art from SVEN 'T JOLLE for beaufort03
The work of Antwerp artist Sven ’t Jolle (1966) is fuelled by a profound sense of indignation. A drawing from 1980, included in the exhibition Wir sind die Anderen [We are the Others] (Herford, 2001), confirms that social themes have been a key concern of his from the outset. The consistent way in which ’t Jolle has carried on his work is plain from the recent exhibition Ein bißchen (sociale) Frieden [A Bit of (Social) Peace]. His political engagement remains the source of his strength as an artist.
In the early part of the previous century, Henri Matisse referred in his painting L’Atelier rouge to what might be termed art’s ‘cocooning nature’. It can be read as a poem exploring the way in which painting refers to itself, how art can sustain itself and how art creates its own world of experience. Sven ’t Jolle updates Matisse’s image in a drawing featured in Ein bißchen (sociale) Frieden. With a large dollop of irony, he applies the same self-referential strategy, while simultaneously placing the ball in his fellow artists’ court. Sven ’t Jolle’s reality is located in a wider socioeconomic and cultural context. His works of art are always rooted in a given present – they cannot be disconnected from reality. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that ’t Jolle should be zooming in right now on the theme of peace, using a Western iconography to focus attention on the way in which economic interests within the capitalist system underlie decisions about war and peace.
Sven ’t Jolle charts the impact of globalisation and makes plain through his art that the ideas of Karl Marx can still be totally up to date. The ‘Global Village’ and ‘Toyota-ism’ are two key concepts in this regard. Toyotisme is..., an exhibition held in 2000, was constructed around the latter concept. ‘Toyota-ism’ (or sometimes ‘Toyotism’) is a word used by critics to designate a business strategy that was originally developed in the Japanese car industry. The system used elements like ‘teamwork’ and ‘participative management’ – positive notions in themselves – to increase productivity in a way that was detrimental to workers. The ‘Global Village’ idea was frequently cited by the media in the 1990s and initially had positive connotations. ’t Jolle has adopted the concept, but he applies it in a different way – to identify the consequences of globalisation. The tendency towards uniformity that is inherent in the capitalist system is clearly expressed, for instance, in all the multinationals that introduce the same structures everywhere in the world – there is virtually no difference between a Delhaize supermarket in Belgium, for instance, and one in Thailand. In this sense, workers are the true citizens of the world right now, as they can be deployed anywhere on the planet. At the same time, operations within that specific branch of Delhaize in Thailand are reminiscent of the organisation, hierarchy and regulation of a small town. This was the central theme of ’t Jolle’s exhibition in Melbourne in 1999 and it is revisited in Ein bißchen (sociale) Frieden. The artist also notes the positive side of globalisation, namely that it has contributed to a corresponding internationalisation on the part of the anti-capitalist resistance.
Sven ’t Jolle explores what a static image can tell us without becoming purely narrative. Unlike the artists of the 1960s, who set out to dematerialise the art object, ’t Jolle has no illusions about shielding the work of art from its transformation into commodity. He doesn’t have to be convinced that the world of art, too, is subject to the logic of the marketplace. What ’t Jolle does, however, is – with a nod to René Magritte – to give his work a content capable of combating that logic. It makes sense, then, that he does not choose his medium with transience in mind but its ability to materialise. The use of heavy or lasting materials (plaster statues and polyester sculptures) renders confrontation inevitable. He creates subtle images, at once disconcerting and seemingly obvious.
Sven ’t Jolle also applies linguistic principles to arrive at a complex web of internal dialogues and associations. Figures of speech such as metaphor, metonymy and tautology crop up frequently in his visual idiom. He uses existing forms, yet modifies them in such a way as to overturn their meaning. In Social Peace Pipe (2002), he worked according to the principle of the metaphor. He uses an existing and specific iconography to relate something other than the original meaning, exploring the extent to which the two can sustain one another. Fort-Ford (2002), meanwhile, uses tautology (repetition with a synonym). The artist plays here with the fact that Dutch speakers pronounce ‘Fort’ and ‘Ford’ the same way, reflecting what he sees as the synonymous character of the two concepts. The phonetic repetition causes the connotations of the two images to be interwoven. Bij de baard van de profeet, bij de haard van de proleet [By the Prophet’s beard! By the prole’s hearth!] (1996), by contrast, uses metonymy as a signifying principle. Metonymy replaces a concept with a related one, resulting in a shift in meaning. The title of this particular work is based on the jokey exclamations attributed to Captain Haddock in the Tintin books. It was produced against the background of the Gulf War and has lost none of its topicality. The words ‘By the Prophet’s beard!’ refer simultaneously to the collapse of the Soviet Union and to Muslim extremism, which replaced Communism as the new threat facing the West.
By asking fundamental questions and critically probing our capitalist society, Sven ’t Jolle brings art and life closer together. That is not to say, however, that his work is entirely separate from artistic tradition. It is anchored, both formally and in terms of content, in a political strand that runs through art history. The clear references to iconic works from the history of art, and to engaged artists like Fernand Léger and Joseph Beuys, are by no means intended as a mere intellectual game: ’t Jolle is more concerned with highlighting a clearly defined strand within artistic tradition. Like Fernand Léger, he has a deep political interest in the ‘working class’. The exhibition De betere klasse heeft ook recht op ontspanning [The Better Class is also Entitled to Leisure] (1998) was constructed round Léger’s Les Loisirs sur fond rouge – a painting about the working class that was admired by the bourgeoisie – and the duality associated with it. ’t Jolle also focuses on the situation of the contemporary worker in Ein bißchen (sociale) Frieden, and the theme is further explored in both the associative drawing and sculpture Global Empowerment. Global Empowerment looks like a gigantic megaphone and can be read as a tribute to the combative Belgian union leader Roberto D’Orazio, who was charged with ‘armed rebellion’ in 1999, and to a new social movement that has thrown off the straitjacket of consensus unionism. At the same time, the work is not only a sculpture, it could actually be used in a demonstration.
Joseph Beuys is another point of reference for Sven ’t Jolle. There is a close relationship between several aspects of their art, although that does not necessarily mean that their ideas are the same. There are intriguing parallels between their views of what it is to be an artist and about the social role of art, and both artists also work with archetypes. In his Aufruf zur Alternative [Call for an Alternative], Beuys brings together powerfully the key aspects of what being an artist meant for him:
Before asking What can we do? we ought to ask How should we think? We might then put an end to the glaring contrast between the hollow clichés about the highest ideals of humanity that we find in party manifestos and the practice of our economic, political and cultural reality.
This quotation also gets to the heart of Sven ’t Jolle’s mission as an artist. He seeks in his work to create awareness and to place contemporary issues in a wider temporal perspective. He wants to understand and to sketch the world from the point of view of the oppressed. The title of ’t Jolle’s previous exhibition Social Plastics (Düsseldorf, 2001) refers explicitly to Beuys’ notion of ‘Soziale Plastik’, though with the customary dose of irony. Beuys ascribed an important social function to the artistic. He believed that art – in its broadest sense – could change the world, in that it was able to influence politics. Sven ’t Jolle is less idealistic. He teasingly describes the coloured plastic jackets donned whenever continental trade unionists demonstrate as Soziale Plastik (1996), suggesting that he looks beyond art for the key to change. However, turning to archetypal images is an important formal process for both artists. Sven ’t Jolle reclaims existing symbols, opting for a visual idiom that seems outmoded, updating its content and adding new layers of meaning and associations. This results in images that transcend their initial significance. The image of the Red Indian smoking a peace-pipe, for instance, is familiar to all of us, yet ’t Jolle links this Wild West cliché to the ambiguous notion of ‘social peace’ (peace between the ‘social partners’, as unions, bosses and government used to be known).
Sven ’t Jolle’s images are a catalyst for associations that lodge themselves in our memory and place a different perspective on our perception of everyday reality.
PARTEA a II-a, peromaneste
Diplomatul olandez Robert van Lanschot declară : “Est-europenii nu sunt europeni veritabili. Poporul balcanic? Aceştia nu sunt oameni albi!” http://www.romanialibera.ro/actualitate/europa/fost-diplomat-olandez-est-europenii-nu-sunt-europeni-veritabili-poporul-balcanic-acestia-nu-sunt-oameni-albi-255160.html +Fostul diplomat afirmă că adevărata Europă începe pe partea vestică a râului Neretva din Mostar (Bosnia-Herţegovina).+ Dar, sînt obligat moralmente să completez eu, tocmai tristul eveniment din Bosnia-Herţegovina a provocat extrem de brutalul sfârşit de Belle Époque şi izbucnirea primului Război Mondial. Iar dacă mergem pe firul de cauzalitate, noi, ca investigatori privind adevărul istoric, ajungem la anti-românescul Ausgleich din anul 1867, făcut posibil de contele austriac von Beust. Prin acel act Ausgleich, ia naştere distopia statală KundK (Kakania îi spunea scriitorul Robert Musil, lumea bună îi spune Austro-Ungaria). Congresul de la Berlin din anul 1878 impunea ca Bosnia-Herţegovina să fie inclusă în Austro-Ungaria. Însă ideologia Ausgleich de maghiarizare forţată nu va fi suportată de populaţia locală din Bosnia-Herţegovina, tot la fel cum nu era suportată nici în Ardeal. Atentatul de la Saraievo declanşează primul Război Mondial. Dar poate că trebuie să insistăm ceva mai mult asupra consecinţelor catastrofale aduse de Congresul de la Berlin românilor ! Marele Joc cunoaşte în România secolului XIX o fază marcată prin clauza obligatorie de împământenire a celui de al doilea val de carpetbaggers. După mult-lăudatul „război de independenţă” care nu a fost un război naţional, amintita gloabă internaţională fu impusă României la Congresul de la Berlin din anul 1878 de către cancelarul Bismarck, la propunerea lui Benjamin Disraeli. Politicianul britanic a diktat nenumărate capitulaţii esenţiale pentru garantarea prosperităţii valului de carpetbaggers în România, stimulând astfel crearea instituţiei de exploatare numită Arendaşul român. Deja în ‘Teoria fatalismului’, atât de necesară în contextul ideologic anti-românesc din anul 1876, Vasile Conta exprima doctrinar opoziţia lui faţă de punctul de vedere că adevărul ar fi tranzacţional. Dar tranzacţional fu „adevărul istoric” negociat la Congresul de la Berlin din anul 1878. Unde cuvântul lui Benjamin Disraeli ridicat împotriva adevărului dorobanţilor morţi la Asaltul redutei a cântărit greu. Unul dintre ziarele de limba română create la anul 1877 în capitala României lucra în sinergie cu planurile lui Benjamin Disraeli pentru Noua Europă. Astfel, împământenirile dictate de Benjamin Disraeli la Congresul de la Berlin din 1878 schimbă „ordinea firii” din România spre catastrofă. Ţinuturile româneşti fuseseră guvernate până atunci de amintirea cutumei pământului, a sistemului thematic. Jacqueriile nu puteau exista aici, în Romania Orientală. Pentru că oastea ţărănească era oastea ţării. Răscoalele ţărăneşti care bântuie mereu după 1878 în principatele unite Muntenia şi Moldova, culminând cu aceea de la anul 1907, nu pot fi interpretate corect decât ca nişte războaie interne, pe care Contractul Social de sorginte bizantină implementat până atunci ne învăţase cum să le evităm. Congresul de la Berlin a impus României starea de război intern permanent despre care Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) ne avertiza în Leviatanul : „Also, if a man he trusted to judge between man and man, it is a precept of the law of nature that he deal equally between them. For without that, the controversies of men cannot be determined but by war. He therefore that is partial in judgement, doth what in him lies to deter men from the use of judges and arbitrators, and consequently, against the fundamental law of nature, is the cause of war.” Secolul XIX pentru români, chiar şi după Unirea Principatelor, a fost colonial, colonial, colonial, iar Disraeli a fost primul-ministru al imperiului colonialist par excellence. Românii nu s-au putut opune la diktatul berlinez din anul 1878 decât printr-un foarte ineficient Numerus Clausus. Totuşi, românii sunt învinuiţi de anti-semitism doar pentru că au vrut să înalţe un baraj la influxul agresiv de carpetbaggers în România! Ştim precis că tocmai sărăcirea “talpei ţării” provocată de acei carpetbaggers a provocat insurecţiile ţărăneşti culminând cu aceea din anul 1907. Evenimentul românesc de la 1907 aminteşte Evul Mediu cel mai negru, exploziile sociale de tip jacquerii precum răscoala de la Bobâlna şi răscoala lui Doja. Statul român de după 1878 furnizează resurse doar pentru „puii de cuci”. „Ciocoi pribeag, adus de vânt!”, exploda mânia lui George Coşbuc. Anafora „Noi vrem pământ!” înseamnă cerinţa de restatuare a valorii ‚sistemului thematic’, George Coşbuc era profund inserat în memoria veche din Romania Orientală. Apoi, Mircea Vulcănescu avea şi el toată dreptatea să noteze că realitatea sătească deţinea în perspectiva sa culturală „izvoarele autentice ale vieţii noastre româneşti.”
holliday in melsbroek