A shiny white reception desk in a well-lit spacious room, flat-screen displays, tasteful plants: who has never been to Casino Luxembourg before, won’t notice anything remarkable at the entrance hall during Wesley Meuris’ exhibition R-05.Q-IP.0001. Only the glossy posters on the walls advertising different exhibitions seem slightly dissonant with the typically non-commercial institutional atmosphere, while equally conventional and formulaic as the reception design.
Both Main Entrance for Exhibition and Project Advertisements are works by Meuris. With the former, the artist radically neutralized the entrance’s style and identity. The latter he seems to have entirely made up, but foregrounding the art world’s communicative style and terminology, as if collaged. Both works are positioned at the very start of his solo show, as if serving to stress that a visitor already begins entering the exhibition before visiting it: through advertisements, the media and the ambiance of a venue. An exhibition starts outside the exhibition.
Further into the former casino building, Meuris installed several exhibition environments, all of them empty. The boxed environments are inserted in the existing architecture, erasing the fine architecture and thus exposing an oscillation between the paradoxical tendencies of ‘white-cubing’ museum experiences, and instrumentalizing a location’s unique character. These works are impressively sculptural and perfectly executed, quite naturally, but their eloquence is indexical. The World’s Most Important Artists presents filing cases, with first letters of archived artists’ names alphabetically ordered. Needless to say, the drawers don’t open. Presented here as a mysterious repository, it also bears the suggestion of the archive as a powerful apparatus of canonization and knowledge. It can be considered to represent the impenetrable counterpart of the exhibiting function of the art world, its organizing backstage.
Museum Kiosk for Camera Services – Take the perfect shot in front of your favorite piece of artwork, after your visit at the museum you leave with the unique souvenir reveals a sarcastic attitude towards museums’ increasing tendency to actively compromise with their audience. This is comparable to the implicit critique of the advertisement series: Meuris visualized institutions’ focus on communication and interaction through mimicry of what could be called the ‘populist turn’ of the art world.
The advertised exhibitions all appear to be products of a mysterious Foundation for Exhibiting Art and Knowledge (FEAK). An eponymous artist book features many of Meuris’ projects, interviews and some of FEAK’s documents. While four of the interviews are with specialists on museum presentation, the most significant is a fictitious conversation on FEAK itself. We learn that FEAK claims to have found a ‘unique formula for successful exhibitions’, usually working with ‘a number of established curators and derived from well-known exhibition presentations.’ Thanks to the extensiveness and the clarity of the mirror images offered, neither publication nor exhibition is ever bland. Both demonstrate the art world as a normalized, codified, money-driven industry like any other: R-05.Q-IP.0001 appears to be the unique exhibition ID allotted to it by the FEAK. Fictionality appears to be an effective strategy for an artist to simultaneously conceal and recognize his inescapable participation in the very practice he critiques.
12 mei – 2 september 2012
Jesse van Winden is enrolled in Visual Arts, Media and Architecture, the research master programme at VU University, Amsterdam. He is an editor for Kunstlicht and assistant at Extra City Kunsthal Antwerpen