WIM DELVOYE: INSURRECTIONARY ART NOT SUITABLE FOR GENERAL AUDIENCES

Wim Delvoye has just said goodbye to the monographic exhibition dedicated to him by the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, in Brussels, in a risky proposal in which the subversive sculptural work of the artist lived together with the classical pieces of the museum's collection.

Wim Delvoye, installation of “Tabriz”, “Shahreza”, “Arak”, “Karaj”, “Khermanshah” and “Bidjar”, 2010-2016, in the showroom with “Le martyre de Saint Liévin” by Rubens at the background. Photo from: El Gran Otro, by Por Patricia Lago L. and Maximiliano Turri

If something is evident in Delvoye's work, it is his desire to stir consciousness and offer an openly critical reading of our globalised environment. It is not difficult to notice a message that mocks the models established in our society with an ironic language that portrays the hypocrisy of our time. The intentional use of contemporary referents in seemingly absurd or improper contexts produces a clash of ideas that opens the door to reflection. Between disgust and complicity, the spectators of their work face a transgressive discourse that rarely leaves them indifferent.

Wim Delvoye, “Truck Tyre”, 2017. © Courtesy Wim Delvoye / photo: Studio Delvoye, via RMFAB

Another factor that favours the impact of his speech is the choice of formats. Delvoye is not satisfied with small pieces but he goes big, with sculptures and installations that achieve a great presence in space. In this way, the assembly of the exhibitions manages to break the stillness of the rooms and generate a true dialogue between the past and the future. The author, already a veteran in these proposals organised in classical museums, such as the Louvre or the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, appreciates the opportunity to make contemporary and historical art coexist because it attracts an audience that to some extent has already lost interest in the old. Thus, the exhibition "Sculptures" of Brussels is located in the middle of the halls and exhibition galleries under the watchful eye of the characters of Rubens, arranged in the walls painted in salmon and aquamarine.

Wim Delvoye, “Cloaca New and Improved”, 2001. © Courtesy Wim Delvoye / photo: Studio Delvoye, via sculpturemagazine.art

Delvoye's extensive work also plays with the variety of disciplines and techniques, in addition to the use of classicism and references taken from the entire history of art. The result is disturbing. Long ago he had presented a controversial sculpture in which a Christ was twisted on himself like a pretzel and exposed in front of an oil painting that represented the burial of Jesus Christ. The same can be said of his piece "Cloaca New and Improved", or simply "Cloaca", introduced by a massive sign with this word that emulates the Ford logo, in which it represents, as an assembly line with glass containers and laboratory material, a complete digestive process whose result is as expected: faeces served in a huge beaker. We also highlight the installation "Cabinet", a set of ceramic pieces that represent gas bottles and circular saw blades painted in blue with the traditional Delf style and arranged in a wooden display cabinet handmade in Indonesia. This work seeks to raise awareness about the effects of the colonial occupation and its impact on the course of history, and how this concept is treated forces us to rethink what we see to go beyond the visible.

Wim Delvoye, “Untitled (Fortnite 01)”, 2019. © Courtesy Wim Delvoye / photo: Studio Delvoye, via RMFAB

With an exquisite execution, Delvoye dares with numerous materials that gradually surrender to the impulse of his ideas. Be it metal, or stone, the whole of his work is eclectic and difficult to classify. Perhaps we could group it under a common guiding thread that is the desire to question the status quo of things, the supposed benefits of this galloping modernity that alienates us and traps us, but also gives us the freedom to carry out projects such as the ones this author poses, and make them live with the past of art. We live in a disturbing world. Thanks, Delvoye.

 

The CEART opens this Thursday, November 14th in the room A an exhibition dedicated to this master of photography, which will be open to the public until February 9th. The show includes one of the artist's latest projects, focused on the hard work carried out by the miners of Serra Pelada, an open gold mine in the heart of Brazil where employees daily risked their lives.

Immigration, poverty, marginal life, slave labour, man's relationship with the land, the use of natural resources... are issues that have always fascinated Salgado. From the beginning of his career as a photographer, his work has opted to give visibility to the most disadvantaged groups and to create with his images a vivid and impressive visual story without fakes. With a raw black and white, this author's work transits between photo-reportage and naturalistic photography.

And the idea that permeates all his work is human dignity. Salgado portrays employees, miners and gatherers from a purely humanistic approach that wants to value their integrity, their strength and their resilience.

“If you photograph a human, so that he is not represented in a noble way, there is no reason to take the picture. That is my way of seeing things.”

Salgado entered this discipline long after completing his studies in economics between Brazil and the United States, and a doctorate in statistics in France. But in 1973 his life took a turn, and he decided to start his career as a photographer. He achieved to work at the Gamma Agency and Magnum Photos for more than 15 years until in 1994 he founded his own agency “Amazonas Imagen”.

With the “Gold” project, the photographer portrays a harsh reality that takes place in the Serra Pelada mine, a name given to a totally devastated and anarchically excavated mining enclave, the world's largest open-pit gold mine, through which more than 50,000 people have passed. In the heat of the legends about the mysterious “El Dorado”, the enthusiasm for this precious metal led to the development of strenuous exploitation practices for the workers and to originate tales of grief and glory, of human victory and defeat between the soil, the tunnels and the cargo baskets.

The CEART exhibition brings together Salgado's full portfolio in his characteristical black and white and large-format photographs that leave no one indifferent.