MONDO CANE, the exhibition by Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys at the Belgium Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, will be on view in Belgium at BOZAR, Ravensteinstraat 23, 1000 Brussels (BE). The opening will take place on Tuesday, Februari 18 at 19:00.
Artists: Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys Curator: Anne-Claire Schmitz Commissioner: Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles
At the 58th Venice Biennale, the Belgian Pavilion was showing MONDO CANE, an exhibition by artists Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, curated by Anne-Claire Schmitz. MONDO CANE was selected and announced as Belgium’s representation to the Biennale in July 2018 by the Minister of Culture of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. The project depicts a society that is folded in on itself where tradition is erected as a refuge.
MONDO CANE presents itself as a local folkloric museum that displays the human figure. Silent, pale and frightened, the pavilion’s inhabitants appear as aestheticized shells, stuck in a loop of formal activity that the visitor perceives as odd and out of touch with contemporary reality. The exhibition contains some twenty dolls, most of them automated; a series of large illustrations depicting pastoral scenes; and steel bars that fence off the pavilion’s lateral recesses. At the centre of the building there are craftsmen and women—such as a cobbler, a stonemason and a spinner who, true to themselves, ply their respective trades. The side rooms, for their part, are a parallel world peopled by louts, zombies, poets, psychotics, the insane, and the marginalized. These two worlds exist in the same space, but they seem to be entirely unaware of one another. They do not interact. The separation is clear. The universe of the pavilion does not shock: it is itself traumatized.
The gestures of the dolls are mechanical and awkward. The sounds and movements alternate and are activated by the visitors’ presence via a motion detector at the entrance. The space is imbued with songs, plaintive cries and labour. The dolls’ heads are modelled both on fictive characters that have already appeared in the work of Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys and on real people. We enter the pavilion as we were entering a wonderland. Full of beauty and ugliness. In accordance with an age-old tradition, spectators allow themselves to be drawn by the promise of seeing wonderful things at an exhibition: "A show well worth the while of parents and their children!" The Belgian Pavilion offers a real promenade, akin to a touristic or anthropological experience, reminiscent of an old Europe.
Next to the exhibition, MONDO CANE further develops as a publication and website to be found at www.mondocane.net. Both are additional spaces for unfolding and exploring the posture of the project.
Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys have the habit of distilling fictions out of a reality that is, sometimes, "too real." Both willingly concede that they feel attracted to the psychotic state of contemporary societies, a state that they simultaneously dread and disseminate in their work. MONDO CANE, which seizes visitors with its off-kilter realism, is in every way a continuation of this practice. Without ever falling into cynicism or moralism, the artists deftly and wittily transform that which resembles fear or a latent state into something willed, critical and counter to the status quo.
Jos de Gruyter (°1965) and Harald Thys (°1966) have been collaborating since the late 1980s. Together, the artists make films, drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures in which we find characters, objects and spaces that are at once ultra-identifiable and non-authoritarian. Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys have had numerous institutional solo exhibitions including Konkurs Eksperten at Kunsthal Aarhus (2018); White Suprematism at Portikus Frankfurt and CAC Vilnius (2016); Im Reich der Sonnenfinsternis at MCA Chicago; Fine Arts at MOMA PS1, Die Schmutzigen Puppen von Pommern at The Power Station Dallas and Tram 3 at CCA Wattis (2015); Das Wunder des Lebens at Kunsthalle Wien (2014) and Optimundus at M HKA Antwerp (2013). The artists were included in the 55th Venice Biennale (2013) and the 5th Berlin Biennale (2008).
Anne-Claire Schmitz is the director and curator of La Loge a space dedicated to contemporary art, architecture and theory based in Brussels. Alongside her work at La Loge, she curated exhibitions such as Les Bons Sentiments the 19th Fondation d’entreprise Ricard Prize in Paris (2017), Individual Stories – Collecting as Portrait and Methodology at Kunsthalle Wien (2015) and Un-Scene II at Wiels in Brussels. Prior to La Loge, Anne-Claire Schmitz was a curator at Witte de With, Centre for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam.
Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys MONDO CANE BOZAR, Ravensteinstraat 23, 1000 Brussels (BE)
February 19 - May 24, 2020