From June 15 to August 21, 2005, The Suspended Moment, a group exhibition with Otto Berchem, Victor Boullet, Angela Bulloch, Bernard Frize, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Naoya Hatakeyama, Roni Horn, Gerald Van Der Kaap, Paul Kooiker, Thomas Rentmeister, Fabien Rigobert, Karin Sander, Jörg Sasse, Hrafnkell Sigurdsson, Sam Taylor-Wood, Diana Thater, Jeff Wall, Erwin Wurm, curated by Hilde Teerlinck.
The publication Girlfriend in a coma by Douglas Coupland is one of the books that have given me inspiration for this intuitive and very personal choice of works from the H&F collection. It may suffice to list the titles of a few of the chapters:
• If it sleeps it's alive
• Thinking about the future means you want something
• Earthly sadness
• Even more real than you
• The future and the afterlife are different things altogether
• One day you will speak with yourself
• Destiny is corny
• The future is more extreme than you think
• Dreaming even though you're wide awake
It immediately reminds me of Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick's last film, as the title The Suspended Moment flirts with a similar contradiction. It tells us about tension, about suspense (as in cinéma), but confronts this emotion, this thrill, with the instantaneousness and the transience of a moment.
l belong to a generation whose everyday life is increasingly dominated by an ever more hectic pace. Morning to evening our agendas force us into a straitjacket. Routine is everywhere. Breaks and moments of relaxation are ever fewer and further between. We are constantly bombarded by an overdose of images, information and impressions, claiming our complète attention. Hence l asked myself this question: "What would happen if we could stop the clock for a moment ?" In my opinion, this selection from the H&F collection offers a unique opportunity to make this happen.
The artists l selected all seem to have dealt with (maybe unconsciously) similar issues. Whether they are painters, video-artists, sculptors or photographers, doesn't really matter. Somewhere in their work we find the preoccupations that they share. It is no coincidence that the work of all these artists is often rooted in a raw, sometimes bitter reality.
Victor Boullet shows us the interiors of operating theatres, with a clinical, aseptic view. Gruesome moments, with people and animais in a sleeping/waking condition.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres' puzzles seem innocent and inoffensive at first sight, wrapped in their sterile packaging. But the realisation that this work was made by an HIV-positive artist makes us grasp their real scope. He speaks of intimate feelings, of love and of death; the fact that he avoids all theatricalism and unnecessary pathos makes his works very powerful.
A similar poetic approach can be found in Otto Berchem's work. His installation Deadheading is minimal, but magnificently evokes a whole séries of évident références. His dead flowers transform into a real "still life". Their absolute beauty seduces us, and their tragic end makes us think.
We also find a similar starting point with Naoya Hatakeyama. In his Blast series he shows snapshots of explosions in Japanese mines. We see how present-day industry explodes ancient mountains without qualms, in order to build new houses or motorways with the quarried materials. We can interpret these works literally as an aggression against the past. As mankind, we seem doomed to destroy all the old to create something new. His Slow Glass series has a more nostalgie tone, but in a way reiterates the same theme. Inspired by a science-fiction story, the artist decided to realise a series of photos with a rain-spattered windscreen as a filter. This autobiographically inspired road movie shows banal landscapes from Milton Keynes in Britain: we see a McDonald's, the road markings on a motorway... Frozen moments, which seem to retain the smallest fragments of the past.
Fabien Rigobert's video shows a similar intensity. He confronts us with snapshots of an accident. In slow motion, we see two victims lying on the ground. Intuitively, we realise that everything happened very quickly. We see the first two eyewitnesses, and then other people show up. Rigobert dissects the different characters' reactions by slowing down the images. As such, he records, very analytically, certain complex emotions (such as pity or fear) for the viewer.
Sam Taylor-Wood works in a comparable way. Her video (a dancer performing an acrobatic choreography above the heads of a string quartet) is breathtaking. Danger and risk are presented hand in hand with extreme beauty. Also in her photographic work, she walks this delicate path, serious but without scruples, and makes meaningful statements about weighty themes such as life and death.
Gerald Van Der Kaap finds inspiration, as an artist, in the autobiographically influenced images that he collects. He succeeds in camouflaging the most humdrum scenes (sometimes tender sometimes poignant). As viewers we are confronted with a kind of virtual after-image, which nevertheless is able to preserve the original import. With the work of the other artists in the exhibition in mind, he created the back and front covers of this publication.
Erwin Wurm’s work demands an immediate participation. His pedestal, titled Hold your breath and think of Spinoza is one of his "One-minute sculptures". In order to activate the sculpture, to 'bring it to life' as it were, the visitor has to take place on the podium and perform an action for one minute; an instruction drawing and a text explain what to do. Starting from the inspiration that refers to philosophy, this object links up with other works of a more meditative character in the selection.
Also Diana Thater, for example, plays with audience participation in her installation White is the color. By using neon lighting and video, she creates a specific environment, inviting the viewer to take his time to experience the minimal changes in the global set-up of the installation. Through minimal interventions, she tries to create a new kind of universe linked up with certain intimate feelings.
Roni Horn shows a similar obsession with the smallest, nearly imperceptible shifts in everyday reality. Obsessively, she records the flux of the river Thames; a work with the kind of gravity and precision that is sooner expected from a scientific researcher. But she subtitles the images with literary references and poetic texts. Her portraits of animais, too, could be confused with a biologist's registrations. Only the fact that she presents the images as diptychs tells us that the artist has a totally different message to convey. She puts the art of looking, the importance of observation and perception on the agenda.
Karin Sander starts from an almost scientific point of view. Her sculptures are exact 1:10 copies of real people or objects. Just like Marcel Duchamp, she distances herself, in a way, from her status or mission as an "artist", and realises "ready-mades" that are churned out by a 3D-machine. Her small sculptures, reduced prototypes of a so-called "perfect" moment, direct marvellous criticism at our society, in which everything is systematically generalized and copied, and confront us with the naked truth.
Angela Bulloch takes another emblematic artist as a point of reference for her installation. She takes inspiration from the French conceptual artist Cadere for the realisation of a sculpture that has colours march past in a kind of timeless loop. Those colours were also used by this controversial character for the manufacture of his famous walking sticks.
Bernard Frize's paintings also explore the influence of colour on the human mind. His chromatic experiments, akin to the work of Prudenzio Irazabal, are meant to stir emotions. Yet they are minimal, ephemeral interventions on canvas. Somehow they resemble a painting that only exists for one moment, only to disappear immediately.
A drop of paint on the floor just short of dry. That is how Thomas Rentmeister likes to define his sculptures. "Stopovers", he calls them. And indeed, it seems as if his constructions are waiting for a new future. They seem to have landed temporarily, unsure of their final destination.
Jörg Sasse's work radiates a similar feeling. The hyper-aesthetic images he presents are passages. Breaks on an endlessly long trip. He takes the viewer with him, seduces him and then suddenly confronts him with the conclusion that the Ferris wheel at the funfair keeps on turning while we stand and look at it.
This experience can also be found in Hrafnkell Sigurðsson's work. The landscapes of Iceland, where he realises his photos, exudes serenity, peace and calm. But suddenly one of the seemingly perfect tents topples over. Life is full of unexpected moments...
Paul Kooiker's photos look like innocent, blurred images by an amateur photographer. But the title Chasing & Hunting suddenly takes us back to the era of primitive man. We imagine the photographer as a primate, hunting game, looking for a picture. His models are running away until he can suddenly fix their image with his caméra. He tries to retain a reality or a fiction, but to no avail, thus accentuating the moment of coincidence. Failure as the end result.
Starting from Jeff Wall's Little Children we can draw a parallel with the back cover. This work, originally intended for a Children's Pavilion conceived in co-operation with Dan Graham, carries a double meaning. At first it looks like a glorifying ode to youth in United Colours of Benetton style. But a doser analysis shows children from different races/classes confronted with artificially produced 'heavens' that don't just consist of dreams or clouds, but in which military helicopters are floating around as well.
Also Dan Graham's contribution has a rather meditative character. His Three Moon Pavilion is a scale model for a public sculpture, with round entrances and exits that seem to refer to the shape of Jeff Wall's photos. The two works do originate in the same period, after all. Graham also makes a link with Eastern philosophy, though: his openings are 'moon-gates', invisible or transparent during the day, but magically transformed at night in the moonlight. Earth and heaven thus seem to be mysteriously connected.
The Suspended Moment is an exhibition that has to be experienced - as the title suggests. Just like Graham's work, it has to be experienced subjectively; it appeals to everyone's personal sensitivity. It consists of fragments and moments that every artist has selected personally, for very particular reasons. I advise you to take your time and pause, if only for "one minute" to personally discover each individual position. Because: "You can't remember what you chose to forget".