Dedicated to contemporary art activities related to performance and the interdisciplinary experiments, Ming Contemporary Art Museum (McaM) and the director Qiu Zhijie are honoured to present the European artist Jan Lauwers (BE, 1957) with the exhibition project ‘Silent Stories’.
As for the artistic world, the relationship between visual arts and performing arts are still being determined, for the McaM the relationship between the two is quite distinctive. Directed by the famous Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie who visualizes all disciplines in arts as a whole, the McaM is unique in its own way: a contemporary art museum with an emphasis on performance. As an artist and a curator, Qiu Zhijie defines his modus operandi as total art. He considers the cultural research as the foundation of artistic practice. It comes naturally that the work of Jan Lauwers, a creator of images and a storyteller finds a place of honour at the McaM, as part of a major exhibition that takes over the entirety of the museum. Silent Stories, a total exhibition in itself, invites dialogues in between the various disciplines. During the opening weekend of the exhibition, Jan Lauwers and his theatre group Needcompany will bring the durational performance The House of Our Fathers to the museum, a significant event for the Chinese and Occidental artistic scene.
The exhibition ‘Silent Stories’ can be approached as a moving still life. It offers a wistful look at European art history and refers among other things to ‘Feldhase’ (1502) by the Renaissance painter, drawer and humanist Albrecht Dürer, to the lions depicted by the Flemish baroque painter and drawer Peter Paul Rubens, to the surrealist poet and artist Marcel Broodthaers and such artists as Joseph Beuys and Marcel Duchamp, as well as Walt Disney. On the basis of his lifelong archives, Jan Lauwers is building a monumental installation in which he reinterprets past works and materials and confronts them with art history. The artist creates landscapes that curve serenely and pensively question craftsmanship, virtuosity and emotion.
As a creator of images and a storyteller, in his work Lauwers’ motto is that art cannot shock, but should communicate. This is why his human form of making theatre is world-renowned. Lauwers’ visual idiom embraces humanity with pensive images concerning man and nature.
Jan Lauwers: ‘For this exhibition I use so-called inferior material such as used flight cases, old plinths and pieces of discarded wood, to which I give a new value by transforming them into supports for images. Each installation is in fact on the one hand the literal recycling of old objects and on the other the recycling of art history itself. In this case Western art. The questions I asked myself when making these new images for Shanghai and preparing for the exhibition were always about the function of art in society and the meaning of public space. The first work I created was a portrait of an old man in Shanghai that I drew using graphite on a piece of felt I had found. This kind, laughing man, whose name I do not know but whose face radiates an almost historic beauty, was a silent story and a cheerful reminder of my stay in China. This man’s smile was the key to the further development of the exhibition. My work is in fact always about beauty, humility and consolation, which have the same meaning in all cultures. Art brings about positive conflicts in public space and at their heart lies dialogue.’
About the artist
Jan Lauwers (Antwerp, 1957) is an artist who works and gets distinguished in all art disciplines: in 1999 he won the Obie Award in New York for his theatre work, in 2002 he won the Kinematix Prize at the 59th Venice International Film Festival for his feature film, in 2006 he won the Culture Prize in Flanders for his theatre scripts, and in 2014 he was honoured with the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Art Biennale.
Over the last twenty-five years Jan Lauwers has become best known for his pioneering work for the stage with Needcompany, which was founded in Brussels in 1986. From 2009 until 2014 Needcompany has been artist-in-residence at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Over the years he has also built up a substantial body of art work which was shown in an exhibition at BOZAR (Brussels) in 2007. Jan Lauwers is awarded with the ‘Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic Austria’ (2012). In 2014, he has been rewarded with the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Biennale. He is the first Belgian to receive this prize in the theatre category.
Jan Lauwers studied painting at the Academy of Art in Ghent. At the end of 1979 he gathered round him a number of people to form the Epigonenensemble. In 1981 this group was transformed into the Epigonentheater zlv collective which took the theatre-world by surprise with its six stage productions. In this way Jan Lauwers took his place in the movement for radical change in Flanders in the early 80s, and also made his international breakthrough. Epigonentheater zlv presented direct, concrete, highly visual theatre that used music and language as structuring elements.
Jan Lauwers needs company. He founded Needcompany together with Grace Ellen Barkey. They together are responsible for Needcompany larger-scale productions. The group of performers Jan Lauwers and Grace Ellen Barkey have put together over the years is quite unique in its versatility. Since Needcompany was founded in 1986, both its work and its performers have been markedly international. Its first productions, Need to Know (1987) and ça va (1989) – which received the Mobiel Pegasus Preis – were still highly visual, but in subsequent productions the storyline and the main theme gained in importance, although the fragmentary composition remained.
Lauwers’ training as an artist is decisive in his handling of the theatre medium and leads to a highly individual and in many ways pioneering theatrical idiom that examines the theatre and its meaning. One of its most important characteristics is a transparent, ‘thinking’ acting and the paradox between ‘acting’ and ‘performing’.
Ming Contemporary Art Museum (McaM) is a non-for-profit contemporary art centre sponsored by Mingyuan Group. Transformed from the workshop of the renowned “Garden Factory” of the 50’s of last century, Shanghai Paper Machine Factory, the Museum kept the frame structure of the industrial architecture and its characteristics of simplicity. The Museum presents a U-shape
space with a sunken stage, covering an area of 3,500 square meters. Divided into 2 floors, the floor height of the interior space reaches 15 meters, which fits the production requirements of various experimental theatres, featured contemporary art exhibitions and performances.
Among the numerous private art museums in China, McaM distinguishes itself through its promotion of contemporary art activities based on visual performance. Focusing on experimental theatre, multimedia exhibition and performance with other activities related to the concept of performance, including but not limited to installation, painting, sculpture, video, sound, poem and dance, the Museum aims to promote the profound experimentation and interaction extended from these diverse domains, establish international exchanges and promote the exclusive stage for multimedia exhibition and performance. Besides, the Museum devotes to the practice of new forms of public arts such as community theatre. Drawing special attention to the communication with the local residents, the museum invites public to join its activities, making the Museum a platform of the positive interaction between artists and the public.
About the exhibition
(feat. associated artists Lemm&Barkey, Benoît Gob, OHNO COOPERATION)
Date: 20th May – 31st July 2016
Durational performance ‘The House of Our Fathers’ by Needcompany
Date: 20th – 22nd May 2016
Courtesy of the artist and Ming Contemporary Art Museum, for further informatio please visit www.needcompany.org.