it to my parents, they didn’t get it at all. They put a nightlight in my bedroom – that would help, supposedly. What the hell did that have to do with anything? I couldn’t explain to them what I was on to, and I felt lonely and misunderstood in my quest. For me, this was a very big, important question. At a certain point, I came up with an idea: I would keep my eyes shut and imagine something. Something simple – an apple, for example. I closed my eyes and pictured the apple.
As soon as I had a clear image of the apple, I opened my eyes under the covers and... the apple was still there! This experience made a big impression on me as a four-year-old. How can you keep picturing something in your mind’s eye when you open your eyes in the dark? I started testing this phenomenon on a larger scale. The problem was that with a blanket, I could only make one small space at a time pitch-black.
But I wanted more. The only place that had potential was our bathroom. It didn’t have any windows and the door closed real tight. So that’s where I... I told my mother that I needed to poo – as an alibi, I was sure my parents would understand my experiment otherwise. After all, they had bought me that fricking nightlight. Okay, so I went inside, but then I discovered everything smelled of shampoo and detergent, that the foor tiles felt cold and that on top of everything, the washing machine had this very annoying little light that was always on. This dark space was contaminated by too many sources of distraction, in other words. I needed to come up with something else. So I pulled on my shoes, pulled the washing machine’s power plug out of its socket and wrapped a scarf around my face to
keep out the smell, after which I was good to go. Let’s do this. I ventured in. And it worked. All I had to do was block out the sounds coming in from beyond the bathroom and the acoustics of the room itself. Here we go: I shut my eyes and then opened them again to calibrate the darkness of the surrounding space with the darkness behind my closed eyes. Yes, they were the same, so I could start. I began to slowly picture the apple. I waited for a bit, because I wanted to the image to be a bit clearer still… At which point my mother decided to call: ‘Navidjoen, where are you?’ I immediately answered: ‘I’m almost fnished!’ The bathroom’s acoustics exploded inside my head due to my yelling. And the apple had disappeared.
Did this mean I had to start all over again? Pfff...!? After a while, I was back where I had left off: picturing the apple with my eyes tight shut. I opened them... and I could see the apple foating in the bathroom’s space. It was incredible: I could spin it round; move it backward and forward again. It was amazing: the surrounding black space had become a part of me. Then I hear ‘Navidjoen, is everything alright?’ The door opened. My apple vanished into thin air. My mother saw me standing there in the bathroom, in the dark, wearing shoes and a scarf, and obviously not taking a poo. She was taken aback for a moment, after which she immediately started scolding me for wearing my outdoor shoes in the bathroom. What had got into me!? I had to take my shoes off straight away. And I was told off a second time an hour later, when my mother wanted to do laundry and found out I had disconnected the washing machine. This was defnitely not okay! You’re never allowed to play with electricity, etc. What a bummer... The bathroom was the only room where I could train this new dimension. From then on, my mother kept an eye on me. She thought I was bored and planned all sorts of things that we could do together. She meant well, but I actually didn’t have time for this. I was busy exploring new dimensions, and I still am...
I have tried to take elements of the first two projects and incorporate them in mine – the third rendition. Within a quick circular motion a story is told from one person to the next. Without fully understanding the nature of the previous exhibitions I have selected some, clear and obvious details - carpets, red spheres, the dark underside, geometric objects, children and of course... all children love La Vache qui rit ®. The main part (the carpet) of the installation was produced two years ago but never shown. This new installation is just trying to connect it to the present context. For me the interesting part of my exhibition will be the next exhibition – how the story continues... to be continued.
Sofia Hultén presents a playful view of inevitability and causal variation. It, Is,What, It, Is and Line With Complications leave their narrative possibilities open: a series of rucksacks, bicycle baskets, carpet remnants and bungee cords stimulate the viewer’s search for an ordering principle for these objects while at the same time questioning their essence, their function and their past. Each project is presented during one month and at the end of the project a publication will be realised with the ten proposals.
These works are haptic readings. Machines of multiplying, reflecting and reacting. They are readings of the previous and next installment of this program, as well as the day, the place and the people who have interacted in the process of the work being realized, the traveling, the lunar cycle and other factors. I have used things that are often identified but not given identity; currency, feathers, moultings of snakes, as they are capsules of memory - an index of flights and transactions, hands handing warm coins to other hands. These readings use the alphabet of things, and speak for themselves in these terms only.
“In the echo chamber and overspilling of multidirectional communication, the distortion of a missive may no longer be found in its mistranslation, but rather in co-opting its interpretation. Chinese whispers are a thing of the past. Not bound to one’s lost childhood nor the nineteenth century, but rather from that time when the channel between emitter and receiver could be safely conceived of as two-directional and closed to everyone else. Rather than diligently transmitting the missive in a metaphor -as the embodiment of acceptance of miscommunication- the crux is in the transmission of the metaphor in the missive: from iteration to iteration, the precise echo of currency counting rhymes changing skin apples apples shedding skin flying apples missing carpets hidden blankets folded carpets flying blankets moulting labels swept between the lines swept under the carpet”.
The Chinese Whispers cycle introduces the notions of association, imitation and error as well as beneficial digression into the data chain between a transmitter to a receiver. Wilfredo Prieto brings us an installation following on from the one by Gabriel Kuri which gathers together various works emphasising the importance of duality in his work.
Bed sheet and paper is the result of a juxtaposition of two objects that can be considered as ‘starting points’: a bed sheet for sleeping, and a page to work on. Both are immaculate and have not been used. They interact poetically in a simple nudity. Shirt without button represents a mass-produced garment. A new white shirt still showing the creases made when it was packed. On closer examination, it can be noticed that it is missing a button, torn off by the artist in a tiny gesture. How can one incorporate error - a characteristic of human beings - into a manufacturing system? Perched precariously on the window sill, two tiny spheres compose «Love», a work consisting of a papaya seed and a ball made of polystyrene. In an attraction reminiscent of the forces of the heavens, these two spheres come from totally different worlds (nature/industry). This contrast can be found in the three works on the wall, almost imperceptible, made of hairs (black, white and red) and threads (synthetic, silk, chintzy cotton). And finally, The lion does not look back when the dog barks is an acoustic piece, almost a conversation between lions and dogs, with roars and barks alternating strength and fragility.
GRAMMAR SHAPES to explain word usage:
A red ball, apples, apple, a ball of red shoelaces, left overs of an apple, an apple as a pearl, ... an image of an apple, a knife
– Is there sorrow in magic?
Several rucksacks, baskets, a transparent bag, traveling, feathers, money, flying ... a pause ... an encounter of two cigarettes from the past
– Free Holiday
A rug, a rug as a blanket, a carpet, carpet remnants, blankets, blank, clean ... erase, rearrange, vacuum clean
– Has meaning told you of her secret devotion to chance? and
– Do you ever see the sun gleam as you look at letter structures?
Memory, music, lines on a wall, a line ... again some bags – Thank you – time to say Good Bye
– you blue
I read Hands handing warm coins to other hands. And recalled how the metal did warm up as I held it in my hand. How the heat allowed the metal to bend. And how it retained the shape and the heat as I passed it on. I read words, spoken as objects, shown as images. As ink on paper. A thin layer of metal conducting the heat.
Oriol Vilanova, Célébration, 2020
Without interruption, left in loop in a moderate speed, while trying to maintain a certain feeling of continuity.With difficulty of not ending anything and without a wish to have the last word.