The Reality Effect

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© Courtesy of Anne Mosseri-Marlio Galerie
The Reality Effect
Curated by: Arjan van Helmond

Malzgasse 20
4052 Basel
March 11th, 2011 - April 16th, 2011

+41 61 271 7183
Wed. - Fri. 13:00 - 18:00; Sat. 11:00 - 16:00 and by appointment
photography, installation


Anne Mosseri-Marlio Galerie is pleased to introduce three emerging Dutch artists Lidwien van de Ven (NL 1963), Alon Levin (IL 1975) and Arjan van Helmond (NL 1971) in the group exhibition ‘The Reality Effect’ curated by Arjan van Helmond. This is their first gallery exhibit together. The artists split their time between The Netherlands and Berlin.

‘The Reality Effect’ is a visual and conceptual confrontation of “at first sight” very different bodies of work. The exhibition’s unifying questions encompass and engage the viewer in the constructed-ness of aesthetic realism - how recognition and believability are established and to what end. The artists explore how political discourse, personal experience, and social processes are documented and collectively understood, and how a certain level of "aesthetic verisimilitude" is achieved by descriptions of real events, objects, or people in order to cross the lines of fiction and fact.

Alon Levin’s two installations play with ideas of social or political systems and processes. He uses objects to suggest function and meaning, but not necessarily give us clarity about their purpose. He looks at structures and systems that we often take for granted, those that are informed by philosophical, economical and social theories that underlie our reality.

Lidwien van de Ven explores questions of representation: the mechanics of image perception, of what is visible or invisible. The two large-scale photographs in the exhibition show opposing poles in the contemporary debate about migration and religion that has transformed our society over the last decade. By approaching subject matter, frequently depicted through photojournalism, she documents from an analytical distance, questioning underlying ideologies and structures in contemporary media.

Arjan van Helmond’s practice is often based upon the translation of found imagery to painting. By doing so he explores the tension between the photographic documentation of reality and the constructed, imaginary space of painting. He depicts everyday objects and spaces in large works of gouache and acrylic on paper. These can be seen as an interpretation of how underlying structures and ideologies of our societies enter our daily environment.

The term reality effect is taken from Roland Barthes’ essay of the same title. Barthes analyzes the function of detailed descriptions in realist novels. These seemingly insignificant details don’t refer to objects, places or persons in reality, but they constitute a reality by itself. Barthes argues that by producing a reality effect through "the direct collusion of a referent and a signifier, the signified is expelled from the sign". The result is a verisimilitude in which what is written announces itself as and claims to pass for the real.

The reality effect is a strategy and a form of realism, not only found in literature. It's an illusion to think that images are a representation of reality in a straightforward, uncomplicated manner. The presence of the detail necessary to achieve a form of realism is easily justified by the nature of the real. That which appears to be real is automatically accepted and appreciated because it is real in a context that is otherwise fictional.

Lidwien van de Ven’s work has been exhibited at Documenta 12, Kassel, Germany, Le Grand Café, Centre d’art contemporain, Saint-Nazaire, FRAC Le Plateau, Paris and Le Magazin, centre national d’art contemporain, Grenoble, France.

Alon Levin’s work was shown at Kunsthaus Zürich, in the exhibition 'Shifting Identities - (Swiss) Art Now', “Word Event” at the Kunsthalle Basel, and in the exhibition 'Remodeling Systems' CCS Bard in New York. He was short-listed for the Cartier Award of the Frieze Foundation in 2008.

Arjan van Helmond’s paintings are in the Museum Het Domein, Sittard, De Nederlandsche Bank, NL, Akzo Nobel Art Foundation, Kunstcollectie LUMC, Rabo Kunstcollectie, The Netherlands.