The Dutch artist Guido van der Werve (b. 1977, Papendrecht) is presenting at Kunsthalle Basel films produced between 2003 and 2007. His carefully staged films usually revolve around events that break through the course of time and everyday routine. They take up such themes as melancholy, the romanticized figure of the creative artist, and the uncontrollable quantity of chance and link them to the rational thought processes of classical music. The dreamlike sequences with several protagonists are repeatedly interrupted by the artist’s slapstick-like actions or by unexpected events. A preoccupation with the movement of falling and with physical inferiority in terms of gravity brings van der Werve’s actions close to the conceptual work of Bas Jan Ader, who, in his search for the “miraculous” in the 1970s, thematized both the heroic and comic failures of artists and human beings (for example, in the films Fall 1 and Fall 2, 1970 and in his final, unfinished project: In Search of the Miraculous, 1975).
Like Ader’s, van der Werve’s approach is performance-oriented and often demands great physical commitment. The artist places himself in risky situations for his works, with dangers from natural elements such as water (like the sea, where Ader was lost in his one-man boat in 1975), which stand for alienation from society or a striving for deeper human truths. This is particularly clear in his two most recent films (both from 2007). Nummer acht: everything is going to be alright shows van der Werve crossing the frozen Gulf of Finland, followed by a meter-high icebreaker that splits the ice behind him dangerously. For nummer negen: the day I didn’t turn with the world, the artist stood on the point in the Arctic around which the Earth rotates and turned in the opposite direction for twenty-four hours.
Van der Werve titles his films, which can take as long as a year to produce, with numbers. The titles, nummer twee to nummer negen (Number two to number nine), refer to an ongoing project by the artist. The films are divided into several chapters that can refer to chapters in other works within the series. This spring, the films came together into a comprehensive publication titled nummer tien: works 2003–2007, which includes stills from all of van der Werve’s films.
The numbering of his works can be understood in relation to musical notes or to the titles of classical compositions by Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Mozart. For van der Werve, who studied classical piano, classical music is an important element he employs in his films as to suggest narrative. The classical pieces can exist at the beginning of the film as an idea and lend the scenes a poetic, even emotionally charged atmosphere. The pathos that results from the music is repeatedly interrupted, however; for example, when the artist, at the end of his film nummer vier: I don’t want to get involved in this, I don’t want to be part of this, talk me out of it, in which, among other things, he is seen playing piano on a raft in a lake, suddenly falls from the sky into a river. In nummer zes: Steinway grand piano. Wake me up to go to sleep and all the colors of the rainbow, which tells the story of the Steinway Piano Company, in the course of the narrative, a Steinway grand piano is transported by crane from the street into the artist’s apartment, where he plays a concerto by Frédéric Chopin accompanied by a symphony orchestra.
At Kunsthalle Basel, Guido van der Werve will present his films numbered two to nine under the title On parity of days. The films change daily: On even-numbered days, numbers two, four, and six will be shown. On odd-numbered days, numbers three, seven, and nine. Like a fixed point, nummer acht: everything is going to be alright will be projected constantly in the middle of the exhibition. By changing the films, the artist is thematizing his conceptual approach to the perception and calculation of time and rejects the daily sameness of conventional exhibition presentations. The visitors will see a different exhibition depending on the date of their visit. They are, however, given the opportunity to return the following day with the same ticket to view the other configuration of films. By employing this exhibition concept, the artist is also focusing on the main motif in his works: fascination with both the predictable and the unexpected events of life.
Online review and video of the opening at Vernissage-TV
Guido van der Werve (b. 1977, Papendrecht, the Netherlands). Currently lives and works in New York in the frame of The International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) as well as in Amsterdam.
Solo exhibitions (selection):
2008: Monitor Video&Contemporary Art, Rom; Museum De Hallen, Haarlem / 2007: Volkskrant beeldende kunst prijs, Centraal Museum, Utrecht; The clouds are more beautiful from above, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland Oregon, USA / 2006: The clouds are more beautiful from above, Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam; Juliette Jongma Gallery, Amsterdam / 2005: I don’t want to get involved in this, Muu Gallery, Helsinki.
Group exhibitions (selection):
2008: The young artists biennial, Bucharest; T2 – Torino Triennale, Torino; MANIFESTA 7, Trentino, South Tyrol; Paraisos Indomitos/Untamed Paradises, MARCO, Vigo and CAAC, Sevilla / 2007: 100 days = 100 videos, Kunstforeningen GL Strand, Copenhagen; Open Studios, Rijksakademie van beelndende kunsten, Amsterdam; Art Summer University, Tate Modern, London / 2006: Stop! Who is coming?, Moscow Museum of Modern Art at Petrovka, Moscow; Halle für Kunst eV, Lüneburg.