Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven
For the second edition of FAÇADE, a series of monumental works in the public space taking over the scaffolding at the site of the future KANAL-Centre Pompidou museum, artist Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven (AMVK) pays homage to the city. On the huge tarpaulin, she creates what she calls “a stage for Brussels”. Through her colorful, layered style and feminist, socially engaged critique, AMVK presents us with paintings and characters that constitute the artist’s intuitive image of the capital and its history.
Quasi-mythical beings, large and small, play in the street. A harlequin evokes both the popular culture of the Brussels cafés frequented by the famous Grand Jojo and the many facets of the city’s identity. A number of fierce women take center stage, challenging dynamics of domination; they dance joyfully in the parks like goddesses of nature. A ghost conjures the chaos of traffic or tensions in social relations.
All of these characters form a grand metaphorical parade that alludes to Brussels’ past, with its role in the Surrealist movement and the café La Fleur en Papier Doré, where the artists used to gather. AMVK draws on folklore and plays with references to the alchemical mecca that was Brussels, to artificial intelligence, and to the history of art and architecture.
Photos by Jan Locus
The artist adds fragments of her own work to these new inspirations, and images that she has collected elsewhere and manipulated. The touch of fantasy she applied to a perspective study by Flemish Renaissance painter and architect Hans Vredeman de Vries dating from 1583 elicits the junction between the material and the spiritual, the micro and the macro, the high and the low.
The motif in the center of the work is a mandala, a symbolic ritual structure designed by Swiss architect and thinker Max Bill in the 1930s. About these he wrote: “Isn’t the universe within us?” And isn’t Brussels also within us? Indeed, AMVK’s FAÇADE explores how myths, memories, and land shape a city, how this infrastructure affects city-dwellers, and how they change the city in return.
Part trompe l’œil, part wink, the work sees contradictions dissolve between chaos and order, logic and mysticism, eroticism and technology.
Through the FAÇADE, Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, a pioneer of digital art in Belgium, showcases the intuitive practice that has nourished her vast body of work since the 1980s, comprising drawings, collages, paintings, and videos. The artist explores the relationship between art, technology, sex, and the making of an image in contemporary society. She uses strategies and materials from the world of commerce and advertising: language, Plexiglas, plastic, and bright colors. She combines these elements with contrasting black-and-white schemes reminiscent of etching, as well as the visual language of early computers to produce powerful images.
AMVK’s work has been shown in numerous solo exhibitions, including at Kunstverein Munich, Kunsthalle Bern, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Renaissance Society Chicago, and M HKA Antwerp. It has also been shown in group exhibitions at the ICA in Philadelphia, The Artist’s Institute in New York, Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach, Mu.ZEE in Ostend, and S.M.A.K. in Ghent. She took part in Manifesta 7 in Italy in 2008. Her work has been included in many public collections, including the Kunsthalle Bern, the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels, the M HKA in Antwerp, the FRACs in France, and the University of Chicago. Alongside her visual work, music plays an important role in Van Kerkhoven’s creative output. With her partner Danny Devos, AMVK has played an important role in Antwerp’s experimental music scene since 1981 to the present day as part of the group Club Moral.
The FAÇADE series is co-curated and co-produced by KANAL-Centre Pompidou and artlead.