2016 Perpetual Moment of Pause
ExpoOstrale, Biennial for Contemporary Art, Dresden (DE), 1.6–21.9.2016LhGWR Gallery, Den Haag (NL), 5.3–23.4.2016Netwerk, Aalst (BE), 17.1–6.3.2016
‘Through developing military technology the “eye’s function has become the weapon”, and guns have been replaced by images.’ Paul Virilio, in War and Cinema
In anticipation of completing her film project To Each His Own Mask, artist Tine Guns presents a layered installation at Netwerk’s Pakhuis in which the thematic outlines of her new work are revealed. Here the perception of images assumes primacy. The thematic focal point is the unsettling duality of the mask as a protest strategy in our rapidly-changing, contemporary society. In her artistic practice, Guns systematically uses the exhibition format as a situational structure of ‘time-space’ in which she creates a context for an observational game that draws on images from the collective consciousness. The continual reappropriation of her own images always plays a significant role in this.
The foremost screens of the installation serve as a veil of associations masking one another. One can approach the work as an aloof observer or one can position oneself amongst the screens. Every viewer determines his or her own narrative. In this composition of projections, the artist subjects contemporary societal phenomena such as the culturally-redefining Occupy protests to a critical Litmus test by means of the carnival mask. Notwithstanding carnival’s regional variations, this satirical event, known to all in Belgium, is characterised by a ritual of role reversal in which a community temporarily takes over the local powers that be, together becoming ‘king for a day’. Accepted norms and values are momentarily put on ice. During carnival, the citizens, made anonymous by masks, are able to indulge in civil disobedience. This practice dates back to a past in which protests were largely local affairs, linked to local problems. In the current zeitgeist of failing economic systems and global crises, politics and social resistance are increasingly becoming a ‘glocal’ phenomenon. Similar problems are tackled interregionally. What’s striking is the growing carnilvalesque character of this kind of protest, with masks dominating the streets. A person can be beaten, killed or corrupted, but ideals and ideas cannot be snuffed out so swiftly. The anonymity afforded by the mask enables the individual to represent such ideas. When this happens collectively, the people transform into one grotesque body, one clenched fist bent on bringing down entrenched social and political regimes.
Does the leverage of this globalised protest culture offer a dreamed reality or a real utopia? Do the masks foreshadow a real revolution or will they remain, as during carnival, the fun face of an event-bound, established affirmation of power? And what of the power of the mask as a mirror or caricature, now that those in power have themselves become more and more anonymous and invisible? To Each His Own Mask offers us an unexpected new take on the spectacularly mediated manifestations of a world that is calling louder than ever before – from disparate ideological corners – for change. The artist casts a critical eye on the current protest culture and, with the mechanism of the masks, employs a carnivalesque strategy to reveal deeply-rooted structures and facets. (Beatrijs Eemans)