A ghost is haunting the world – the ghost of capitalism.
(Don De Lillo, Cosmopolis)
The ghost and 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’.
In UNITITLED, three large inflatables made up the shining performative set in which man vanishes. At the same time, they were a peculiar presence that expressed violence and danger. Differences in lighting made the appearance of the material – sparkling sequins – change from metal to disco glitter. Flashing light, the nothingness inflating itself with loud creaking and booming. For the IN VOID installation circuit, Kris Verdonck elaborated on these inflatable sculptures to form an autonomous installation. BOGUS II – 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. It grows and then shrinks until it fits back into the box it came from. The birth and disappearance of a twinkling sculpture; this is the ultimate magic. The name BOGUS II is also reminiscent of the word ‘bogey’, an evil spirit, a source of fear; BOGUS II is a materialisation of the false ghosts that pursue us.
The aggression of scale
The form of BOGUS II lies somewhere between concrete and abstract. The sequin material itself also hesitates between the ghastly and the festive. This kinetic sculpture has organic forms and ways of moving that remind us of the drawings by the biologist Ernst Haeckel, but they cannot be categorised. BOGUS II is out of proportion, however. The size of this inflatable sculpture reminds us of the statues on Easter Island, the Moai. Some analyses link the size of these Moai to the decline of the civilisation 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
As a part of the IN VOID installation circuit, BOGUS II is one of the variations on the human absence that is the thread running through the circuit. In a world from which man has disappeared, this installation occupies the space as an autonomous performer. It is a sculpture that inflates itself until it reaches a disturbing and unnatural size and then again retreats to its starting point. It is a mutating creature which, although it looks like it is breathing, remains a body without a core. It is unclear how the sculpture works. This, together with the size and ambiguous material, makes BOGUS II a sinister – ghostly – creature. In our Western society, objects are increasingly coming alive. We still stick to the division between living people and dead objects, while hybrid figures are to be found in our pockets and shoulder-bags. In this way, the installation fits into Kris Verdonck’s broader study of performative objects that reflects on the impact of technology and our relations with things. BOGUS II is part of this quest for living objects. The huge and at the same time compact thing called BOGUS II symbolises 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.