15 February till 27 March 2012
Review by Rosa Juno Streekstra
translation: Jenny Wilson
The house has become a set. The stage for a play where the spectator, as well as the artist himself Matthew Lutz-Kinoy (1984), look on with slight amazement. Whoever walks into SYB during Lutz-Kinoy’s stay will encounter a house full of (half) naked men. Erotic photographs, delicate drawings, intimate paintings and baroque sculptures are combined as in a salon exhibition. They cover the characteristic walls and stand on the floor, the mantelpiece and the windowsill. Vases with tulips can also be found everywhere, and swift watercolour drawings of flowers lie scattered through the space. Finally, three large, colourful and expressionistic paintings are suspended as provisional theatre curtains. It is a strange, eclectic muddle and you’re left asking yourself what you should make of it.
“Sure; we’re talking about pleasure here!” Lutz-Kinoy wrote in his final presentation at the Rijksakademie last year. The American artist is above all a choreographer, of performances in and of the space. Everything is in motion within the new social spaces that he creates. He dances energetically amidst fluently formed sculptures and splashy paintings. His most recent performance “Donna Haraway’s Expanded Benefits Package” for instance, is a complex and aesthetic whole with an activistic undertone. It takes place in a layered combination of studio, gay bar and ‘queer community centre’. Live music is being played and there is dancing. Videos are projected and sculptures are whitewashed. The everyday takes shape as an ultimately cheerful but also critical ensemble. Comparable perhaps with a classical Greek comedy?
On Sunday evening, a week before the final presentation, the work, which it’s all about, took place within the set at SYB. An unusual gathering. During dinner we, local villagers as well as people from outside, collectively read Aristophanes’ “The Wasps”, a classical comedy about Bdelycleon who tries to get his father Philocleon – addicted to administering justice not realising that he works merely as a slave for the tyrant, Cleon – to enjoy his life again. “I will feed you well, will take you everywhere to eat and drink with me; you shall go to every feast; henceforth your life shall be nothing but pleasure”. “A Dinner Theater” is a running project by artists Max Pitegoff and Calla Henkel whose work, just as that of Lutz-Kinoy, often deals with (the creation of) social identity. The situation is ridiculous; while we’re enjoying a delicious meal we’re sitting neatly in a triangle around a kneeling, naked man, of bronze that is. Reading aloud one by one, everyone keeps their eyes tensely focused on the text in front of them. It lacks verve. But, on paper when a choir starts to sing, our voices also merge into the space of Kunsthuis SYB.
But what about the strange set? While Lutz-Kinoy was looking into the possibilities of a collaboration at SYB, he came across the Groningen gallery MooiMan, advocating ‘gay men’s art’. Curious, he invited them to furnish SYB. It has become a wonderful ode to the male body. But neatly framed, all these images of posing men lead to a rather static and one-sided entirety. What a big difference with Lutz-Kinoy’s own work. He focuses on the marginal; the (cultural) shifting or identity that won’t allow itself to be pinned down and as such remains dynamic. This also translates into a more abstract form. A huge elongated painting of his hand hangs in SYB’s narrow corridor. A blue sea of moving lines. Strongly subversive, as the size is so absurd and impossible that it no longer fits into an accepted or rigid concept.
It seems that during his work (or rather thought) process at SYB, Lutz-Kinoy eventually tried to subtly undermine or revive the traditional presentation that has come into being. With flowers and through several ‘lousy’ interventions. A piece of painted canvas lies half crumpled on a table, the stanley knife on top. A broom handle leaning against the wall functions as a push pin for a print of the renowned photo of Brancusi’s studio (“sculptures performing for the camera”). Proofs of pages from Lutz-Kinoy’s publication, “The Documentary Style” (2011), about “the real” in documentary photography have been cheekily stuck behind a few frames. As footnotes. The artist has clearly taken pleasure in constructing these banal, disorderly still lifes. Another joke: “BLA BLA SYB” says a poster hung outside, functioning as a sign. It is a reference to the magazine ,“Bla Bla”, which, so Lutz-Kinoy had read, was published in the 1960’s by the activistic Frisian art movement “De Bende van de Blauwe Hand” (The Gang of the Blue Hand). He often works with similar ‘homages’ and art historical references. Two of the large paintings of his hand have actually been made on the pages of the art magazine, De Witte Raaf. Another for that matter on a local newspaper, De Woudklank. Is this contrast a coincidental one, or a conscious analysis of the unusual context?
A group of women walk by and see the drawings in the windowsill. “Is that the naked man?” they ask giggling as their eyes fall on the artist. Perhaps they think they’re self portraits. They haven’t understood, but they are in fact right. The residency is an artistic self-examination in which the artist does expose himself, a little bit. How do people look at me and my work in this totally different context? Lutz-Kinoy asked himself. And how can I interpret this? That was the challenge, and it certainly provided him with inspiration.
At the very last moment before the final presentation a video arrives by digital means. It is a short loop by the artist Ola Vasiljeva, who Lutz-Kinoy regularly collaborates with, featuring a dancing couple against a wavy background. And ‘coincidentally’, Lutz-Kinoy is also in the video, sitting on a sofa, legs crossed, looking on. This way he still physically appears on stage, and the manner in which is symbolic for his role at SYB. He’s not the eccentric dancer here, but rather a spectator of his own work and of the social situation created in the space he has set up in collaboration with others.
A sparkling, effervescent performance however, was not to be at SYB. The walls of this house get in the way. But those who went through the script again at home discovered on the last page (which we never actually reached) that there was some dancing after all. Even the judgemental man eventually surrenders himself to pleasure.
CHORUS [..] Twist, twirl, tap your bellies, kick your legs to the sky.