Two floors of WIELS are dedicated to videos, drawings, collages and installations by the Dutch artist Erik van Lieshout: a joyful, brutal, mad, excentric and wild display. Scheduled until January 2017, The Show Must Ego On introduces us to the outrageously funny and multi-format work of this artist little known to the general public.
Inside the exhibition space, you are looking at the entrance into a paper and wood tunnel, which then takes you through a huge maze covering an entire floor. As you make your way through the large tube, which could be compared with the digestive system of your feelings – and you’ll certainly have a few – you are invited to discover the artist’s videos. The first should be watched almost in a recumbent position, leaning back on a carpeted sloping floor. Entitled Ego (2013), the video shown features members of his family and was presented at the 2013 Venice Biennale. In it Erik van Lieshout wonders whether art can make a difference in the world. The artist questions his own approach, which is mainly ego-centred, since he features in almost all his films.
Further on, Janus (2012) is a film in which Erik van Lieshout buys the collection of a recently deceased man with the intention of exhibiting it in a museum. Shot at a time when Dutch politicians were lambasting contemporary art, the film explores the place given to artists.
The basement (2014) was filmed in St. Petersburg for Manifesta 2014, the roving European Biennial. We discover that the basement of the Hermitage Museum is home to dozens of cats which are cared for by a few volunteers. The artist is shown designing a modernist-inspired playground for the cats and trying to have it built in the basement by the museum’s craftsmen, using hand gestures and body language to express his intentions to the carpenter and others. It’s absolutely hilarious.
Displayed behing a tall fence, Dog (2015) presents on one screen the monologue of an asylum seeker’s monologue on the Dutch government’s asylum policy and, on another screen, conversations between van Lieshout and a group of activists. They ask him to create a memorial to the Russian scientist and opposition activist Aleksandr Dolmatov who committed suicide in 2013 at a deportation centre in Rotterdam after he was wrongly told that his asylum application had failed.
Without seeming to, the artist raises universal issues such as integration, relationships between people, and violence in our society. By using satire and a great deal of wild humour, he somehow twists the message, and suddenly makes it easier for our ears to listen and our eyes to watch despite the overload of sounds and images from the world. His large drawings in classical style, enhanced with vinyl cutouts in bright colours are worth checking out. Behind violence, there is humour, behind absurdity, there is the bare truth… If you agree to give in to the attraction of the artist’s creations, the journey will not be disappointing. A beautiful experience. You will laugh. And cry.
Erik van Lieshout was born in Deurne in the Netherlands in 1968. His works have recently been exhibited in Rotterdam, Berlin, New York, London, Amsterdam, Vienna and Antwerp. He has taken part in the 5th Biennale of Thessaloniki, the Venice Biennale in 2013, Manifesta 9 and 10, etc.
Erik van Lieshout
The Show Must Ego On
354 avenue Van Volxem
Until 8 January 2017