At first sight, the wooden trunks displayed at Motive Gallery would seem like aboriginal art. But they're no post-colonial ready-mades, unlike those we've seen in Vincent Vulsma's show at SMBA this year, for example. Louis De Cordier's “dugouts”, instead, are hand-carved sculptures made by the artist himself, out of white pines that grow specifically in the Spanish Sierra Nevada, where he lives. These canoe-shaped artworks represent quite a change in De Cordier's work, which often favors synthetic materials for his installations. This time, rather than Buckminster Fuller and his ambitiously complex architectures, the Belgian artist seems to have shifted towards a more spiritual approach, going Arte Povera and getting inspired by Egyptian funerary boats. He sees those objects as symbols of today's individualistic information process, even though this doesn't really come across in their display.
Louis De Cordier, dugout; Courtesy of Motive Gallery / Photo by Nicola Bozzi.
In the past, De Cordier has addressed the conservation of scientific knowledge and cultural consciousness as primary resources in view of a post-apocalyptic, autarkic society. For example, he worked on a library project in Andalusia and an archeological expedition in Egypt, and he's also an outspoken supporter of off-the-grid communities and self-sufficient agriculture. His dugouts appear as far more iconic than a statement, a list, or a map, though. They are still about knowledge and culture, in a way, but they embody a more mysterious and less political appeal. If the metaphor of information doesn't really deliver, then, the sacral aura of a makeshift canoe to eternity is helped by the dignified display of the suspended, elevated sculptures. The overall emptiness of the gallery space helps create such an atmosphere.
Louis De Cordier, dugout (detail); Courtesy of Motive Gallery / Photo by Nicola Bozzi.
Like in the Vulsma exhibition that I mentioned above, the objects presented at Motive carry an explicit fascination with history and a much subtler existential statement: to travel forward, to truly progress and reach the balance we already have as a species, we should – quite literally - take matter in our own hands.
(Image at top: Louis De Cordier, Makeshift, exhibition view; Courtesy of Motive Gallery / Photo by Nicola Bozzi)