JEAN ULRICK-DESERT: BELGIAN SOLILOQUY
28 March 2015
Private viewing by appointment 30 March - 17 May 2015
Jean Ulrick-Désert is internationally renown for creating groundbreaking artworks related to specific histories, locations and topics within humanity. He works from a multimedia approach using materials such as public billboards, actions, paintings, site-specific works, video and objects that emerge from a tradition of conceptual-work engaged with social/cultural practices. Well known for his “Negerhosen2000”, his provocative “Burqa Project” and his poetic "Goddess Projects", Désert says his practice can be characterized as visualizing “conspicuous invisibility”.
image: Negerhousen2000, 2001
Digitally printed photography on mylar in light-boxes. Site specific installation, Prater-Insel Munich (later modified for Kunstverein-Wolfsburg, DE, Brooklyn Museum USA, Halle de la Villette Paris FR, Savvy Contemporary Berlin-Neukolln, DE
© Jean-Ulrick Desert
Désert has continued throughout his career to explore the potential history plays in contemporary society. For Platform 102, he has created an unique series of "constellation portraits" and text-based work conceived to provide background and context as a reflection on Belgian colonial history.
The presentation chronicles pivotal moments of destiny by combining visual and literary sources that debate pre/post-colonial identities through celestial references. This creates, in the artist's own words, "dialogue between the analogue and the digital. Science and belief. Concrete and ephemeral. Precise and intuitive."
Deserts installation which the artists has titled "Belgian Soliloquy " represents the subtler aspects of art making which are becoming harder to find in contemporary art, work that is governed by a commitment to ideas, rebellion, aesthetics, and an introspective nature that raises questions and seeks answers.
This exclusive Belgian presentation expands on historical moments through three distinct works that use science, mysticism and poetic intervention to explore historical facts. The works function as a register for cultural implications from a perspective of universal phenomenon. They create new meanings by incorporating traditions, precise timeframes and testimonies that are unified by a common theme that resonates within the space.
image: "Léopold Louis-Philippe Marie Victor de Saxe-Cobourg / Sky above Bruxelles 50°51'N / 4°21'E 9 April 1835 01:30CET "
Pencil and collage on Black Cromático translucent paper (unique)
184 cm x 192 cm over-all dims, 2015© Jean-Ulrick Desert/Platform 102
image: "Full Independence Speech (rendered as a manuscript) Delivered by the Prime Minister (Patrice Lumumba) of the New Nation of Congo on 30 June 1960", 2015 (detail)
46 cm x 64cm each (four panels/signed and embossed)© Jean-Ulrick Desert/Platform 102
Desert is not explicitly commenting on Belgium's colonial past, but uses comparisons in order to better understand a timeline of events through their transformations. By drawing from historical sources and by deconstructing scenarios around concepts of political power and freedom Desert's installation creates a way of engaging with traumatic historical material to better understand the complexities which help developed contemporary Belgium.
Belgian Congo Colonization Timeline (from BBC):
1870s - Belgian King Leopold II sets up a private venture to colonise Kongo.
1874-77 - British explorer Henry Stanley navigates Congo river to the Atlantic Ocean.
1879-87 - Leopold commissions Stanley to establish the king's authority in the Congo basin.
1884 - Stanley convinces the United States Congress to recognize Leopold's control over the Congo.
1884-85 - European powers at the Conference of Berlin recognise Leopold's claim to the Congo basin.
1885 - Leopold announces the establishment of the Congo Free State, headed by himself.
1891-92 - Belgians forces conquer Katanga.
1908 - Belgian state annexes Congo amid protests over killings and atrocities carried out on a mass scale by Leopold's agents. Millions of Congolese are said to have been killed or worked to death during Leopold's control of the territory.
1959 - Belgium begins to lose control over events in the Congo following serious nationalist riots in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa).
1960 June - Congo becomes independent with Patrice Lumumba as prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu as president.
1960 July - Congolese army mutinies; Moise Tshombe declares Katanga independent; Belgian troops sent in ostensibly to protect Belgian citizens and mining interests; UN Security Council votes to send in troops to help establish order, but the troops are not allowed to intervene in internal affairs.
1960 September - Kasavubu dismisses Lumumba as prime minister.
1960 December - Lumumba arrested.
1961 February - Lumumba murdered, reportedly with US and Belgian complicity.