From December 14, 2003 to March 1, 2004, Narcissus, a group exhibition with Gilbert & George, Annika Ström, Olaf Nicolai, Mathilde Ter Heijne, Matthieu Laurette, Alexandra Vogt, Erwin Wurm, Chantal Michel, Olivier Blanckart, Sarah Lucas, Gert Rappenecker, Maurizio Cattelan, Mat Collishaw, Piero Golia, Tony Mattelli, curated by Hilde Teerlinck.

This new exhibition presents the work of 15 international artists, who all—in a very personal way—explored the theme of the self-portrait. Leaving behind a classical conception one might associate with this genre, they try to find a new approach and different, contemporary forms that are related to this eternal theme.

Gilbert & George feature in this selection as a kind of «godfathers». The photographic work of this famous English couple can be defined as dandy-esque compositions, with the two artists as omni-present protagonists. The two Italian artists in the show treat the theme with a big dose of dark humour. Piero Golia confronts the visitor with his skeleton, reproduced on scale 1/1, only decorated by the two objects that possibly will identify him after his death: a golden tooth and a ring.  Maurizio Cattelan has the same auto-critical approach. He presents himself as a puppet, hung on a rack  for the period of the exhibition. The series of instructions for (often incorrect) attitudes (illustrated by images and texts) created by the Austrian artist Erwin Wurm and Tony Matelli’s grotesque statue are also artworks where a taste for the absurd replaces the traditional hommage gloryfying the ego of the artist. Olivier Blanckart plays hide-and-seek with history.  His self-portraits are in fact reconstructions based on images of celebrities from the artworld. The image of the young Narcissus, as printed in our collective subconsciousness, haunts the work of Mat Collishaw. Olaf Nicolai’s piece opens up the autobiographical reference onto a more universal level. Gert Rappenecker combines his artistic career with  his profession as a photo-model. This double life brought him to a create a new work, where he investigates the power we exercice over our own image. The French artist Matthieu Laurette is interested in the way television «uses» so-called «real people» as guest-stars of talk-shows, games or as a public. The young German artist Alexandra Vogt resides in the countryside in the company of her six horses. Her privileged relationship with these animals is the source for the autobiographical images she shows here for the first time. The Swedish video-artist Annika Ström bases her work on direct references to her private life. Chantal Michel creates her own Wonderland, where she reigns as a nostalgic princess. The work of Sarah Lucas confronts us with questions about the role and the image of women in contemporary culture. She uses her body as a tool to make radical feminist statements. The life-size dummies and disturbing video-works of Mathilde ter Heijne take the visitor into a schizophrenic universe.

Hilde Teerlinck

Narcissus was organised with the support of Pro Helvetia—Swiss Arts Council.