“Can we trust our eyes? Are you sure about what you see? What is the truth?”
These are some of the leading questions behind the exhibition Say. No. More… Trust at De. Groen in Arnheim that ended last September.
Tackling what is an old subject in the artistic practice – that of representation and illusionism – the exhibit included some great selection of works. The pieces by Maurice van Telling, Danny Foolen and Johannes Langkamp stuck with me.
Maurice van Telling’s mdf works are as funny as they are aesthetic. “Wasmachine” (2013/2018) is a miniature prop made in mdf. It includes the smallest LCD monitor showing a film of a laundry wash in place of its tub window.
Van Telling’s work makes a constant play between the physical referent and its corresponding symbol. “Same Old Wall” and “Same Old Footpath” (both from 2016) were exhibited next to each other. What looks like street floor and is actual resembling “built floor” – tough any floor is anyhow human built – now hangs on the wall. Likewise, a sample of something made to look like a wall now hangs on the wall.
Van Telling’s work is so literal that it becomes almost absurd. In parallel to mimicking reality in a literal way, things like tactility, colour palette and shape achieve very haptic and optical qualities.
The idea of hanging a constructed wall onto a constructed wall and a built floor onto a wall is hilarious in itself. It is this circularity, this play of references, that makes van Telling’s work highly amusing.
Traces of Danny Foolen’s skills as a skater and a surfer infuse his artistic practice. Both his architectural sculptures and photographic work deal heavily with the urban space and its qualities of materials, scale and balance. Corners, doors, windows are some of Foolen’s preferred motives.
“Folded Space” (2018) is a mixed media work in which a photo print is applied onto mdf wood. Both a photo and a sculpture, this work literally showcases and is in itself folded space. It has been stated that Danny Foolen’s minimal works continuously experiment with our perception of space, scale and balance.
“Around the Corner” (2018) also plays with classic notions of spatial perspective and representation. This real-size constructed corner is made of wood, plexiglass and paint. It is as if we are inside of a stage set where “art imitates life”.
Questioning our sense of reality and art history knowledge, Danny Foolen’s artworks are not simply physically transplanted from the outdoor reality onto the exhibition space as is. They are purposively built to resemble reality and then presented within the exhibition space. It is a double makeshift: it is not the real that enters the art space, it is an artificially built version of the real that gets presented. Art returns here to its classical role of imitating reality, perhaps in an attempt to restore its strenght?
Johannes Langkamp builds nonsense machines that execute specific art-related actions such as drawing, measuring or painting. These sculptures are purposely absurd and evidently full of errors.
“To Measure is to Know” (2015) is a kinetic mechanism that uses measuring tape in a non-sensical way because in fact, it doesn’t measure anything, it simply acts as if.
Langkamp’s works are full of spontaneous ideas, random actions, that are as short as they are intriguing and funny. His video or installation sketches, perform a deconstruction of the everyday, mimicking banal familiar gestures that take after the artist’s immediate surroundings yet are complete and total failures. It is in their ineffectiveness, absurdity and illogicality that these little installations gain our affection and become almost humanized… They seem to speak about the activity of making art, little failure after little failure in a persistent wish to be creative and original…
For me, Johannes Langkamp’s kinetic sculptures represent a candid and mechanical investigation into human creativity in iyself.
Say. No. More… Trust was on exhibit from July 13th through September 2nd at De. Groen in Arnheim. The show included the work of seven male artists Thijs Ebbe Fokkens (*1981 NL) Danny Foolen (*1985 NL) Lieven Hendriks (*1970 NL) Theo Konijnenburg, Bram Kuijpers (*1989 NL) Johannes Langkamp (*1985 DE) and Maurice van Tellingen (*1957 NL).
Images (from top to bottom):
Johannes Langkamp, Between Twenty Centimeter, 2015, Kinetic sculpture Wood, bolts, motor, measuring tape, 40 x 10 x 38 cm © Johannes Langkamp.
Maurice van Telling, Same old wall, 2016, mdf, alkyd paint, gold leave 22 krt., 48 x 50 x 4 cm, Ed. 5 + 1 AP © Maurice van Tellingen.
Danny Foolen, Folded Space, 2018, Photoprint (matt paper 250 g/m²) on wood (Birch plywood) © Danny Foolen.