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Of our Faces ( And our Bodies )| Of our Artificiality

Mudam Collection

Mudam devotes its first floor, over 800 m2, to its collection, presenting it through themed exhibitions. Until November the public will thus be able to discover the works of 36 artists, grouped into two sequences, “Of our faces (and our bodies)” and “Of our artificiality”. Exploring the rest of the museum, the visitor will also come across other works of the collection, some of which - such as the Chapel by Wim Delvoye - have been especially created for the museum.

Of our faces (and our bodies)

© Photo : Andrés Lejona

Historical art and modern art museums are full of human representations which, transposed into real life, provoke dread: can you imagine being face to face with one of the Colossus of the Sistine Chapel of Michelangelo or with a cubist personage by Picasso? The beauty of a work of art is therefore not necessarily that of the reality and the Mudam Collection is full of figures of a monstrous charm (Katharina Sieverding, Cindy Sherman).

But even without distortions, the faces and bodies in contemporary art transport us into a strange universe and transform the real subjects into elusive icons: the monumentality and the photographic precision of a portrait by Franz Gertsch render the face of a girl just as abstract as an ancient goddess; the intimacy with which Nan Goldin captures scenes of her friends from life transforms these marginal instants and enhances them to the rank of archetypes of urban life; the intensity of the performances by Marina Abramović in which she compares the expectations created by the artistic canons sometimes confer on her the aura of a martyr.

Of course, humour, irony and self-derision are rarely absent, and show themselves sometimes in a palpable (Gilbert & George), sometimes in a disturbing way (Alain Declercq), sometimes through cinematographic references (Edgar Honetschläger). Or, it’s simply a matter of observing and understanding something which appears to speak for itself but which, upon reflection, proves to be an eminently more complex subject: this can be said of western cultural practices (Thomas Struth) or of the urgent budding of adolescence (Katrin Freisager).

And even when the representation seems only to reflect the reality of a testimony, artificiality is present, through the organisation of the work of art or through the technique of the actors: the face is both the first truth and the first lie of a human being.

Of our artificiality

© Photo : Andrés Lejona

The world which surrounds us, and which results, for the large part, from human activities, is the nature in which we evolve. In return, it leads to a large part of our behaviour and thoughts. If it were different, then we would behave and think differently, a little like the two-dimensional beings from the famous work of Edwin Abbott, Flatland, published in 1884, whose universe and gods ensued from the perception of a space limited in length and breadth.

Not only does art give a varied commentary on nature which really exists, an invented reality and our fantasies about it, it also adds an extra dimension to this, which serves to both enrich it and give it a concrete, sensitive, aesthetic form. Art is a device which contains the artificiality of the world. When Kimsooja unfurls the materials - which in her country of origin often accompany people throughout their lives and which have become for others the very emblem of the immigrant or the nomad - and makes them endlessly glow, she offers the viewer the possibility of immediately grasping a far-away reality in which he participates, despite
himself: innocence only exists for ignoramuses and those of a simple mind. Or even, when Tina Gillen paints a series of stylised houses, not only does she refer to the now global spread of the standard dwelling, she also makes this notion palpable, immediately comprehensible, as if the beautiful painting were a more convincing proof than a documented report.

But there is also the evocation of the urban jungle and its legends by Damien Deroubaix, the precision of the rendering of spatial organisation of a postal sorting by Andreas Gursky, the nocturnal reverie of a fun fair by Bruno Baltzer or the cruel juxtaposition of lies at the service of criminal ideologies (“Arbeit macht frei”) and of the manufacture of infantile entertainment (Walt Disney) by Claude Lévêque.

Art can sometimes be the revelation of the unthought-of in a society.

Credits

Artists

Marina Abramović, Stephan Balkenhol, Bruno Baltzer, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Sylvie Blocher, Miguel Branco Chto Delat? / What is to be done?, Tony Cragg, Alain Declercq, Wim Delvoye, Damien Deroubaix, Roland Fischer, Günther Förg, Katrin Freisager, Franz Gertsch, Gilbert & George, Tina Gillen, Nan Goldin, Konstantin Grcic & Nitzan Cohen, Andreas Gursky, Edgar Honetschläger, KimsoojaImi Knoebel, Antoine Laval, Claude Lévêque, Edward Lipski, Michel Majerus, Jennifer & Kevin McCoy, Manuel Ocampo, Éric Poitevin, Nikolay Polissky, Tobias Putrih, Thomas RuffCindy, Sherman, Katharina Sieverding, Thomas Struth, Martin Szekely, Bert Theis, Wolfgang Tillmans, Su-Mei Tse, Didier Vermeiren, Jean-Luc Vilmouth, David Zink Yi