From September 8 to November 11, 2012, the Kunstverein Hannover presents »visual fictions«, the first solo presentation in Germany of works by Hans Op de Beeck (born 1969, lives in Brussels). It features a compilation of films, drawings, sculptures and installations spanning the period from 1998 to the present. His multifaceted oeuvre focuses on atmospheric stagings that produce striking moments between wakeful-ness and dream.
The Belgian artist’s pictorial worlds create the illusion of a familiar reality and yet seem remotely alien at the same time, pointing to their artificiality and constructedness. In their structural ambiguity and detached coolness, the depictions conceived by Op de Beeck manifest themselves between memory and vision as critical reflections on our social present. The visually overwhelming works, which have an inherently calm, melancholic or dark, uncanny component, blurs the boundaries between artistic placement and subjective projection. They stimulate the flow of associations and become theatrical stagings of personal or filmic memories.
The exhibition opens with the model-like installation »Location (1)« (1998), which also represents the start of a continuously growing series of works dealing with fictional places and spaces. A deserted intersection lined by barren trees and frozen canals and animated solely by the rhythmically changing traffic lights is at the center of this nocturnal scenario. Op de Beeck juxtaposes the potential filmic associations revolving around the motif of the uncanny and the dangerous with a grotesque situation that makes the principles of road traffic appear absurd.
The accessible monumental installation »Location (7)» (2011), which was first shown in 2011 at the 54th Venice Biennale, depicts a further nocturnal stage-like situation. Upon entering a deserted private apart-ment that has been modeled on a scale of 1:1, the viewer’s attention is drawn to a barren backyard gar-den. Surrounded by a concrete fence, relicts of a garden party can be found alongside an illuminated fountain that nearly takes up the entire garden: An ambivalent image is revealed: numerous utensils loca-ted indoors and outdoors awake the impression that they were only recently still filled with life, but they gray hue blanketing everything causes the scenario to appear petrified and artificial.
Op de Beeck again takes up the motif of festivity suggested in »Location (7)« (2011) by the fairy lights, tables and empty bottles as the remnants of a garden party in the filmic works »Celebration (1)« (2008) and »All together now« (2005) auf. In a slow-moving tracking shot »All together now« (2005) shows close-ups of three dinner parties at such classic occasions as weddings, birthdays and bereavements, drawing the viewer’s attention to the labile balance of interpersonal relationships.
Hans Op de Beeck visualizes the representative appearance of festivities in »Celebration (1)« (2008) based on a sole scene in which an elaborately decorated table is surrounded by a flock of servants in the middle of a barren landscape. The inconclusive waiting for the invited guests tragicomically presents the failure of a meticulously planned party. The expansive installation »Table (1)« (2006) again takes up the aspect of the festive dinner party. A long coffee table bathed in radiant bright light and white with loosely arranged chairs has been enlarged one and a half times. The viewer is returned to the time of his childhood, when the environment and his own physical measurements were not in the same scale. Op de Beeck generates a state of memory in an unreal situation between dream and reality.
The artist deals with the mechanisms of perception in the play with proportions in the black-and-white film »Staging Silence« (2009). Miniature backdrops with everyday items arranged by practiced hands are raised and taken down in rapid succession: glistening skyscrapers are formed out of thermos bottles; noc-turnal street canyons are transformed into deserted corridors. Uninhabited spaces and places are set in motion by means of the hands and a perfect cineaste illusion as well as its deconstruction is constantly produced.
Like at the beginning, at the conclusion of the exhibition, Hans Op de Beeck combines scenes of upheaval and motion with a state of standstill at the conclusion of the exhibition. The 30-minute film »Sea of Tranqui-lity« (2010) describes in undercooled images the frictionless life in a cultivated society that has fulfilled its luxurious material wishes and finds itself in an existential void. The site is a seemingly futuristic cruise ship, a swimming shopping mall with all-round service in which everything that makes up travelling is eliminated. While the passengers enjoy exquisite meals in the board restaurant or have themselves altered by means of cosmetic surgery, the many members of the crew carve out a spartan existence. The combination of film and 3D computer animation underscores the artificiality of this hermetic world and paints the picture of a society that grown alienated.
Op de Beeck’s whole oeuvre is founded on the play with illusion and the staging of atmospheric situations. These appear so convincing that they are apparently recognized as a familiar reality and yet simultane-ously demonstrate that they are nothing more than Potemkin villages.