As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said: You can only see what you already know and understand. There are probably more incomprehensible than comprehensible phenomena between heaven and earth, and it is in this in-between, the known and the unknown that artists Roel Stels and Bart Ramakers operate.
At first sight, no two artists are more different from each other. Roel is a maker, a constructor, a do-it-yourself engineer who starts with a concept and, like a true craftsman, works it out entirely in three or more dimensions, in tangible materials such as wood, steel, glass, aluminium, etc. He transforms crosses into anti-tank barriers, teeth into prayers, symbols and objects change meaning in an instant and in the blink of an eye. Bart, on the other hand, has two left hands. He is a storyteller, depicting modern variants of old mythological themes in photographed scenes, with double meanings and winks. He sometimes makes forays into video and sculpture, but always returns to photography, where he indulges in chiaroscuro and theatricality.
What the two men have in common is that they look at the world with concern and long for a dose of magic to restore the balance. The balance between man and society, man and woman, culture and nature, rich and poor, identity and solidarity. This will not work without magic: the existing recipes are worn out and the imagination of this society is impoverished. Smoke & Mirrors is a large-scale appeal to your imagination. With a broad overview of their respective works, Roel Stels and Bart Ramakers show that everything is possible; you just have to dream it and it exists.
The Smoke and Mirrors exhibition includes all the Automatons for a New World built so far, and the two artists have added two new ‘world-changing machines’ especially for this occasion. It all starts from the fact that a new world is needed more than ever, but that politicians, financiers and businessmen are not doing anything about it. Although it can’t be that difficult: a better education, more means for those who work in health care, the necessary climate measures, and a little less financial inequality, that’s it.
Bart Ramakers and his companions have decided that only machines can achieve this, since they do not suffer from ego, interference or conflict of interest. In the Automatons for a New World series, you’ll discover: the Conformaton, which turns desperate social cases into decent citizens; the Escarbot, which allows you to stay completely in your own universe without being confronted with reality; the AE-Life machine, which keeps you young forever; the Oracolodelphinario, which asks life’s fundamental questions for you; the Y.O.L.O.-Sentimat, which allows you to realise your childhood dreams after all; and many other extremely indispensable machines. (https://www.bartramakers.com/fr/autopia-fr/)
Especially for this Smoke and Mirrors exhibition, Bart and Roel have designed the Hard Candy Creation Contraption, which allows you to create jewel children (no education needed) and the Imagin’AirChair, which allows you to experience your 15 minutes of fame (before leaving the earthly valley of tears).
Bart Ramakers & Roel Stels : Smoke and Mirrors
from 9 July to 28 August
62-64, Lier (Belgium)
every Thursday-Sunday from 2 to 6 pm.