Marres Currents #5: I Spy, I Spy a little lie

Issue no1
Feb / Mrt 2018
Life & Work

Five years ago Marres Currents was established by Marres in Maastricht to provide a platform for emerging artists and curators, alongside showcasing the latest in contemporary art by graduate artists in art academies of South Netherlands, Belgium and Western Germany.

For every edition of Marres Currents a curatorial collective is assembled, following an open call, that sets out to visit art academies including amongst others Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste Städelschule Frankfurt am Main, Dutch Art Institute Arnhem, MAFAD Maastricht, Sint-Lukas Brussels and KASK Ghent. These visits help facilitate a critical exchange between artists and academics and the exhibition that ensues provides a platform for showcasing new talents, trends and currents in Europe. For the fifth edition of Marres Currents Brussels-based curators Evelyn Simons and Isabel Van Bos, who have collaborated in the past, team up to curate I Spy, I Spy a little lie, an exhibition offering insights into artistic frustrations related to lack of access to information and values of knowledge. All of these concerns use the notion of 'play' as an entry point into complex issues pertaining to the present time.

Alejandro Cerón (Dutch Art Institute Arnhem)

Alejandro Cerón (Dutch Art Institute Arnhem)

Spread across two floors, the reception and the corridors of Marres, as well as a site specific work situated in mailboxes across Maastricht,the exhibition is divided into rooms housing solo or two-person displays which is in keeping with the building’s intimate domestic architecture. The first work viewers encounter is in the reception area and constitutes one half of a two part project Reading as Poaching by Ektor Ntourakos The other half is located in mailboxes in the city. Historical maps of Rotterdam, Maastricht and Amsterdam are freely available to all and give locations of the mailboxes which act as open libraries for all. A selection of texts by George Simmel, Guy Debord and Michel de Certeau become a means for activating public engagement by facilitating the free distribution of knowledge.

The (literal) eye-catcher of the show is a large-scale and all encompassing installation titled Colonial Cocktails(2017) by Alejandro Cerón, a piece the artist connects 'globalisation with its colonial past' in the Dutch context and beyond. The doorway into the installation is partly draped with a square piece of Wax Hollandais fabric and leads into a market scene with a shack-style cocktail bar surrounded by paraphernalia (fruit, drinks and food packaging) related to global consumerism and a Dutch colonial past. The installation seeks to confront viewers with a forgotten colonial past, whilst engaging with a present that 'perpetuates colonial dynamics of exploitation, outsourcing and slavery.’ Cerón's private performance shows him mixing and selling cocktails with an ironic recipe, blending bits of history, global market dynamics founded in colonial times and ultimately performing labour served as drinkable artworks.

Aurélie d’Incau (MAFAD  Maastricht)

Ektor Ntourakos (AKV | St. Joost Den Bosch)

The work focuses on reinforcing well-worn aestheticised tropes of migration, trade and performative actions (Dutch wax textiles, packaging of import/export goods) that have now been extensively presented in the exhibition format. It is well-intentioned but fails to demonstrate how such a critique can extend beyond these gallery walls, questioning an individual’s complicity to past, present and future colonial thought. Instead Colonial Cocktails looks like yet another fun, participatory intervention at an opening, preaching to a closed circle and feels disconnected from current postcolonial debates led by thinkers like Achin Vanaik, who urges us to consider "the relations between the critique of Eurocentrism and the aspiration for social emancipation — and the place of the academy."

Moving on from Cerón’s work to the viewer is confronted with another large-scale participatory installation titled Sailing by Aurélie d’Incau. This installation brings out the child in audience members, inviting them to dive though false waves on two prefabricated tricycles in a temporary seascape, without explicit rules or instructions. In the corridors between Cerón and d’Incau’s works soap-like sculptures, part of the installation Traversing the Land of Nothing it is easy to get lost by Maria Gil Ulldemolins, and ceramic hybridised figures (José Montealegre’s Jungle, Shoreline, Ruins) provide a much needed overspill into the inbetweens spaces, breaking up the formal contained room presentations.

The most intriguing works on display are a video piece by Nadia Perlov and its accompanying sculpture The Comfortable Ones by Johanna Odersky, completed by a light installation Sun Dog by both Perlov and Odersky. Perlov’s film Lost Paradess - Maybe Paradise tells a witty and intelligent narrative that begins at the turn of the 20th century in the British colony Palestine, where Arab and Jewish people co-existed. Both worked together on the orange fields in the port city now known as Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, a colonial vision of modernity and unity that disappeared after the state of Israel was founded in 1948. The film uses DIY props like oranges to reveal a narrative of how the Arab population fled during the independence war and how the Israeli state took over the orange fields to redefine them as an Israeli brand. Oranges were then regarded as one of the major symbols of national pride, although they were there long before Israel existed. Jaffa Oranges thus become a symbol of destruction and displacement which today have been uprooted to give way to the real estate boom and capitalist gain.

Felix Breidenbach (Kunstakademie Dssseldorf)

Felix Breidenbach (Kunstakademie Düsseldorf)

Tim Löhde’s sound installation that was inspired by Brexit fills the stairwell leading up to the first floor with further works by Parasite 2.0, Office For Intelligence and Jesuus. The Italian collective Parasite 2.0 created Destandardize Marres, an interactive scenographic intervention made from a series of flexible wood panels used to build furniture. The project was made specifically for Marres and is part of their broader research into the standards inherited by modernity that still informs current thinking on human habitats. Aside from all of the works on display, graphic designer, Roxanne Maillet created a bold visual identity of loosely sketched body parts - mouths and ears as symbols of speaking and listening - that adorn all online and printed materials.

Henry Andersen (KASK Gent)

Henry Andersen (KASK Gent)

The political theme of the show seems rather predictable during this time of Trumpism, Brexit and an overall increase in far-right ideological thinking in Europe, yet play also resurfaces here, by-way-of philosophical thought (Kant and Plato), as a condition of artistic representation, a tool for transgression, an attractive supplement for the creative process and a way of activating the public to change the traditional proper function of art. I Spy, I Spy a little lie is an ambitious attempt to make sense of perplexing and polarising times by calling for a refusal of passive spectatorship and a promotion of collective agency. In some respects the show manages this, as evinced by the works of Perlov and Ntourakos, yet overall the exhibition is lacking in talent and could well have benefited from activations and extensions beyond the walls of Marres, for instance in the shape of more site-specific interventions or by the use of the internet as a platform for further disseminating and critiquing the very systems of knowledge that exist outside of the white cube.

Jesuus, (AKV | St. Joost Den Bosch)

José Montealegre (Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste Städelschule Frankfurt am Main)

José Montealegre (Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste Städelschule Frankfurt am Main)

Nadia Perlov (Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste Städelschule Frankfurt am Main)

Maria Gil Ulldemolins (PXL MAD School of Arts Hasselt)

I spy, I spy a little lie, Marres Currents#5, Marres Huis voor Cultuur, Maastricht, 13.12.2017 t/m 04.02.2018

Jareh Das
is a writer and curator now living in Rotterdam and have written on art, fashion, music and culture

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 1 — 2018