10. Gerry

The feature film "Gerry", 2002 by Gus Van Sant has been the inspiration for a series of cut/woven/fragmented photographs where the faces and body of Gerry (Matt Damon and Casey Afleck) melts within the landscape .The landscape in return melts into their bodies.

Hard Candies
Motive Gallery is pleased to present Hard Candies, the first of two thematic group exhibitions curated respectively around the colours pink and blue. To be seen from the 8th of September till the 20th of October, Hard Candies features works by Célio Braga, Claudie de Cleen, Fransje Killaars, Viviane Sassen and Luuk Wilmering.

Every colour has its specific cultural, social and political history. Just as a scent or a form, a colour mirrors specific customs and manners, ideas and interests, values and norms. And in today’s society, what is the range of shifting meanings attributed to pink? What does it stand for? As its title suggests the curatorial project Hard Candies is not only informed by the positive attributes associated with pink such as sweetness and youth, but also and to the same extent by more ambiguous aspects of its contemporary significance. Hard Candies stakes out the cutting-edge of pink.

In his drawings, installations and videos, Brazilian-born, Amsterdam-based artist Célio Braga (1965, Guimarânia) explores the relation between body, memory, illness and death. Schooled as a jewellery maker, his approach to art is informed by exquisite craftsmanship and a keen eye for details. Primarily influenced by the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Braga creates jewels–better described as miniature sculptures–the shape of which simulate organic and mineral matter that call up a myriad of associations ranging from under-water landscapes to visceral organs and cancerous growths. In this exhibition he presents works from his latest series, Gerry (2006-2007) and Placebo (2007). Whereas for Gerry, Braga appropriated stills from the Gus van Sant eponymous feature in order to speak about the relation between intimacy, mimicry and contamination; his series Placebo, of delicate paper flowers, crosses and funeral wreathes made out of cut-up medicine notices, constitute memento mori, an homage to those fallen of AIDS. Both these series tackle the flip side of eroticism and gay culture most often associated with the colour pink today; and take up again Braga’s interest in the connection between religion, art and science.

Over the past few years, Claudie de Cleen (1968, Zaandam) has come to prominence with her drawings. Whereas her work is seen regularly in the mainstream press, it has also been acclaimed in specialized publications. Working with different styles, her light and seemingly casual stroke of pencil has become the hallmark of her graphic language. Coupled with sharp one-liners, her loose black and white (pencil) or (water-)colour illustrations constitute biting critiques on contemporary society. Never quite sweet, her portraits of teenage girls both endear and provide a sense of uneasiness.

The colourful installations by Fransje Killaars (1959, Maastricht) conflate the western tradition of abstract and conceptual art (Colour Field painting and Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing) with that of Indian weaving. Bringing together Orient and Occident, high- and applied art, Killaars’ work has been described as a unique attempt at merging different practices, worlds and aesthetic categories that allow her work to be read as critiques of traditional gender, ethnic and social divisions. To be seen in Hard Candies is an example of her recent endeavour at “draping some of her bedspreads, with their brightly coloured grids, on tailor’s dummies.” And as Sven Lutticken further writes: “These abstract and impractical full-body veils draw attention to their materiality and sensuality –to their own surface and texture rather than their status as obstructions of the gaze…” As a reflection on the instrumentalization of the veil as propaganda both in the Muslim and in the Western world, it articulates the gender associations of the colour pink (femininity as what is concealed) with politics and religion in the contemporary debate of Enlightment versus Muslim culture.

Dutch photographer and winner of the Prix de Rome 2007, Viviane Sassen (1972, Amsterdam) has been dedicated for a long time to the gender politics of the gaze. In different early editorial and non-commissioned work, she has pictured women’s bodies and sexuality in a highly personal way. As Viviane Sassen comments in an interview:

[this is a] work that is about women and their status in society. Maybe it had something to do with the power of women to expose their own bodies both in a conscious and ironic way. And there is also the question of me being a woman and the photographer. At that time, when I took these pictures, I was influenced by male photographers, who took pictures of women like Helmut Newton and Araki, and also I was assisting the Dutch photographer Carli Hermes. On top of that, I was myself being photographed as a model by numerous male photographers who wanted to depict me as a sexual object. Maybe I had the feeling that I had to empower myself, to put something next to these male visions of women but still using their own visual language.

Rarely seen works from her early erotic series will appear at Hard Candies, providing new insights into the oeuvre of whom has mostly become known through her artistic work in Africa. From her series for REALM, her nymphs sitting in the woods or running in the sand aren’t so much alluring as they are homely and spontaneous. Viviane Sassen depicts women and their sexuality in a way that turns pink into a colour that denotes ambiguity and self-empowerment, rather than submissive sweetness.

Artist Luuk Wilmering (1957, Haarlem) is mostly known for his large-scale (hand-coloured) photographic self-portraits. His work is as indebted to pop art as it is to Belgian Surrealism. For Wilmering, everyday life is an inexhaustible source of wonder; it is both pathetic and poetic, magic and absurd. Ironic and self-critical, Wilmering’s work constitutes an uncompromised vision of ordinary living, whereby social gatherings, individual obsessions and common gestures become the mark of his dissecting eye. During Hard Candies, he has chosen to present Welcome to the party, a billboard-size photograph highlighting the fragility of happiness and the absurdity of its calculated occurrence embodied in the social occasion of a birthday party. In Wilmering’s photograph, the usual pink glazed cake has been replaced by the sour taste of human failure.
-Catherine Somzé-

Gerry, 2006/2011-cuts and fragments of photography on C. Print, variable dimensions - Motive Gallery -Amsterdam

Gerry, 2006/2011-cuts and fragments of photography on C. print, 10 cm x 15 cm

Gerry, 2006/2011-cuts and fragments of photography on C. Print - variable dimensions

Gerry, 2006/2011-cuts and fragments of photography on C. print - 10 cm x 15 cm

Gerry, 2010-gouache, cuts and fragments of photography on C. print, 30 cm x 15 cm

Gerry, 2008/2010, cuts and gouache on C. print, 164 cm x 32 cm

05. Dalice

Dalice, 2006 (still image), dvd video, 4'3'' (endless loop) in 2 monitors facing each other

Dalice by Brazilian artist Célio Braga is a portrait. A beautiful portrait of a middle-aged woman. A close-up against a white background that leaves no opportunity for distraction. Just a face. The portrait classically believed to be the genre that requires our presupposition of the reality of the sitter and his or her identity to the image. Gadamer called that relation of image to reality the ‘occasion’. And to be sure, the woman we see does exist in reality, and there was an ‘occasion’. There are two of these portraits, two identical videos positioned opposite each other, so that the viewer must stand between them. Stand, not sit. They are on eye-level, on dark grey pedestals. One wonders why this video is presented as an installation, rather than as a simple one-screen film.
I contend that the installed videos produce an architecture of a qualified, in a sense disenchanted intimacy that enables an ethical engagement with the migratory ‘otherness within’ contemporary culture. This argument will move through three theoretical motives that converge in the face: The architecture, or, in terms of theatricality, setting of the installation works and by extension, the exhibition as a whole; the inevitable mirroring that insinuates itself when one moves through space with multiple videos screens; and the specific sense of space that emerges from the combination of these motives.
With a hand-held camera Célio Braga has filmed his mother’s face, in her own home. He filmed her during the long minutes he observed her inward-turned grief, her loneliness while engrosses in the task of absorbing the horror of her daughter’s death. The moment of mourning was, we could say with Gadamer, the ‘occasion’. The son witnesses his mother’s grief, is grieving himself, we can assume, and yet, all he can do is film that silent face, himself invisible. The hand holding the camera is visually holding his mother.
Of this portrait itself, it can be said that it is gripping, moving, and utterly simple. The woman is impressive, beautiful, but clearly, neither shot nor shown for those features. The only barely visible feature that distinguishes it from countless other portraits is the slight movement, inevitable in hand-held camera-work. This movement, once the viewer is standing there, concentrating on that face because there is nothing else to see – it is slight, slow, and a-centered. While facing itself – looking someone in the face – is centralizing, the movement, the movement in this video is visible exactly at the edges of the face.
Dalice as it is to be installed, raises many questions: of the portrait, medium, the face, and the possibility of empathy, of intimacy. It raises these with urgency, because the bare facts alone would easily bring up an unease related voyeurism. This, in turn, is connected to the issue of  ‘documentarism’. The portrait made by a camera is undeniably “occasioned”, but how important for this work is that sense of documentary that this concept implies. The actuality of the occasion could barely be more convincing, dramatic: a mother grieving, one week after. But strangely, there seems to be a tension between these two reality factors. The portrait is less a portrait of this woman, Dalice, than of the emotion that weights her down. And this is where the specificity of video comes in. The near-stillness of the image ask what a video portrait is, as distinct from a photograph. The slight movement of the face that seems to be the only difference between these two mediums of portraiture – eyes blinking, turning upwards – has a companion in the slight movement of the image caused by the hand that holds the camera.
The hand, reduced to its bare essentials through the medium, caresses the face-as-image. When the face moves on its own, the image presenting the face moves. Small, barely visible, secondary movements are the inevitable consequence of hand-held shooting. This produces this double movement and through it, powerfully states the poetics of video intimacy. It asks if it is possible to read the face, to see grief? It asks if it is possible to empathize with an unknown woman across the gap, first, of her aloneness, second, of her son’s absence due to his migration, conflated here with death (the death of the other child); and third, across the gap of our belatedness, our incapability to make contact. Can we see that this face is one of mourning, or do we need to have this intimate knowledge?
This is where, for Dalice, the installation aspect specifically comes in. The viewer is forced to stand between the two monitors, the two pedestals that are body-size. Only then one can face Dalice in the first sense, and witness how she faces her loss. But while facing the woman is enforced on those who wish to see this work, so is turning one’s back to her. It is impossible to face her without, uncomfortably, also realizing that she is behind you, looking at your back turned to her, as if sending you away from the intimacy of her home. This double position is doubly moving, then, in the emotional sense of the affect of viewing. It is important to realize that at no time the viewer is trapped. The distance is enough to look away and walk away. But once you decide, freely, to look Dalice in the face, you have to face that you must by necessity also turn your back on her.
The silence of the work adds to this double affect. Especially since the background noise of other works is as audible as street noise would be once the door of the house is closed. The small space is both inside and outside. The viewer-visitor is both admitted as a guest and not asked to stay. Dalice invites you in, and sends you away; she invites the intimacy of the encounter and stipulates the ineluctable strangeness that remains. Due to this installation – as distinct from a single-screen showing – the woman figure is empowered, the face given agency, and the viewer’s voyeurism held at bay.

… a fragment from Mieke Bal ‘Double Movement’.

The work by Célio Braga, Dalice, goes deeper into this notion of untranslatability, in this case, untranslatability of pain. His work shows the face of the artist’s mother after having lost her child, forever in this case. We see a silent, impenetrable face. There is an expressionless grimace, which -while revealing nothing- says everything. It is the expression of a loss. But, above all, it is the unstranslatability of one’s pain to others. According to David Le Breton, one of the characteristics of physical pain and psychological suffering is their impossibility to be communicated: pain is a failure of language as it ‘causes cries, groans, moans, tears or silences, in other words, a breakdown of words and thoughts’ (1999:35). The face in Dalice, offers silence as a screen that expels the subject, which frustrates his intention of understanding the other. There is something in the woman’s suffering which we are sure is there but to which we have no full access; an emptiness that we cannot fill, a blind spot that breaks any plenitude we could try to find.
At stake in the way the work is displayed is also the question of ‘inhabiting distance’: two monitors face each other at eye-level, and between them there is a distance where the viewer stands. The two monitors show the same image, an denaturalized image: a familiar-yet-strange image (unheimlich, or ‘uncanny’ in the Freudian sense). Between these two images, in which the same face is repeated, a kind of ‘paradoxical space of condensation’ is created, inhabited by a viewer who is constantly looked at by eyes in the monitor, which, however, do not seem to be paying attention to anything outside themselves, they are immersed in their pain. In this place the audience feels uneasy, restless, mobilized and thrown inside the whirlpool of the image, between two times which never actually happen, which are always arriving and which never really begin. We might have to think of the space between those faces, that literal interface, as the paradigm of a migratory dwelling, the paradigm of a double movement: the perpetual raft.

… a fragment from Miguel A. Hernández-Navarno ‘Little Resistances. Contradictions of Mobility’

09. Blue

"My pursuit is a progressive work process which documents and defines time in a poetic and ethereal manner. Time in its duration, simplicity and complexity. Time in our vanishing, to be at the same time alive and always in the presence of death."
The videos (BUBBLE, 2006 and CARLOS, 2006), have a meditative quality where in one monitor a handsome young man blows bubbles into the void and in the other, bubbles fall on a surface leaving behind the marks of its silent collisions. B.L.U.E makes visual poetry of the intangible elements of nature and celebrates life.

 Carlos, 2006 (still)
dvd video, 8'5'' (endless loop)

13 days (Novenas/Blue), 2013 - paper, textiles and religious ribbons on 13 medicine leaflets, 60 cm x 70 cm

07 days (Novenas/Blue), 2013 - paper, textile and religious ribbons on 7 medicine information leaflets, 65 cm x 80 cm

 Blue, 2008
medicine information leaflets, double tape and transparent blue paper,
sizes and dimensions varaible

 Blue, 2008/(on going)
medicine information leaflets, double tape and transparent blue paper,
sizes and dimensions variable

 Blue, 2008/ (on going)

Blue, 2008, perforations and pigment on C. print, 35 cm x 46 cm

28 days (Novenas/Blue), paper, textiles and religious ribbons on 28 medicine leaflets, 80 cm x 80 cm

25. Les Fleurs du Mal

Untitled (Installation view at Gallery Van der Mieden, Antwerpen), 2006

Untitled, 2004/2006, wax, variable dimensions

Lachaise, 2015, perforations on folded photograph, 10 cm x 15 cm

Untitled, 2004/2006, wax, variable dimensions