Sometimes cold and distant can be interesting too: ‘Radical autonomy’ at Netwerk

And once in a while, there isn’t much to say, really. You walk through an exhibition, you take it all in, and you leave. No: you do the tour again, right away, because you’re wondering why nothing is happening. You feel no wonder, no puzzlement, no excitement, no questions popping up in your mind. You read the brochure and you nod, because now you get all the concepts as well. But still. And then the exhibition nevertheless becomes interesting. You start questioning your taste, your opinion on art, even art in general. Or what happened yesterday, as I visited the opening of Radical autonomy at Netwerk (Aalst; through June 19).

Radical autonomy – nieuwe werelden van niks is a sequel to an exhibition at Le Grand Café (Saint-Nazaire; France). It was set up by Netwerk (center for contemporary art) in collaboration with Sophie Legrandjacques (Le Grand Café) and Arno van Roosmalen (Stroom, Den Haag). It features 15 artists sharing a conceptual approach and a minimal design, influenced by conceptual art, Fluxus and Zero. It presents radically autonomous works, not wanting ‘to serve a (art) theoretical or a political discourse’ or ‘to cause an effect’.

Let’s say I have my questions about that so-called autonomy, but apart from that, the exhibition comprises work of a couple of interesting artists, such as Edith Dekyndt, Joëlle Tuerlinckx (new work Ensemble pour The Single Pixel), Navid Nuur and Ryan Gander (both participating in the Illuminations exhibition at the Venice Biennale, 2011) and Karla Black, representing Scotland at the Venice Biennale.

As I pointed out already, conceptual art rules in this exhibition. And I fear it’s that minimalism that in the end takes its toll. However different those works of art may be, they nevertheless sort of echo each other in silence, nodding in agreement. Nothing wrong with that, in a certain sense. But I could have done with a little bit more warmth, contrast and tension.

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