exhibition

guido van der werve, the clouds are more beautiful from above
19 Nov - 31 Dec 2006

Opening: 18 November 5 – 7 p.m., Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, Rozenstraat 59.

‘Number Six’ (duration 18 minutes) couples Van der Werve’s characteristically sombre narrative with romantic classical music, and ‘Number Seven’ charts an experiment in which a rocket is used to shoot a meteorite back into space. Both films are concerned with ardent ambition that is doomed to failure.

From his earliest first films, Van der Werve has navigated the fine line between film and visual art. What began by registering performances in which Van der Werve himself figured as romantic underdog, gradually evolved into a small oeuvre of short films with the artist as protagonist. His work is heavily tinged with barbed irony, absurdism and inflated romanticism. This is amply illustrated by the film ‘Number Two’ which shows Van der Werve being run down by a car. When the police van arrives, five ballerinas step out and a wide-angled shot shows them dancing to the accompaniment of Corelli's Christmas Concert in a depressing suburb of Papendrecht. It could hardly be any more sentimental.

The theme of ‘Number Six (Steinway grand piano, wake me up to go to sleep and all the colors of the rainbow’) is the longing to become a great artist. The vehicle of this yearning is a Steinway concert grand piano, an instrument that radiates artistic mastery if only by virtue of its price tag. A dry exposé of the history of Steinway underpins the idea. The apotheosis is even more grotesque when the concert piano is actually hauled into the student bedsit where a public concert of Chopin’s Romance is given. The dream ends when the concert piano is hoisted out and all that remains is the projection of a rainbow on the wall, as a glowing after-image of lost hope. It is Van der Werve's longest film to date.

Van der Werve’s work is infused with hyperbole. Hard-edged cynicism, coupled with almost slapstick elements like falling down, getting run over, defeatism, are pitted against an overwhelming romanticism that, with the rainbow, Chopin music and ballerinas garbed in creamy white, transcends the cliché. There are certainly intimations that Van der Werve derives inspiration from the work of Bas Jan Ader, the romantic who died all too young, and his films of falling and romantic musical compositions, and even the dry yet scrupulously lucent visual jokes of René Magritte.

However, his restrained film style, and use of 35mm format, is more akin to cinema and in his cartoonesque storylines, Van der Werve is indubitably a child of the soap opera generation. With sparse words and suggestive backdrops, landscapes and music, Van der Werve manages, with apparent simplicity, to evoke convincing, powerful moods. And this is what the artist is striving to achieve, in a singular yet technically fluent blend of self-deprecation, absurdism and astonishment.

Guido van der Werve (Papendrecht, 1977) completed his studies at the Rietveld Academie in 2003 and is currently participating in the residency programme at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam. His films are regularly screened in exhibitions and at film festivals. In 2003 he was the laureate of the René Coelho Award (Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo/TBA). In 2004 he was nominated for the NPS prize for short film, and in 2005 for the Prix de Rome.

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The exhibition is accompanied by the free SMBA Newsletter #95 (NL / EN) with an essay by Douglas Heingartner.