A ghost is haunting the world – the ghost of capitalism.
(Don De Lillo, Cosmopolis)
The invisible hand
Is what we see really what it seems? Since quantum physics first emerged, scientists have been discovering particles that are not what they seem. They are able to be there and not be there at the same time. Everyday things such as smartphones and social media are not always what we think they are either. This may surprise us, but also profoundly disturb us. Objects become intangible, their function and properties escape us. It is not only what they do, but also what they are worth, that is increasingly a mystery. Their market value appears to be the consequence solely of speculation and no longer the value of the raw materials themselves. Despite the warnings given by numerous crises, speculation still leads to bubbles and crashes. The unbridled urge for growth and profit is like a ghost that continues to pursue our governments, industries and our own minds. In his book The Spectre of Capital, the German literary academic Joseph Vogl wrote: ‘If there is an invisible hand at work, it is most certainly malevolent’.
The series BOGUS I-II-III consists of three variation on the same principle: each time enormous inflatable sculptures, made out of the black fabric characteristic of the theatre. These automated inflatable sculptures appear and disappear again into their respective boxes. Together, the three installations form a landscape of performative objects. Is this a post-apocalyptic environment, after the end of humanity, when machines have continued without us and have taken proportions we couldn’t have imagined up until now? Or are these sculptures an image of the alienation, the violence and the spectrality of a society in which everything has been turned into a commmodified disposable?
The BOGUS sculptures give shape to air, to the nothingness inflating itself with loud creaking and booming. BOGUS – a synonym for ‘fake’ – has a mysterious, ghostlike appearance. It is founded on an extensive study of materials and research into the dynamics of inflatable sculptures. The black theatre fabric generates at the same a sculpture and a shadow, a dark matter, a void in space. The birth and disappearance of a dark sculpture; this is the ultimate magic. The name BOGUS is also reminiscent of the word ‘bogey’, an evil spirit, a source of fear; the BOGUS series are a materialization of the false ghosts that pursue us.
The aggression of scale
The shape of the BOGUS series lies somewhere between concrete and abstract. BOGUS II and III have organic forms and ways of moving that remind us of the drawings by the biologist Ernst Haeckel. In a nonhuman choreography, they grow out of the ceiling and crawl back into it. BOGUS I is more industrial and geometric. The size of these inflatable sculptures reminds us of the statues on Easter Island, the Moai. Some analyses link the size of these Moai to the decline of the civilization on Easter Island. In a dispute, two tribes competed in building the largest sculptures, and to transport them they needed substantial amounts of wood. In the end, all the island’s trees had been felled and this led to scantier food supplies, starvation, mass mortality and cannibalism. The story of Easter Island is emblematic of a society that destroys itself by overexploitation and an excessive urge for ‘bigger and better’ in a struggle for superiority. The Moai represent the beauty of destruction, but their story warns us against repeating this on a global scale. Which harmful ‘gods’ do we in the West worship? Endless growth and external appearances often end up with the reverse. Size and aggression here go hand in hand.
A variation on absence and performative objects
The BOGUS series is presented parallel to Kris Verdonck’s performance SOMETHING (out of nothing). There as well, various inflatable sculptures form a landscape in which the human no longer has a place. BOGUS is part of larger research into the coming absence of humankind, which forms a red thread throughout Verdonck’s recent work. In a world from which man has disappeared, these installations occupy the space as autonomous performers. They are mutating creatures which, although it looks like they are breathing, remain bodies without a core. It is unclear how the sculptures work. This, together with the size and ambiguous material, makes the BOGUS installations into uncanny creatures. They are monuments to what the downfall of man might mean: the urge for more, the fascination with wealth and glamour, giving rise to the formation of bubbles which, when they burst, reveal where these reckless desires lead: nowhere.