ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS & REVIEWS
Marie-Sophie Beinke - 2022 - High Precision [EN, review]
About High Precision and Unsightly Progressions
A few words following an exhibition by Marie-Sophie Beinke
I am visiting LLS Paleis in Antwerp for a solo exhibition with new works by Marie-Sophie Beinke (°1990). The title of the exhibition is: 'Können Sie das bitte buchstabieren?' (Could you spell it please.) It is reminiscent of the request of a civil servant, for whom the authenticity of your existence coincides with the spelling of your name. In German the word 'Sie' is a polite form of language, which, when used by civil servants, might be associated with a democratic society. Beinke tells me that the word 'Buchstabieren' in German has a broader meaning than the English word 'spell'. Thus the title invites the visitor to formulate findings. The exhibition aims to open a conversation.
In my opinion, all the important questions revolve around the concept of freedom. Whether it concerns political, scientific, moral or artistic matters, a form of habitual thinking, a canon or a paradigm must always be overcome in order to arrive at experimental and effective action or thought. What is freedom? For Proust, it required eliminating a blind way of seeing, a break from routine thinking. For others, it was about embracing your unchanging nature (Spinoza) or fate (Nietzsche). But where are you if you have understood this? You remember that for Popper, democracy is the form of government that can best save us from a dictatorship. But how do you give shape in your own life to such a multifaceted approach, to a postponement of the so-called 'understanding', to a healthy distrust of the norms and forms that are imposed on you and which gradually paralyze you, consolidated by your own laziness and cowardice?
Artists are not freer than other people. But sometimes they dare to behave more freely. In that sense, they are more loyal to who they are or to the person they want to become. They dream of a freedom that consists in being closer to themselves. And even though this 'self' is largely immutable, it creates a kind of breathing space, an individual train of thought, a deviant action and, if they're lucky, a series of fascinating traces.
We enter an elongated, rectangular space to which five traces have been added. Two vertical traces have been positioned in the center of the room. They are transportable prison cells that rest on small wheels. The door of the first cell is ajar, the door of the second one is wide open. The doors are located on the inside of the room, creating a corridor between the cells, invisible. Before we enter this corridor, we see a explanatory text on the wall on the left, signed by the curator Stella Lohaus, in which the meaning is questioned of texts that accompany exhibitions. Such texts, it reads, get in between the artwork and the physical experience of the spectator. The text seems printed, but if you look closely, you can see that the letters are painted with a brush. So it is not really a room text, but a painting.
In recent decades, the misconception arose that museum exhibitions are not complete without texts on the walls. Learned managers deem this necessary to lure enough people to finance the museums, which, in their opinion, should cost nothing. By including this painted replica of an explanatory text, Beinke briefly kneels, so that her eager opponent, propelled by his, her or their own ungainly weight, tumbles over her.
Previously Beinke made paintings that consisted solely of canvas and painted letters. They represented enlarged title cards of paintings, as we find them in museums: 'Mutter und Kind, 2021, Öl auf Leinwand, 63 x 90 cm'. Beinke explains that these works arose from the wish to create paintings that escape expectations. (They are the result of attempts to make paintings that don't resemble a painting.) At the same time, she tries to evoke images without actually depicting them. For me, these paintings indicate the boundaries within which painters were previously expected to work. Their themes were fixed. As a result, painters began to amuse themselves with the texture of the painting: they tampered with the composition, played with the appropriate figures, they searched for new technical solutions. The freedom showed itself in the way the fixed theme was given shape.
The prison cells are beautifully welded, with minimal weld seams. The hinges are of great simplicity and elegance. They have remained angular (they were not rounded). The iron is beautifully black, except in the few spots where a thick weld seam has been sanded away. The cells appear to contain a kind of chair. They rest on small wheels that can be clamped. I ask Beinke where their design comes from. She says she has found similar cells on the Internet, where they are offered for sale. It's a scary thought to know that you can buy portable cells on wheels for versatile use. Who would buy those things? Beinke also says that for years she had two photos of such cells in the studio, on the wall, because she hoped to be able to base paintings on them. Finally, she decided to build cells herself.
The spatial arrangement of the exhibition is of a very high precision. On the wall at the back right we find, as a spatial pendant to the painted text at the front left, a nail from which a string with pencil dangles. A readymade that Beinke found in her studio, where she had hung a pencil because she wanted to be able to note down an idea quickly. A circle was drawn on the wall with the pencil. A ball soaked in paint has landed somewhere on the perimeter. I can tell by the shape of the red spot and the splashes. And indeed, a few yards away, I find an almost invisible line on the floor from where the ball was thrown. The circle was the target. The red spot on the wall is a minimal spatial intervention, a minimal painting, a mark, the trace of a meditative event.
In the next room, largely covered with square light blue tiles, we find floating above the floor, on one side resting on a self-welded elegant black iron base, a light blue diving board, marked at the end with white stripes reminiscent of the stripe in the previous space. The title of the work is 'Der Sprung' (the leap). As with the paintings that consist of words, the actual jump is not depicted, but evoked. Beinke says that the work for her has something to do with making decisions, taking risks.
Everything is tight in this exhibition. Everything seems controlled, except for the red dot and the splashes. As if each work embodies a borderline, or an apparent border, or a small victory. Together, these works determine the space. The artist is everywhere. Invisible and powerful.
Scanning my old brain for a finding that might have been generated by this exhibition I remember the doubts and paralysis, the restlessness and despair of my youth, when I did not know that my life had already begun and that, in anticipation of the great final step that I would never be allowed or able to take, I already had made some unsightly progress, just by shuffling around. Progress I will probably never surpass during this lifetime.
Montagne de Miel, 2 October 2022