Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne presents the first comprehensive solo-exhibition in China of Belgian conceptual artist Wim Delvoye (*1965 in Wervik, Belgium). It is going to be held from May 14th through July 31st, 2011. Stretching throughout all the exhibition spaces of the gallery, the show will include works from the series “Gothic Works”, “Tattooed Pigskins”, “9 Muses”, “Animals” and “Car Tyres”, as well as the three-screen-video projection of “Art Farm”. The artist will be present at the opening.
Cloaca, probably by far Delvoye’s best-known work, is a large-scale installation that duplicates the functions of the human digestive system and exists in a variety of models and incarnations. Simply put, Cloaca is a machine that eats and shits. When exhibited, regular food is prepared by chefs and fed at intervals (usually twice a day) into the workings of the machine, or should we say, the human machine. It then dutifully extrudes the remaining solids onto a conveyer belt, which are finally vacuum-packed and sold in acrylic cases. While initially priced at $1,000 each, the cost quickly rose as high as $3,000 when the Cloaca faeces became the actual capital shares of the Cloaca company. This was a very interesting shift in the nature of what Cloaca faeces could actually symbolize, as it went from being an extreme emblem of artistic value to an object of financial value as the share of a company, which further legitimized and validated its existence. Although absent from his solo exhibition at Galerie Urs Meile, the understanding of Cloaca is a crucial reference to his other works.
In addition to the three-screen video projection of Art Farm and some of his tattooed pigskins, Wim Delvoye will also share with us various sardonic products of his confrontational engagements with the art world and society in his exhibition at the Beijing branch of Galerie Urs Meile. In his incessant interrogation of the limits and accepted order of the art system, Wim Delvoye has proven himself capable of creating objects and sculptures that appear to be eye-catching and even ornamental, yet at the same time address important issues Delvoye would like us to keep in mind as we attempt to understand how the art world operates and to consider the multiple facets of our own existence.
Clio (2001-2002) and Terpsichore (2001-2002) are among the selection of works presented in the exhibition. These two works come from a series of stained glass windows incorporating images of X-ray photographs of cavorting couples. Named after the nine muses of Greek mythology – Greek goddesses that ruled over the arts and sciences and offered inspiration in those subjects – this series involves Delvoye’s friends performing sexual acts in medical X-ray clinics and being captured on X-ray film, reduced to nothing but pure mechanical and graphic patterns. An important branch of Delvoye’s “Gothic Works” is also presented in Beijing with Concrete Mixer (scale model 1:4) (2010) and Cement Truck (scale model) (2008). They are steel sculptures with meticulously carved, Gothic-style patterns.
The notion of the interchangeable nature of what’s useful and what’s useless continues to inform Delvoye’s manipulation of used objects. He transforms things that seem useful in everyday life into purely decorative items that then carry a different value from their everyday uses. Such items then become less useful in a practical context, but they are assigned a visual and artistic value in the art context. For example, he has handcrafted used car tires with intricate designs, turning them into purely beautiful objects.
With his work, Delvoye continuously exposes us to the humanness of both the physical body and our social structures, particularly those sides that are not always pleasant, warm or generally considered constructive, but are equally valid and relevant to our being. Delvoye makes bare the less visible threads of our social fabric by giving them a place in the art context, and grants them a cultural and thus monetary sense of worthiness, simultaneously contemplating and revealing the mechanisms of the cultural industry.
Loosely grouped to give a first impression of some of Delvoye’s important practices, this solo show offers barely the tip of the iceberg in terms of introducing the complex oeuvre of one of the most prolific artists of the last decade.
(Quoted from The Cruelty of Humannes written by Carol Yinghua Lu, translated by Su Wei; Critique courtesy of Carol Yinghua Lu)
Carol Yinghua Lu is an art critic and curator based in Beijing. She’s a contributing editor to frieze magazine. She’s recently appointed one of the artistic directors for the 9th Gwangju Biennale that will take place in 2012.
Opening: Saturday, 14 May 2011, 16.00 – 19.00
Exhibition: 14 May 2011- 31 July 2011
Opening hours: (Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing)
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6.30 pm
View the Chinese version of this article here