Extra City, Kunsthal Antwerpen, Tulpstraat 79, BE-2060 Antwerp

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‘Uncommonplaces’ Pieter Van Bogaert
‘Uncommonplaces’, the new exhibition at Extra City in Antwerp, features eight artists working apart together - it shows a community made up of individuals. The exhibition examines the fine line between the things that we share, the common, that provides a base for artistic communication, and the things that separate us, the uncommon, the strange, the noise in communication. Here everyday things become uncanny.
The objects in this exhibit deviate slightly, but not too much. They are slightly out of place, but not too much. We can situate each work, because it’s familiar, but there’s always something missing. Something that’s there without being there and visible without being visible.
Next to the entrance, there’s a neon sign that could have shown the title of the exhibition, but naturally doesn’t. It says: ‘If It Looks Like Art It Probably Isn’t’. This work, made by Warren Neidich in 2008, is a denial of itself. It’s art -so much is obvious-, but it’s probably not art, it asks the question where to draw the line.
In the corner, an old typewriter again shows a self-denying sentence: ‘Adieu, Jean-Arthur’ by David Maroto (1998) is dedicated to Arthur Rimbaud’s decision to leave the arts. The goodbye is out of place: it comes before the meeting. The location of the sentence is just as dubious: at the top of the page, instead of at the bottom where one would expect an adieu.
The exhibition is dense and the space is small. Even so, the interferences between the different works are minimal. The pieces seem to withdraw, instead of manifesting themselves. The art seems to be on the verge of imploding, of fading away into its surroundings. The ‘ON’ of the rotating disc by Filip Gilissen (‘There is a problem for every solution’, 2011) is denied by the subsequent ‘NO’ (and vice versa). The pile of waste by Jürgen Ots isn’t one any longer: it is denied by its molten shape and its artistic placement. The party by Naama Tsabar is swallowed by the wall: a monolith that dissolves in space. Various works refer to the absence of places: a window without a house by Elena Bajo, a gate without land by Lode Geens. Familiar, but foreign at the same time.
The first version of ‘Uncommonplaces’ was launched in the summer of 2010, for ICI (Independent Curators International) in New York. The Belgian curator Pieter Vermeulen was working with his German colleague Anselm Franke at the time, who was the director of Extra City, the art gallery that currently holds this display. While he has travelled to Berlin now, shadows of Franke’s exhibitions are still looming over the current one. It is theatrical in the same way as his ‘No Matter How Bright the Light,’’ (2007) was. It draws on similarity, much like his ‘Mimétisme’ (2008) did. It calls upon (re)animation, as did ‘Animism’ (2010). The works are autonomous. They’re playing with the spectators, instead of the other way around. They’re art that works. Which makes things slightly uncomfortable.
Pieter Van Bogaert

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