Titled in English How To Spin A Bad Yarn (Dutch: Hoe slecht garen spinnen, French: Comment filer du mauvais coton, Arabic: كيفية غزل القطن السيئ), this layered, self-reflective and highly polemical essay confronts the museum with infamous declarations made by the Museum board director in the press and calls museum users to take action.
Audiovisual work by Vincent Meessen, created for the Belgian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015)
“A spectre is haunting the world: the Situationist International”. It was with this allusion to the opening sentence of the Communist Manifesto that the Situationist International, a revolutionary movement and the last international avant-garde movement of Western Modernity, provocatively inscribed itself into future history. The Situationist International has left an imprint as radical as it is indelible on the worlds of ideas and forms. It fundamentally changed the understanding of the relationship between art, politics and daily life, in its instrumental and decisive role during the events of May 68, and in its critique and detournement of forms of market spectacle. Reviled, art was its first target, and we know that ever since, artists have continued to debate and struggle with this critical heritage.
In One.Two.Three, Vincent Meessen begins by circumventing the trap of Situationist mythology, in which Guy Debord has been consecrated as the hero and epicentre of a revolution. Instead, the work revisits a part of the history of this movement which to this day has been ignored. The starting point for the work is the discovery of the lyrics to a protest song that Congolese Situationist Joseph Mbelolo Ya Mpiku, composed in May 1968, in the archives of the Belgian Situationist Raoul Vaneigem. Working with Mbelolo and young musicians in Kinshasa, Vincent Meessen has produced a new rendition of the song. The fragmented cinematographic display of the work offers a spatial translation of this collective arrangement of subjectivities.
The multi-coloured labyrinth of Un Deux Trois, the club that was once home to the world-famous OK Jazz orchestra led by Franco Luambo, a key figure of artistic modernity in the Congo, offers the perfect setting for a musical dérive. Against the background of Congolese rumba, a popular and hybrid genre par excellence, threatened vernacular architecture and revolutionary rhetorics of the past, the film puts to music the narrative of unexpected meetings and one of the forms that resulted from it: Mbelolo’s song.
Transformed into an experimental space by musicians who, in the course of their perambulations, try to get attuned to each other, the club becomes an echo chamber for the impasses of history and the unfinished promises of revolutionary theory. And while Mbelolo Ya Mpiku rediscovers the song he had lost, popular uprisings break out in Kinshasa just outside of the walls of the rumba club. In spite of the cycle of violence and the militarisation of everyday life, a space is created for play, polyphony and dance. The rendition that matters in One.Two.Three is perhaps less the recovery of the song than the rendition of emancipation itself, which, irresolute by nature, remains condemned to an ‘untimely repetition’.
Three-channel digital video installation (looped), 35′, 2015
Surround sound, acoustic panels, coloured textile, wooden frames, stools, carpet
French and Kikongo, subtitles in English
Courtesy the artist and Normal, Brussels
Single channel, HD video, 35′, colour & sound, 2016
French and Kikongo, subtitled in English
Directed by: Vincent Meessen
Featuring: Mbelolo Ya Mpiku,
and the voice of Raoul Vaneigem
Music performed by: Judith Kadiela (bass & vocals), Dolicia Keta (solo guitar & vocals), Rossety Mampuya (rhythm guitar & vocals), Huguette Tolinga (percussion & vocals), Claude Ndara (ndara)
Music director: Vincent Kenis
Spoken word: Orakle Ngoy
Assistant director: Kristin Rogghe
Director of photography: Vincent Pinckaers
Assistant camera: Artur Castro Freire
Sound recording & design: Laszlo Umbreit
Mirror designer : Diane Steverlynck
Dolly: Fabrice Malabar Kalonji
Editing: Inneke Van Waeyenberghe
Assistant editing: Elise Pascal
Digital effects: Yishaï Gassenbauer
Subtitles: Erik Lambert
Colour grading & mastering: Paul Millot
Produced by: Normal
Executive production: Jubilee
Production manager: Edoardo Cimadori
Coordinator Jubilee: Katrien Reist
Exhibition display conceived with Lhoas & Lhoas
Commissioned by: Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and Wallonie-Bruxelles International
One.Two.Three was originally part of the exhibition Personne et les autres, Vincent Meessen & guests, Belgian Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale, 2015
Curator: Katerina Gregos
Presentations to date:
History Without a Past, duo exhibition with Samson Kambalu at Mu.ZEE, Ostend (2020)
Rencontres Internationales Corps-Objet-Image, Research laboratory at TJP Centre Dramatique National Strasbourg (2019)
Jubilee at Dazibao, Video Programme at Dazibao, Montreal (2019)
Congo in Harlem, festival at Maysles Cinema, New York (2018)
Omar en mai, solo exhibition at Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018)
One.Two.Three, screening and conversation presented by Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal (2017)
BIEFF, Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival (2017)
A Song for Rio (part 2), group exhibition and screening at Galeria Fortes Vilaça, Rio de Janeiro (2017)
Art of the Real-MMCA, group exhibition at MMCA, Seoul (2016)
12th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival in Berwick, UK (2016)
Art of the Real, film festival at Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York (2016)
Image Forum Festival, film festival in Japan (2016)
Sire, je suis de l’ôtre pays, solo exhibition at WIELS, contemporary art centre, Brussels (2016)
IFFR International Film Festival Rotterdam, Bright Future Tiger Awards Competition for Short Films (2016)
Personne et les Autres, group exhibition, Belgian Pavilion 56th Biennale di Venezia (2015)
The audio-visual installation of One.Two.Three has been acquired by De Vlaamse Gemeenschap (BE) and Musée National d’Art Moderne (FR)
In their recent film Masquerade, a 51min ‘factual-fiction reportage’, a TV-reporter tells the story of the protested IPO of Art House Index in Istanbul. While the reporter is addressing the camera, what appears to be a reconstruction of the ‘Initial Public Offering’ is taking place in the background. But then it all starts going wrong again! Is the audience witnessing an insider-sales in an auction house, a market crash in a trading pit or is it a hearing in a courtroom, one that tries to unveil the intricate dynamics of a confidence game?
Masquerade addresses a specific intersection of the contemporary art and finance markets, through the filter of Melville’s novel The Confidence Man: His Masquerade (1857) as the structure for its episodic narration. The film takes its name from the subtitle of Melville’s novel. In their film Vermeir & Heiremans present the financial market as the ‘mise en scene’ and a leading character of the narrative.
Next to a single screen version of Masquerade, the artists also created a live ‘installation version’ of their film, in which the financial market influences the real-time ‘cutting’ of the film. The actual performance of AHI–, showing the index going up or down in ‘real time’, triggers a switch between two timelines, one of which shows the fully post-produced ‘finished’ film while the other captures variations, rehearsals and outtakes. The artists have no control over the ‘editing’ of Masquerade, the markets creating a ‘unique’ moment in time as it is statistically highly improbable the audience will ever get to see the same combinations twice.
HD video, 55’, sound & colour, Belgium, 2015
Inaugural presentation: 2015
Production: LIMITED EDITIONS vzw
Executive production: JUBILEE vzw
Co-production: Bernaerts Auctioneers (Antwerp), 4th Dojima River Biennale (Osaka), Goldsmiths, University of London, 13th Istanbul Biennial, Musea Brugge, Stroom Den Haag, Triennale Brugge 2015, V2_Institute for the Unstable Media (Rotterdam)
Supported by Flemish Audiovisual Fund (Filmlab) and the Flemish Community
TV Reporter: Andrea Phillips
Musician/Director/Producer: Michael Schmid
Frank Goodman, Market Watcher: Werner Van Steen
Artist duo: Vermeir & Heiremans
Mon Bernaerts, Philip Brackx, Hans Bruysinck, Elien Hanselaer, Nav Haq, Liliane Keersmaeker, Heike Langsdorf, Karlijn Sileghem, Peter Sileghem, Fatos Ustek, Sun-Mee Vanpanteghem, Werner Van Steen, Mi You
and about a hundred Extras recruited by ‘In the Picture’
Concept, Scenario & Direction: Vermeir & Heiremans
Camera 1: Amir Borenstein
Camera 2: Katleen Vermeir
Camera 3: Yishai Gassenbauer
Sound/ Bruitage: Justin Bennett
Edit & Effects: Vermeir & Heiremans / Borenstein
Production: Katrien Reist, Marjolein van der Boon, Reintje Daans
Set Design: Dieter Leysen, Ciel Grommen
Set Construction: Gaia Carabillo, Louis Philippe
Light: Ludo Engels, Jeroen Wuyts
Costume: Mieja Hollevoet, Lieve Meeussen, Fauve Ryckebusch
Legal advice: Sari Depreeuw
Financial Advice: Peter Sileghem, Werner Van Steen
Still photography: Michael De Lausnay
Oh, for some Amusement!
A project by Eleni Kamma
Oh, for some amusement! takes the form of a multi-media installation that unfolds in space and time, operating as an experimental platform where major and minor ‘national’ narratives —within the context of contemporary states-nations of the previous Ottoman Empire— come together and cross over through cinematic, theatrical and reading formats.
By looking back at the moment of transition from the domination of the voice of one-speaking-for-many in non-presentational, eastern participatory forms of spectacle (Karagoz & Ortaoyunu) to the domination of the image in representational, mass-media spectacle (first silent movies and first national cinemas – Turkish, Greek, Egyptian, etc), the work examines how conditions of spectatorship affect questions of citizenship and social bonding today.
Part of this installation is the two-channel video work Play it, Emin: Walking along the Russian Monument at Ayastefanos.
Oh For Some Amusement! is supported by Mondriaan Fonds, NiMAC (Nicosia Municipal Arts Center), PiST/// Istanbul and the Theater aan het Vrijthof, Maastricht.
Eleni Kamma has been invited by Netwerk in Aalst (BE) to develop Oh, for some Entertainment! into an individual exhibition from 19/04 — 13/06/2015. Read more.
The project is also a participating project at the Sound-Image-Culture (SIC) workstation, Brussels.
“Dear Caillois, it will still happen to me that, thinking of you, I try to listen to the stones.”
This work meets the wish expressed by Marguerite Yourcenar (Brussels, 1903 – Bar Harbor, USA 1987) in her beautiful elegy to the late Roger Caillois, of whom she took over the seat in the French Academy, thus becoming the first woman to enter this distinguished institution. She hoped that one day, a stone would be named after the one who knew how to ‘listen to the great voice of things’. Caillois, a sociologist and writer, was certainly a great mystic of modernity.
Hence, the ‘Cailloise’ refers to a stone. But contrary to the scientific logic, this name does not designate a certain category, but a mineral and formal singularity: a unique and ancient fossil of a flower with an anthropomorphic look. Indeed, this small fossil of velvet-like grey looks like a grotesque mask, thereby containing an intriguing chain of transformations: a plant becoming a mineral mimicking a human face.
Deposited on a photographic portrait of Roger Caillois posing in front of his scientific collection of stones (reproduced in Oeuvres, Gallimard), the ‘Cailloise’, covering his face, operates ‘diagonally’ by offering a series of oblique perspectives on various subjects that were dear to Roger Caillois: myth, mask, mimicry, and minerals.
Vincent Meessen investigates post-colonial histories and their disputed legacies through the means of video and research. His filmic work, but also his incorporation of them into larger installations, combines documentary with narration, reality with fiction, archives with myth. In his endeavour to re-animate images, elements, and stories from the past, he questions their role and status today, putting in place speculative narratives that trigger new possibilities and multiple realities.
Ten years ago, Meessen turned to the figure of writer Raymond Roussel, whose Impressions d’Afrique was first staged on a Parisian theatre in June 1912, arguably changing the face of the twentieth century art history. Marcel Duchamp was there, accompanied by Francis Picabia and Guillaume Apollinaire, each profoundly moved by the spectacle. One hundred years later, almost to the day, Meessen’s multi-part installation, Ritournelle, reassesses the conceptual heritage of Roussel in an African context. Its musical element and filmed footage is the result of a protocol of delegation that started seven years before.
In 2005, the rappers of WemTeng Clan (WTC), from Ougadougou, were invited to create a musical composition based on Meessen’s research into Roussel’s conceptual writing procedures. Their resulting rap song, A Rebours, was recorded and played live but has only now found its permanent form and potential for distribution through a vinyl 12 inches. Ritournelle extends and inverses the Roussellian gesture of capture and the exploration of language as an animist ritual, delivering itself like cryptography intertwined with the doubling, duplicating, inverting, reproducing in negative, and mounting characteristic of Roussel. Through this, another inversion is performed: Africa is no longer an appropriated pretext, but now becomes an active and polyphonic agent that uses the author’s own bachelor machine to create new (political, social, and musical) meaning.
Mixed media, 2005–2012
Started seven years ago, Ritournelle revisits Raymond Roussel’s conceptual legacy on an contemporary African stage.
Rondelles à rayures (Discs with scratches)
Coloured vinyl records & sound system, light, 2005–2012
Side A: À Rebours – 06:18. Written, composed and interpreted by WemTeng Clan based on a script written by Vincent Meessen. In 2005, WemTeng Clan, a rap band from Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), was invited to write a song. This rap was guided by constraints derived from Meessen’s lucky find in a Raymond Roussel’s gone unnoticed langage ritual. The point was to make something of this treasure trove in a sound composition.
Side B: Mort, verrou, ouverture – 09:24. Interpreted by Gvoice. Adapted from an essay by Michel Foucault. Both an automatic and subjective reading of the musicality developed by the philosopher, who was also Roussel’s first really analytical reader.
Boucles à revers (Backwards loops)
Video loop, sound, transfer on blu-ray 01:31 min, 2006–2012
Edited entirely backwards, the video arranges, in a deliberate economy, shots taken from the recording of a sound system organized for the public premiere of the rap A rebours in Wemtenga, a popular neighbourhood of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).
Ocelles à rosettes (Eyespots with rosettes)
Posters, inkjet prints outs, variable dimensions, 2012
In order to print two posters announcing the release of a vinyl record, the usual halftone of photo-mechanical printing is turned around by a halftone composed from the fetish portrait of Roussel. Rosettes, a defect well-known to printers because of their watered-effect, are the motif here.
Moules à tropes (Moulds for tropes)
Pierced brass plate, six tyles in tempered steel, 2012
A new typographic font of only three letters (O,R,S) is derived from the patterns created during the layout of a poster. The three letters retained occur twice in the name Raymond Roussel.
Aires à noms (Areas with names)
Bronze plate & engraving, 2005–2012
A plan situates the rap band WemTeng Clan in a constellation of bands known around Ouagadougou through rudimentary inscriptions on walls. Noticed while surveying the city, the names, assembled here for the first time on a poetic city sign, sketch out a hit her to invisible city.
The Residence (a wager for the afterlife)
A video installation by Vermeir & Heiremans
The video installation The Residence (a wager for the afterlife) offers a glimpse into the lives of the poster boys of post-fordism – creative entrepreneurs. The different video projections in the installation tell of an investor named Hilar who commissioned a Chinese architect, Ma Wen, to design a house for his afterlife. The installation also incorporates a design for an algorithm linked to the currency market that, in turn, generates a never ending edit of the Hilar footage. While Ma Wen regards art as an index to explore the unknown, he paradoxically considers economy as the single measure of everything, opening uncomfortable questions about the status of creativity. Among sumptuous footage of the designed interiors, the story is a Faustian tale that is allegorical of the balancing act that is life in the creative class.
(Nav Haq, Art review, issue 57, March 2012)
The Residence (a wager for the afterlife), 2012
Installation: 2 HD projectors, 2 free-hanging screens, 2 LCD screens,
sound installation, live feed with currency markets, furniture piece Modular,
pre-publication In-Residence Magazine
Films: HD Video, colour & sound, language: Chinese/English, subtitles: English/Chinese
Credits Films: see The residence (a wager for the afterlife) – single screen
A project by Vermeir & Heiremans
in collaboration with Ma Wen, Justin Bennett, Amir Borenstein, Mieja Hollevoet, Salome Schmuki, Karlijn Sileghem, Wim van der Grijn, Carly Wijs.
Photos: Kristien Daem.
Production: Limited Editions.
Support: Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) and the Flemish Community.
Coproduction: Argos (Brussels), C-Mine (Genk), Cultuurcentrum (Bruges),
deBuren (Brussels), Extra City (Antwerp), FLACC (Genk),
Manifesta 9 Limburg (Genk) and Triodos Fonds.
Research support: artist residencies in China CEAC (Xiamen), TIM (Beijing).
The Residence –
location & photo props
Vermeir & Heiremans in collaboration with Kristien Daem
A photo shoot in collaboration with the photographer Kristien Daem was set up during the filming of The Residence (a wager for the afterlife) (2012). Part of the photo shoot took place during the filming of the scenes with the Chinese artist/architect Ma wen in Belgium.
Another part was photographed during the filming of the scenes with two actors at the location of a private villa in Belgium. Together with the photographer Kristien Daem, Vermeir & Heiremans created new autonomous scenes for the photographs, separate from the film script. The pictures themselves were used as ‘props’ in the film The Residence (a wager for the afterlife): they appear on the walls of Ma Wen’s office and at the end of the film the photographs are burned on the beach.
The pictures are also part of In-residence Magazine (2012), an artist publication in the form of a ‘faux’ lifestyle magazine that was first presented at Manifesta 9, 2012.
Photo series of 17 pictures, print and size variable.
A sound installation in public space (Turbinenplatz, Zurich) by Justin Bennett
The Oracle of Zurich was made for the art in public space project Gasträume. It is a self-contained unit with timer and loudspeaker. Situated in a public square near a bench, it plays a text at random intervals. The Oracle makes predictions, but it also pronounces wise statements, comments about the environment, about art, offers personal advice, riddles, instructions for performative actions, or political observations. It attempts to answer all questions, especially those that the visitor didn’t ask.
The texts were written, translated and collected by Justin Bennett, Stéphanie Templier and Renate Zentschnig. There are about 500 different possible predictions. The texts were inspired by, among other things: the Delphic utterances, I Ching, Nostradamus, Eno/Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies, Situationist International, Kerndenkers by André Garitte, Jean Luc Godard’s One plus one, George Brecht, Confucius.
Supported by: Barbara Seiler Galerie and Stroom Den Haag
Production: Barbara Seiler Gallery, Die Arbeitsgruppe Kunst im öffentlichen Raum Zürich
Stimmung is based on an incident that took place during the Holland Festival in 1969 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. During the performance of the musical piece Stimmung by Karlheinz Stockhausen by four singers seated cross-legged in a circle on stage, members of the audience began to disrupt the performance. First by singing along and making noises, then by applauding. The composer left the auditorium after stopping the performance twice and appealing for silence. The audience then took to the stage to discuss the democratic right of audience participation.
In the installation Stimmung the setting echoes the stage layout with four cushions around a pool of light. An edited version of the audience participation (from the Dutch world service archive) is heard over loudspeakers. The discussion is subtitled in English on a monitor. On the headphones, the listener can hear the original piece as it should have been performed.
Produced by Smart Project Space, Amsterdam for the exhibition For The Birds.