Performing a guided visit to Jürgen Ots’ ‘La Porte de l’Enfer. The Gate of the Infernal Regions. Die Peorte der Holle. La Porta dell’Inferno. La Puerta del Infierno’ at Elisa Platteau & Cie.
Text by Alberto García del Castillo, curator and Jürgen Ots’ occasional assistant
You can come with me. So, this is a piece by Jürgen Ots, an emerging Belgian artist in his thirties, who started his project in 2010 departing from a single image. An image that shows pieces of broken glass assembled on a wall as a security method. Such a non-narrative - almost non-existing image - was found on the Internet and printed 30.000 times: 15-thousand in black and white and 15-thousand in green and black. Once printed, the artist would start the obsessive, almost insane, and definitely masochist process of gluing all them over standard wooden pallets. The long-term process, the repetitive activity and the mastering of a technique grow in importance. Ots started working with patients from a mental hospital, following the recommendation of a psychiatrist friend; he would guide those people to glue the copies of this image on big white sheets, overlapping one over each other. This technique created a large number of paper shields that the artist would later screw on the pallets under this blocks, knowing that, once dry, the combination of paper and glue gets remarkably hard. That first method of assemblage would create pieces like this one you see here, one of the oldest of this series. Not being completely satisfied of the first results and considering them too rough, Jürgen Ots reworked every single piece from this first batch adding multiple layers on the original collage, this time gluing directly over the blocks, enclosing and squaring the shapes like he did on the top of this specific piece. During this two year long obsessive and repetitive process, Ots aimed to become the master of his very own technique, and at a precise point he changed his method; he would start working directly on the pallets by his own, gluing, one over the other, around two-thousand copies per block, only after having covered them with old cardboard stapled on the wood. This leads us back to the masochistic face of Ots’ work; it seems appealing to establish a parallel between the long and implication-demanding apprenticeship of BDSM sexual practices and the artists slowly learning and improving his gluing skills. Sex, sadomasochism and homosexuality are questions we will approach later, but let’s now talk about time! This one block, which is one of the latest produced by the artist, clearly shows a defined and regular completion, and facing it to other ones, like the first one we saw, we can sense a chronological order or a historical record impregnated on this installation. But we can also take a look at this other one: the overlapping of multiple layers of the same images is creating a wide collection of patterns, between which we can find the evolution of an Internet virus conquering this blocks, something not to deny when acknowledging the non-form or anti-form status of those pieces. But, of course, it is also possible to see here the spontaneous emergence of a representation of the rings of a tree, that we can see when cutting its trunk. Time again! Jürgen Ots insists continuously on the fact that he spent two years of his life to create this project for Elisa Platteau & Cie., and not only this paper blocks can be seen as wrapped time capsules, but they also remind us of the Stonehenge, a prehistorical monument in England dating from a time between 3.000 B.C. to 2.000 B.C. and seen today as a megalithic image of time. Time is everywhere here, and Jürgen Ots explains this works as a never-ending story: a series he could continue forever, repeating the act of gluing one paper over each other until accomplishing more than two-hundred blocks to show in a museum. Why did he stop’ He run out of paper! This act of dating time, comprehended as the time the artist spent in the production of the show or as the different stages of construction and technique development, is mirrored in the seven images hanging around the room, over the landscape designed by the fourteen blocks. Seven images like the seven capital sins; but lets also get down to religion later. This black and white photographs date anecdotes or obsessions of the artist during the two years of production. Starting from this one near the window, you can read a note someone wrote to the artist asking him to contact back; this guy didn’t know Ots name, but had apparently known him deeply according to what he says: ‘Dear friend of Steinar Saga Kristiansen. Artist. Why did I wake up naked in the hall’ I need my things. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org’. Another example, quite linked to this first one is this image you see on this column, a photography of a black plastic bag that the artist found in sex club in Berlin. Now, if you come here, to the back of the gallery, you can see the family tree of Rubens, an old ancestor of Ots; this image gets charged of content in such a mental disordered exhibition: by the act of shooting and hanging this picture, Jürgen Ots is not saying that he comes from the Rubens family, but affirming that he is Rubens, getting close to an impersonation mental disorder - people impersonating Napoleon or Michael Jackson especially come to my mind. Now, if you look to your feet, you can see how the artist installed those fourteen blocks on several wooden bars he found in his studio; this was a last minute decision to create some dynamics in the exhibition and to draw a connection between the pieces. But thinking further than that, the fact that each one of those menhirs -looking back to Stonehenge- contains a standard wooden pallet made to transport objects in an industrial environment enhances the impression that those wooden bars are actually rails, over which the pieces seem able to move. And still this is not the only reference we might find looking at those wooden bars; they also seem to recreate a balance, a term that, in an exhibition entitled ‘The Gate of Infernal Regions’ sends us back to ‘psychostasia’ or the weighing of souls process explained in ‘The Last Judgment’, measuring the sins of the death one to figure out whether he goes to Heaven or he burns in Hell. In this show, the sins to measure are the seven pictures on the walls: sex, homosexuality or madness could be seen as obsessions of the artist, those coming from a catholic cultural environment and evolving to a contemporary urban destructive everyday life. A hell that, this time, has fourteen doors, instead of the one by Rodin, that you find in this last photography in the show; but fourteen doors that still keep a certain resemblance with the blurry atmosphere of this small reproduction of the French artist’s piece. All that to explore a dark and deep state of mind, an incomprehensible method of working; but one empty of logic and, of course, far from any kind of conceptualism.
‘La Porte de l’Enfer. The Gate of the Infernal Regions. Die Peorte der Holle. La Porta dell’Inferno. La Puerta del Infierno’ is a solo show by Jürgen Ots (Belgium, 1978) at Elisa Platteau & Cie. Galley (86, Lakenstraat, Brussels). The show is on from April the 13th to May the 20th.