exhibition

20/20 vision
16 May - 3 Oct 2004

With the artists: Yesim Akdeniz Graf, Francis Alÿs, Marc Bijl, Germaine Kruip, Steve McQueen, Mathias Poledna, De Rijke/De Rooij and Torbjørn Rødland.

20/20 Vision is the first of a series exhibitions with contemporary art to be seen in our new location Stedelijk Museum CS.

The responsibility of the museum for drawing attention to current developments and spotlighting young artists of international importance will be given extra emphasis in Stedelijk Museum CS. ‘20/20 Vision’ takes a fresh look at the future from the perspective of the Museum’s new environment on the Oosterdokskade. It brings together recent work by eight artists, most of whom have never before shown in the Stedelijk.

The exhibition examines several unusual artistic positions that throw light on the relations between visual art and the wider field of visual culture. Links among the works are the reflection on modernity, the relation to popular culture and the experience of the city. In a sometimes critical, sometimes light-footed manner the artworks in this exhibition try to make the visual conventions of our time transparent, in order to clarify the social/political, cultural reality behind their outward manifestations. 

The young painter Yesim Akdeniz Graf (b. Turkey, 1978) combines traditional genres of painting such as interiors and landscapes with computer graphics and the logos of Adidas and Paul Smith. In her paintings the environment of the future is a question of digitisation and branding.

Francis Alÿs (b. Antwerp, 1959) locates his work in the streets of Mexico City, which he explores as a contemporary flaneur. His wanderings through the city form the basis for his work. His video installationCantos Patrioticos links the local tradition of mariachi music with a centuries-old children’s game.

In his actions, installations, videos and sculpturesMarc Bijl (b. Leerdam, 1973) focuses on the symbols of mass culture, religion and politics. He relates to the myths of nationalism and globalism in a critical manner. In doing so he uses guerrilla-like tactics and visual elements borrowed from punk, gothic culture and anarchism.

Germaine Kruip (b. Castricum, NL, 1970) moves on the interface of visual art and theatre. Kruip creates temporary situations with which she guides the gaze of the audience. With the assistance of the theatre group Mosquito with the Golden Tooth she has made a new performative work for the opening of SMCS. In it the relation between inside and outside plays a central role.

In his work Steve McQueen (b. London, 1969) investigates very diverse visual traditions, particularly from cinema. In ‘20/20 Vision’ he will be showing Once upon a time. This installation shows the 116 images that NASA sent into space in 1977 with Voyager II as representative of mankind. This purportedly ‘objective’ picture of life on earth is accompanied by a meditative soundtrack of voices that speak in trance.

Mathias Poledna (b. Vienna, 1965) focuses on forgotten moments from the history of popular culture in his film installations. He stages situations that might possibly once have occurred in the era far before the videoclip and P2P. In Western Recordingthat is the 1969 recording of the number City Life by the singer-composer Harry Nilsson in a famous Los Angeles studio.

In his work the photographer Torbjørn Rødland (b. Norway, 1970) focuses on the landscape and other subjects that have a long tradition in the visual arts, but which as a result of popular media and the ubiquitous visual culture appear to have lost their meaning and degenerated into clichés. Rødland’s gaze is both critical and ironic, and intended to draw connections between the Romantic visual tradition and contemporary culture.

The film Bantar Gebang by De Rijke/De Rooij (b. Brouwershaven, NL, 1970/ Beverwijk, NL, 1969) shows a ten-minute-long image of a shantytown on the edge of Jakarta. The image, however realistic and harrowing, is strongly defined by the formal aspects of light, colour and composition. It calls up a tension between the ethical and aesthetic dimensions of the image and poses the question of ‘beauty’ in looking at deep misery. As a counterweight to the overkill of quick and superficial media images, De Rijke/De Rooij demand attention and time for the complexity of the cinematic image. 

In the double issue of the Stedelijk Museum Bulletin (nr. 2/3) for the opening there is extensive coverage of '20/20 Vision', with an introduction by Leontine Coelewij, curator for the exhibition, and discussions of the artists by various authors (Dut/Eng). 

With thanks to the Mondriaan Foundation, The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture and the Office for Contemporary Art, Norway.