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you crack me up! 

with Angélique Aubrit & Ludovic Beillard, Victoria Palacios

at Wouters Gallery, Brussels

opening Saturday March 2, 5-8pm

The curtain opens, revealing a gallery of characters, portrayed by Victoria Palacios in her paintings, and by Angélique Aubrit and Ludovic Beillard in their inaugural performance and installations. On the stage of these distinct dramaturgies, communication is mimed rather than verbalized. The music captured in Palacios’ paintings shifts subsequently into her performances, while Aubrit and Beillard depict mute characters in physical and virtual environments. Their aesthetics converge towards a drowsy masquerade, a collective delirium where masks replace the authenticity of the skin and where death merges with life.

In the angular arenas of her paintings, Palacios’ characters take on the appearance of Harlequins, clowns, musical instruments, and undulating buildings. This entire armada of protagonists is gathering for a grand ball of grotesque figures, embracing their artificiality, consistent with their comedic nature. Strings and hands hold them in place, supporting their limp bodies, their costumes being their only organs. The crimson blood turns brown and takes on shades of columbine, as the characters remain trapped in the powdery and outdated ambiance of their surroundings. This chromatic mix of colours moves from the most impure to the most noble of values - from the defection of a pigeon to that of a lovers’ kiss - giving its name to a character in the commedia dell’arte. Thus was born Columbine, fellow of Harlequin and Pierrot, said to be the first female clown, much to the dismay of the Church. Palacios captures this delicate and viscous world in her spider web-filled images, as if with each stroke of paint pheromones are released, keeping this assembly in a constant state of excitement. Her silk webs radiate and, as they thicken, take on the appearance of worn-out yellowed lace. There’s a taste of the gloomy yet cheerful pictorial lyricism of Franco-Swiss artist Vidya Gastaldon in these velvety, smudged apparitions. A common psychedelia emanates from the expressions of her mystical creatures, mutating into hallucinatory landscapes. In Palacios’ work, the lines curl as if the entire body were laughing, shivering, or dancing in wild abandon. These are all states that run through the tragic and simultaneously comic figure of the clown, both terrifying and endearing, and whom Palacios knows particularly well since her father himself wears the red nose. But the collective agitation of this carnival of souls verges on a fatal epilepsy, rather like the one that drew hundreds of people, 500 years ago in Strasbourg, into a dance of death.

The motif of death equally thrives in the universe of Angélique Aubrit and Ludovic Beillard. At the crossroads of sculpture, dolls, costumes, props, performance and theater, their work constantly shifts from inert objects to living characters. They stem from scenarios, inspired by content popular among millennials, who are in constant search of belief systems and agents of chaos. The narrative guiding their installation “ich glaube wir sollten woanders hingehen” follows a story conceived for the Kunstverein Bielefeld last spring. We find Ed & Al, two teenagers dressed up in alien costumes, imagining themselves high in a house where the corpse of Bob, also represented by a doll, lies. Perhaps an allusion to the American series “Roswell” released in 1999. At the heart of the story are three normal-looking teenagers, two of them aliens, who revive the iconic story of the crash of an alleged flying saucer in New Mexico in 1947. Aubrit and Beillard’s three characters, however, are not concerned with any kind of plausibility. They are carved from solid wood and dressed in velvet, ruffled collars and denim. Yet their attire, which might be mistaken for the dressing gowns that delighted the bourgeois gentlemen of the 19th century, doesn’t quite match the paranormal and youthful world in which they live. Their costumes, made from the same materials as the suspended sculptures, resembling spaceships or levitating hearses, serve as mental vehicles to harmonize their visions. Effects that the artists delight in associating with those of hypnosis or hallucinogenic drugs, excavating strange new narratives from within and beyond, all while disturbing social order. A chaos akin to what Werner Herzog’s film “Heart of Glass” aspired to through the hypnotization of its actors. As in the film, Aubrit and Beillard’s dialogues and gestures gradually fade into aimless stories, into a void embodied by the bewildered and stumbling actors. During the performance inaugurating the exhibition, they maneuver three characters in altered states of consciousness. While Ed enjoys his cosmic journey, Al resists his bad trip, and as he dozes off, they try to revive Bob’s corpse. This theater of living effigies derives its macabre aesthetic from death masks that were customarily made to immortalize the deceased. Performed or not, their characters remain without expression or presence. No one ever truly dies. Which is also the case in the bloody orgies of Jerk - the story, written in 1993 by the master of lubricious gore, Dennis Cooper, involves a real-life serial killer, narrating and animating a puppet theater full of teenagers grappling with existential questions, all the while thirsting for sex and blood.

“That… all this time I’ve been thinking, “They’re cute,’ you know, period. So killing them was like… the big finish. But I realized today that we haven’t… known them at all. Not any of them. So it’s like they’re not ours anymore, not even dead. They got away from us.” – Dennis Cooper, Jerk, 1993.

exhibition text by Lila Torquéo 

March 2 - April 13, 2024

you crack me up! Angélique Aubrit & Ludovic Beillard, Victoria Palacios

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