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S.M.A.K. Opens Retrospective by Filmmaker and Artist Johan Grimonprez

S.M.A.K. is presenting the first Belgian retrospective by filmmaker and artist Johan Grimonprez, on view 15 October 2011–29 January 2012. In a number of separate chapters, Grimonprez brings his work face to face with contemporary and historical counterparts by entering into dialogue with the artists and filmmakers Roy Villevoye and Jan Dietvorst, as well as with a selection of YouTube users, scholars, and TV-makers as part of his vlogging practice, in what he calls a ‘WeTube-o-theque’. This expanding media archive, comprising links to work by Adam Curtis, Brian Springer, the Yes Men, Dr. John Mack, Adbusters, etc., runs like a cross-referencing thread throughout the exhibition and offers an insight into the way Grimonprez broaches new themes.

Johan Grimonprez, ‘dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y’, 1997 (still)

Grimonprez’ work balances between art and cinema, documentary and fiction, theory and practice. In a world abundant with images, Grimonprez proposes new narratives so as to be able to continue telling personal stories. Inspired by an archaeology of contemporary media, his work reveals—and disrupts—the way the moving image partakes in the construction of our personal and political histories, our fears and desires, as well as how we define ourselves in a rapidly changing world. Juxtaposing historical archives, his own home videos, news pictures, podcasts, advertising, YouTube clips and excerpts from Hollywood films, Grimonprez tries in his own way to make sense of the wreckage wrought by History. Mimetic strategies, masquerading and associative shifts elicit a double-take from the viewer. Perhaps indeed memory and recollection do not only work ‘backwards’, as the title of this exhibition and publication suggests. Trapped in a hall of mirrors, is it not time to step through the looking-glass?

In this exhibition, several ensembles are assembled around key works from Grimonprez’ oeuvre: ‘Kobarweng Or Where Is Your Helicopter?’ (1992), ‘It will be all right if you come again, only next time don’t bring any gear, except a tea kettle…'(1994–2004), ‘dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y’ (1997), ‘Double Take’ (2009) and a compilation of television work and short films. In addition Grimonprez invites the artist-filmmakers Roy Villevoye and Jan Dietvorst to contribute a number of works, e.g. ‘And the Trumpet Shall Sound’ (2008). The exhibition unfolds like an enormous multimedia ‘vlog’/ iPad installation where the visitor can find his way by ‘zapping’ through a boundless web of internal and external links. On the basis of an extensive collection of clips plucked from podcasts, online TV, mobile phones, subvertisments and other cultural masquerading, his ‘WeTube-o-theque’ can be seen both as the joyful affirmation of a global disengagement and the catalyst of effervescent criticism, best described as a platform for temporary disobedience that refuses the avid consumption of fear offered by mainstream media.

The exhibition is accompanied by the publication ‘It’s A Poor Sort Of Memory That Only Works Backwards. On the Work of Johan Grimonprez’. With contributions by Catherine Bernard, Jodi Dean, Tom McCarthy, Chris Darke, Thomas Elsaesser, Slavoj Zizek, Hans Ulrich Obrist et al., published by Hatje/Cantz in collaboration with the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, and The Blaffer Art Museum, Houston, in conjunction with Artist Rooms, Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland, Cultuurcentrum Strombeek and KASK Ghent, and with the generous support of Gallerie Kamel Mennour, Paris, the Sean Kelly Gallery, New York and ZAPOMATIK, Brussels.

Citadelpark, 9000 Ghent
T +32 9 240 76 01

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