Eric van Hove, eschewing authorship, makes art that doesn’t work. First up in his solo exhibition at Frankfurter Kunstverein is what appears to be a lengthy, complex, drive shaft, assembled from a variety of handcrafted elements. This gracefully lounges in the lobby of the gallery, which, with such an accoutrement, seems to belong to an eccentric baroque inventor. The intricate crafting demands attention, as does the list of materials, which includes, to quote: “Middle Atlas white cedar wood, walnut wood, mahogany wood, Wenge wood from Congo, pepper wood, Purple Heart wood … Chinese superglue”.
Upstairs, squatting in the middle of the floor, an array of sculptures continues the Oldenburg gone North African feel, with engines and other mechanical gimcracks rendered in diverse materials. One again feels a certain moral obligation to look at these objects, being as they are so exquisitely constructed, being indeed - whisper it - as they are, if one is permitted to state it, beautiful. Of course, this being the twenty first century, this aesthetic charm is neatly dressed in the decorum of a hefty textual swimsuit, so as not to unnerve the experienced viewer.
Having enticed one so successfully, the exhibition steadily introduces the key concepts behind van Hove’s practice, all of which seem rooted in a fascination with the changing cultural contexts of commercial goods. For instance, a functioning workshop is installed into the gallery space. Occupied by ten mechanics and artisans from the Eric van Hove atelier in Morocco, the workshop, which is open for only part of the exhibition’s duration, is also used by local community groups. There is a slight discordance here of the artist’s desire to move away from notions of authorship, through the use of the people that help construct such work, and the statement that these artisans work in “the Eric van Hove atelier”. The space does, however, inject a feeling of energy, with a sensation that the objects one was so charmed by are being dwarfed by the ongoing process of making such objects, a process which is far greater, far more overarching than one appreciated.
Ascending once again, one reaches two video installations, each based around a functional object. The first is an eccentric looking electric scooter, complete with a cowhide seat. An empty space sits nearby, which will be filled by another scooter being built in the workshop below. The second is a pieced-together Mercedes which was driven across the continent to Frankfurt, in a neat wink to the German obsession with German automobiles. Both are paired with unsubtitled video installations: one in Arabic, the other segueing through a range of Romance languages. Here, seduced wholly by the beautiful functionless objects one has seen before, one is confronted fully with the ambition of van Hove’s practice. The car sits with its lights on, a vision of Germany in Morocco, in Germany.