As ACCA’s current exhibition NEW12 comes to an end (closing 20 May 2012) we announce our forthcoming exhibition: Berlinde De Bruyckere: We are all Flesh (2 June – 29 July 2012)
We are looking forward to Berlinde’s arrival in a couple of weeks. We hope to see you all at the opening on 1 June 2012, 6pm.
In the meantime here is a Q&A with ACCA’s Artistic Director, Juliana Engberg:
How did Berlinde initially react to the ACCA space?
When I invited Berlinde to visit ACCA for her site visit I imagined she might find the space, which is vast and inspiringly scaled, somewhat like a cathedral. This was exactly her reaction. We decided then that the commission would use ACCA’s long room as a kind of approach to an alter and that the side galleries would become akin to chapels where one might have a more intimate scale to contemplate.
Tell me about the new works that ACCA has commissioned Berlinde to produce…
Berlinde has been working on the new commissions now for two years and the main work features two conjoined horse forms, which are hoisted on a tall scaffold and another, which is suspended from a wall support. The horses retain their bodily mass and their hide, which has been allowed to keep its wounds and flaws visible. Considered this way, the horse forms become awesome, majestic, yet paradoxically frail and wounded things…like the crucified Christ figure and saints. In the side spaces we also have new works, which typify Berlinde’s interest in the metamorphosis and transformation. In these works the human body entwines with, emerges from and back into animal and vegetal. These works seem both pagan and ecclesiastical in character, as well as deeply psychological. They suggest Greco-Roman mythology as well as the Christian concept of the body of sorrows.
Her works “recall the visceral gothic of Flemish Trecento art”. Tell me a little about her fascination with this era.
Berlinde is a Belgian artist and works such as the Ghent Altarpiece, the amazing carvings that adorn churches and the traditions of Flemish art are an inescapable part of her visual culture. Her works play homage in certain ways to this tradition.
She presents the human body in a way that is intensely visceral and moving. What ideas are at play here?
Several ideas are embedded in Berlinde’s works, as discussed above there is a strong relationship to the mythologies of pagan traditions and clearly the link to Christian beliefs as exemplified in art works through the ages.
Instead of marble – which is hard and permanent and has the connotations of richness and exploitation – Berlinde instead uses materials – wax, hide, wood, fibre – that are fragile and apt to disintegrate, mutate and transform. – In certain ways her works therefore have a greater drama and a closer relationship to matter and to the inevitable collapse of the body made from organic and visceral things. Her’s is a more humanist approach therefore – humble and knowing – acknowledging the transitory nature of life.
Can you tell me about her use of humans, horses and nature to explore these ideas?
Berlinde uses wax in a gesture towards the traditions of marble and she has created amazing techniques to achieve an appearance between marble and flesh. The works are quite startling in their depiction of sinew and the bodily fluids, which are hinted at through colourations that suggest veins and arteries. Whereas marble eventually mummifies its subject, this wax process re-enlivens the form because it continues to be organic matter transformed.
What is her process?
The process she uses is casting. This enables her to work from the body and combine the human form with other things such as branches and animal parts. The works have a staggering beauty.
Tell me about 019 and the significance of this work?
019 places a forest within a wooded and glass cabinet – the kind one might have found in the 19th century, in an Apothecary. Therefore a kind of medicinal cabinet but also an item that refers in certain ways to the profession of the alchemist. Inside there is a petrified wood…made from wax casts of real trees … which suggests another form of healing…one that might be located in the psychological research of archetypes by Jung, or the psycho-sexual metaphors investigated by Freud. In the instance of Jung, the forest is understood as a symbol for life and the finding of one’s path through the woods is a metaphor for coming into self knowledge (this is the reason it features so prominently in fairy tales which are maturation stories inevitably); for Freud, the forest was a symbol of the female genitalia, a place of mystery, birth and potential sexual danger if you subscribe to the anxiety of castration complex! In a more prosaic fashion 019 refers to transformation as well…from the forest to the utility of the cabinet – wood to wood – but I like the deeper psychological, medicinal idea and to me 019 is a potent metaphorical thing which eludes complete understanding yet tugs at the dormant, latent knowledge that we hold inside us…put away in the closet of our psyche. In mythology, of course, Psyche and Cupid are entwined in the forest!