"Was ist Kunst Hugo Ball" at Elaine Levy Project, Brussels

1.3.2012 - 7.4.2012



In their first solo show in Belgium, at Elaine Levy Project, the Slovenian-based Irwin collective is proposing the new installment of its ongoing project: Was Ist Kunst. In the quite complex political scenery of early 80's Yugoslavia, Irwin begun its carreer putting forth the close relationship between Avant Garde (namely, Futurism) and totalitarian symbolism, either fascist or socialist. More, as founding members of N.S.K., they embodied the fine arts organ of a fictitious Avant Garde, alongside Laibach for music, Noordung for performance arts, Novi Kolektivizem for graphic design etc...

Irwin's reflexive approach on the origin of contemporary art was then overtly politic, even though it was never unequivocal. Indeed, the slight ambiguity conveyed by N.S.K. imagery, triggered a sharpen critical approach for the viewer. With time, it may have become less explicit, but when their work focused on the monochrom painting figure, the ideological approach was still very significant.

When they came back to Hugo Ball and the foundation of Dadaism, the question was still the same : how are aesthetics nurished by ideologies and what is the official discourse? There are many stories about the origin of Dadaism, but the one Irwin is telling us is somewhat unknown. And maybe for this reason, we will tend to think it is the truth. It may be surprising at first : the movement would take its source from orthodox mysticism, as Hugo Ball himself is the author of a book about Dionysius the Areopagite, whose initials produced the mysterious word of Dada.

Through this show, Irwin uses its now well known system of heavy frames that are taking the works out of their usual context, giving space to the viewer's critical approach, from original Dada material to historical orthodox icons and modern icons. Although this time, the collective seems to have more empathy with its material. In fact, as a result of this project, Irwin plans to translate Hugo Ball's "Byzantinisches Christentum. Drei Heiligenleben" for the first time in English, making it accessible to a broader audience. Nonetheless, this new step of the Was Ist Kunst series is shaking the supposedly firm ground of contemporary art history and is maybe more radical than ever.

ELAINE LEVY PROJECT rue Fourmoisstraat, 9 B-1050 Brussels +32 (0) 2 534 77 72 /