MAINSPACE EXHIBITION /
Harri de Ville
September 1 to October 1, 2011
For this exhibition, Harri and de Ville presented two of their collaborative works in the gallery’s main space. The first piece, visible up entering the gallery was Untitled #3, a piece created from Plexiglas that is lit internally and contains a projector and DVD player. Resembling a pedestal, the piece reveals itself through the faint shadow of a hand against the Plexiglas and the silhouette of a head within.
The second piece in the exhibition, No Fear, No Hope comprises an assemblage of flickering industrial lights. The pattern of the lights spells out, in Morse code, “No fear, no hope.”
The title of this exhibition refers, on one hand, to a text by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard about the way we comprehend our environment and, on the other, to ongoing research into the re-appropriation of iconic sculptural forms representative of 1960s Minimalism.
The artists, according to exhibition essayist Zsolt Kozma, use beauty in a paradoxical manner. “Attraction is meant here as a starting point for engaging the viewer in an emotional exchange, and, subsequently, in reflection on universal questions and notions of the human condition: fear, anxiety, attraction, sensuality, identity, social context and determination, femininity, hope, the personal and the impersonal,” he says.
In a scene of chapter 2 of Huxley’s Brave New World, attracted to beauty, babies crawl happily towards roses. When they get there and reach out to touch them, and alarms go off shrieking and shrilling. The effect is similar to the uneasiness that we come to feel when we encounter the subtle beauty of Harri de Ville’s works.
The paradoxical use of beauty, or rather, a demonstration of its paradoxical nature unfolds from their ongoing experiment with the re-introduction and with the possible functions of the aesthetic in art after the conceptual age. With a visual syntax constructed of the most basic elements, such as darkness and light, shadow, the outlines of parts of a human body confined to a cuboid lit from inside, or flickering light bulbs almost touching the ground in the space of the installation, their works add up to highly complex structures of meaning.
Reduced to the level of abstraction, the elements connected by the architectural framework of the space speak strongly to the senses – their function is to attract but not to delight. Delighting would mean being content, pleased, absorbed in beauty. Attraction is meant here as a starting point for engaging the viewer in an emotional exchange, and, subsequently, in reflection on universal questions and notions of the human condition: fear, anxiety, attraction, sensuality, identity, social context and determination, femininity, hope, the personal and the impersonal.
In No Fear No Hope, the flickering of the lights seems irregular and senseless, but in fact, it is an explicit message in Morse code (no fear, no hope). However, decoding the message brings no ease, understanding the meaning does not eliminate the anxiety, and brings no relief.
While remaining a symbol inviting a wide circle of possible associations all along, a hand tapping the walls of the cuboid from inside (Untitled #3), with the light also coming from inside, gradually becomes a synecdoche of the self limited by the rigid boundaries of the body (plexiglas cuboid with sharp, rectangular edges), and then, reinforced by the appearance of the outlines of the female head, the synecdoche of the female (the sharp and cold edges contrasted to the soft lines of the hand and head), also tied to the constraints of the body. From outside, in interaction with the world, the body is the outward appearance, the direct connection of the individual to the world, and the object of gaze. Identity is defined in the long process of this dialogue.
Harri de Ville, the initiator of this dialogue is also an abstraction (a very concrete one, at that) – an identity that came to be from the meeting of two artists in 2005. Impersonal through the elimination of certain individual qualities and limits, and highly personal because of the significance of the questions explored through this artistic entity, Harry de Ville demonstrates how entity evolves into an identity. Liberated from the constraints of the body and the private individual, the existence of Harri de Ville directs attention to these very constraints. At the same time, freed from these constraints, the issues raised can be explored with less individual bias, and the artist here is ultimately identified by the work itself. Personal in the impersonal – the timeless essence of art in a perfectly 21st century manifestation. This is what Harri de Ville does – and so, this is what Harri de Ville is.
– Zsolt Kozma
Harri de Ville is a duo project formed in 2005 by Sabrina Inkeri Harri (Finland) and Alexia de Ville de Goyet (Belgium). The project was initially based on VJing experimentations and video performances that took place at festivals across Europe. In 2009, their work extended to objects and installations, defining an interdisciplinary language in which abstraction and narrative elements merge. Since then, they have been extensively exhibiting together under the name Harri de Ville, conducing the project in parallel with their solo careers.
Sabrina Inkeri Harri studied Fine Arts at La Villa Arson in Nice, France and at Geneva’s University of Art and Design in Switzerland. Alexia de Ville de Goyet studied Fine Arts at the ERG in Brussels, Belgium and at Central Saint Martins in London, UK.
Zsolt Kozma is a critic and curator with Videospace Gallery, an international media art centre located in Budapest, Hungary (www.videospace.hu). He has been publishing essays, reviews, articles and translations of theory on contemporary arts since 1997. He currently divides his time between Brussels, Belgium and Budapest.
This exhibition was written about in FFWD Weekly.