Jonas Wijtenburg | Setting/Unsetting/Resetting
Jonas Wijtenburg, Setting/Unsetting/Resetting, 2020
Installation shot © Rob Moonen Courtesy PARK Tilburg
By Lieselotte Egtberts
Work in process
At PARK I met artist Jonas Wijtenburg and his assistant Arno Westerberg with their hands full of wet plaster. It is five days before the opening of Setting/Unsetting/Resetting, and the PARK exhibition space looks like a construction site. Here, things are happening, changing, and developing. Wijtenburg was granted to start work in the exhibition space at the end of January 2020. This is well in time for the vernissage of his solo show. At the time of my visit, the space is already filled by an immense, open construction that is made out of beams supported by steel. This architectural addition is a wooden framework-like structure through which one can walk.
In the corner of the room, I notice ceramic, classical looking heads that are supported by the same materials as the architectural structure. The sculptured heads were produced recently while Wijtenburg was an Artist in Residence at the European Ceramic Work Centre in Oisterwijk. All the sculptures resemble a similar pose, yet appear different at first glance. They all refer to one original head Jonas Wijtenburg told me. This ‘original’ was found by Wijtenburg in an online museum’s database and it originated from a now-lost Greek statue. It was, via a Roman copy, conserved by a museum in both a physical and in a digital collection. Jonas Wijtenburg constructed a mold of the digital head and created several ceramic replicas that are variations on the original.
A modular approach
Wijtenburg stresses the importance of the ‘structure’ or the ‘context’ in which a work is created and presented. Every time this context changes, the object or its experience is affected. In the case of the ceramic heads, the prepared mold served as this ‘structure’. Wijtenburg adapted the original mold in plural ways. For instance, through the use of materials, color, or sculptural intervention.
While speaking to the artist, I noticed a big cooking pot standing in the room. It seems to me that this pot was there temporary and that it was to be removed later. The pot sparks a referential connection to Marcel Broodthaers’ Grand Casserole de Moules (cooking pot with mussels). In this work, the artist played with the French word ‘la/le moule’, which means both ‘mussel’ and ‘mold’. The idea of an experience-defining ‘mold’, could also be thought of differently. Institutions, like museums, also shape the way we look at presented objects. This often results in a ‘white cube’, a space with as few distractions as possible. The structure in which the artworks are presented is made invisible. In Setting/Unsetting/Resetting Jonas Wijtenburg does the contrary. By presenting a large wooden construction that carries the whole exhibition he exposes the support for the artworks. The artist, therefore, calls his work ‘modular’, highlighting the interchangeable nature of his production.
What is interesting in the work of Wijtenburg, is that this emphasis on modularity connects to an intellectual as well as a practical level. The open system that he presents, is both a paradigm and a physical translation of this. Together we walk in the structure and past the visible screws. The formal language of these fasteners is functional, but at the same time arbitrary. Everything looks like it could be changed at any moment, just like an institution or an individual has to be prepared for an always-changing world. The artists’ ideas of creating possibilities become clear and tangible.
At PARK, the light comes in from high-up windows. It enhances the way the wooden frame, and the sculptures stand out in the white, bright space. Where an art institute would disguise, Jonas Wijtenburg chooses to highlight.
Jonas Wijtenburg Setting/Unsetting/Resetting
Until 01.03 2020
Venue: PARK, Tilburg
Website: Jonas Wijtenburg