S.M.A.K. is presenting the first extensive Belgian retrospective of the film-maker and artist Johan Grimonprez (1962, Roeselare). Several ensembles comprising video installations, storyboards and drawings will be assembled around key works in his oeuvre. In several of them, Grimonprez enters into dialogue with other people, including the artist Roy Villevoye and the documentary-maker Adam Curtis, and he also brings his films face to face with counterparts from past and present. His constantly expanding ‘vlogging installation’ runs through the exhibition like a referential thread and, as a sort of artistic sketchbook, it offers an insight into the way Grimonprez broaches new topics and develops visual associations.
Grimonprez’s video work manoeuvres graciously between art and cinema, documentary and fiction, practice and theory. In a world awash with images produced and reproduced on a massive scale, Grimonprez suggests new narrative structures that make it possible to continue telling personal stories. His work is based on an archaeology of the contemporary media and reveals – and disrupts – the part the moving image plays in the construction of our personal and political histories, our fears and desires and the way we see ourselves and the world. Using documentary material, found footage, historical items from archives, his own home videos, news pictures, advertising, video clips and excerpts from Hollywood films, Grimonprez tries in his own way to give some meaning to the havoc wreaked by History.
dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (1997), the astonishing film with which Grimonprez made his international breakthrough and which premiered at Documenta X, is a dazzling study of terrorist strategies that merges television images and home videos. Under the guise of a chronicle of aircraft hijacks, the film exposes the ‘hijack’ of reality by the media. Grimonprez’s recent film Double Take (2009) too unravels the mechanisms of paranoia and the introduction of fear into the fabric of our society. Against the background of the space race, as a metaphor for the Cold War, and through a series of cloned Alfred Hitchcocks, Double Take symbolises the double effect of cinema and television and the recent history of capitalism, communism, advertising and warfare. Grimonprez’s earlier film Kobarweng or Where is Your Helicopter? (1992) deconstructs the legacy of an anthropological discourse by studying the confrontation ensuing from the first encounter between Westerners and the villagers of the highlands of New Guinea. The multi-channel installation It Will Be All Right If You Come Again, Only Next Time Don’t Bring Any Gear, Except A Tea Kettle (1994-2004) also explores the creation of new mythologies and cultural stories in the wake of Western imperialism.
Other versions of this exhibition have previously been shown at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, in 2007, and at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh and the Blaffer Museum in Houston in 2010. The book It’s a Poor Sort of Memory that Only Works Backwards is being published to accompany this exhibition.
(Image: Johan Grimonprez; Courtesy of the artist & S.M.A.K.)