For the exhibition "Les enigmes de Saarlouis" the Belgian artists, collaborating for over twenty years now, conceived a twofold installation composed of entranced gazes and estranging riddles.
For their first solo exhibition at Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Belgian artists Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, collaborating for over twenty years now, conceived a twofold installation composed of entranced gazes and estranging riddles.
The main component, stretching out over two rooms, is a portrait gallery of thirty drawings on framed, off-white cardboard. The depicted personae have been stripped down of any attributes, marks of identity, or signs of the time, yet they are quite familiar to the artists themselves. These stolen faces, loosely traced yet highly distinctive, surround the viewer and engage in a wordless tête-à-tête.
All the while, the long-drawn-out, whining computer voices of two francophone women resonate from a new video. Rather than recruiting their actors from the usual suspects, that is to say friends and family members, the artists opted for a more austere and shabby representation of human figures: a couple of polysterene-headed mannequins, facing the viewer without the slightest movement, which previously made their appearance in the 2009 photographic Skeletten-series and the 2010 video Das Loch.
While speech is abundant, which isn't often the case in De Gruyter & Thys's videos, sentiment and reason are glaringly absent. The duo's mind-numbing riddles propose nothing more than a newborn absurdism. This sequence of bizarre questions, separated by periods of silence that last just a little bit too long, seems almost designed to disorient the viewer. Ultimately, the exhibition space as well as the space of the image aim to connect with a third space, a mental rather than a physical one, which appears to be in a poor condition indeed.
Two future events will further animate the exhibition: a lecture held by the artists, and a record release on the occasion of which Erik Thys will play a live concert.
Jos de Gruyter (b. 1965) and Harald Thys (b. 1966) live and work in Brussels. Their multidisciplinary work is rooted in a folksy, tragicomic sensibility honed into an experimental dramaturgy. Future solo exhibitions will take place in 2012 at Culturgest (Porto), Mu.ZEE (Ostend), and in 2013 at Palais de Tokyo (Paris) and M HKA (Antwerp).
Image: Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, Les énigmes de Saarlouis, 2012 (video still)
Galerie Micheline Szwajcer
Verlatstraat 14 - Antwerp
Hours: Tuesday to Friday 10:00-18:30, Saturday 12:00-18:30