19 May - 30 June 2013
Review by Laura Herman & Pieter Vermeulen
LLS 387 is an abbreviation for the address where one of the most pertinent exhibition venues in Antwerp is located. It is situated on the ground floor of the private residence of artistic director Ulrike Lindmayr and visual artist Guillaume Bijl, thus endowing every project with a genuine touch of hospitality. Founded in 2007, the non-profit organisation has quickly built up a reputation of hosting exhibitions that reach beyond the usual format, consciously exploring a peripheral position within the cultural landscape. Where the contemporary art scene in Antwerp was once flourishing, LLS 387 has by now become one of the few interesting players left in the field. In an urban climate of austerity and ever-increasing narrow-mindedness, it is a great relief to feel welcome in a place where artistic inspiration and inventiveness beat the political hangover.
Most of the projects at LLS 387 tend to carry an artistic rather than a curatorial signature. ‘Cadavre Exquis’, their previous project, consisted of an open invitation to different painters to participate in the well-known game invented by the Surrealists, covering the gallery walls with a collective painting that was only revealed in its entirety at the opening. This time, however, the formerly clear and bright space has been transformed into a narrow darkroom: from white cube to black box.
‘Glory Hole’, the title of the exhibition, doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination, or does it’ Quite literally appropriating the motif of the infamous hole-in-the-wall of gay bars and clubs that allows for anonymous sexual intercourse, an impressive range of artists has been invited to present their work within this context: Elmgreen & Dragset, Wolfgang Tillmans, Gilbert & George, Wim Delvoye, Ria Pacquée, Gelitin, to name but a few. The underlying concept has to be credited to one of the participating artists, Hans Wuyts. It is always surprising to see what happens when an artist adopts the role of an exhibition maker. For instance, there’s the famous collaboration of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, who are also featured at LLS 387 with a photograph of Duchamp’s alter ego Rrose Sélavy. In 1938, Marcel Duchamp turned the whole International Surrealist Exhibition into a completely darkened ‘grotto’, with numerous coal bags hanging from the ceiling and works displayed on discarded revolving doors. Man Ray came up with the idea to provide the visitor with flashlights on the night of the opening. Their scenography radically altered the whole experience of looking at art. Perhaps a more recent example would be John Bock’s group show ‘FischGrätenMelkStand’ in 2010, where he filled the whole Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin with an enormous scaffold-like steel structure.
Once inside the LLS 387 exhibition space, our eyes need to acclimatise for a couple of seconds in order to distinguish where we are. The narrow corridors and small rooms make the space feel like a labyrinth with the works themselves mostly hidden, waiting to be discovered. The glory holes suddenly turn into peepholes, seducing the voyeur inside every one of us, or simply into devices that open up the different doors. Just behind the corner, we stumble into a life-size statue of a young male by Auguste Rodin entitled ‘The Bronze Era’ (1875-1880), which certainly doesn’t disguise a homoerotic undertone. The rest of the space seems to be packed with works, including Robert Gober’s famous ‘Drain’, a sadomasochistic birdhouse by Wim Delvoye and a photo series by Ria Pacquée. There is also an intriguing video by Hans Wuyts entitled ‘Entering the backside of an art institute’, which he produced as a resident at the HISK in 2006 and might even function as a mise en abyme for the whole exhibition. We see a hand making an opening in a white exhibition wall, from a small, finger-thick hole to a wider gap that sucks the camera into this ‘other’ space, hidden behind the wall.
In the backyard of LLS 387 is an extension of the show in the form of a little pavilion where some additional works are presented. ‘Powerless Structure’, an appealing piece by Elmgreen & Dragset, consists of a vault door in steel, with only the legs of a pair of jeans stuck underneath it, and Vienna-based artist collective Gelitin has a photo print of a half-nude male standing alone in the American desert. Less appealing are the works by Fabrice Hybert, a swing with phallic forms projecting from the seat, and by Xavier Mazzarol, a photographic image centred on a stretched open anus. The concluding work of ‘Glory Hole’ is a well-known video piece, ‘The World of Gilbert & George’, made by the artist duo in 1981, and which might, due to its 69 minutes, not be that suitable for a group show like this one.
The LGBT theme (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) runs through the exhibition in an obvious way, often leading to a one-dimensional reading of the selected art works. Nevertheless, the radical scenography and the works’ flirtation with a kitsch aesthetic successfully evoke a campy atmosphere and create an almost pornographic in-your-face effect.“Art is a game between all people of all periods’, Duchamp once stated, and LLS 387 seems to be the place where some of the more skilled players get together.