Bart Verschaffel – On the Ugly

Beauty and ugliness are usually seen as positive and negative versions of the 'aesthetic judgment'. But in this text Bart Verschaffel argues that 'the ugly' and 'the beautiful' should not be seen as extreme poles of the same continuum and that although 'the ugly' can be integrated in an experience of beauty – as happens in much modern art – the experience of ugliness is fundamentally different from that of beauty, entailing a digestion of primary emotions and reactions that precede the aesthetic and are connected to (the experience of) the threat of the monstrous and the infection of the formless. Verschaffel illustrates the pre-aesthetic origins of 'the ugly' with two childhood memories recounted by Paul Valéry in his Inspirations méditerranéennes. He argues that Valéry teaches us what (especially modern) art 'does': transforming the disgusting and the formless into a digestible spectacle, in which horror/disgust and beauty/fascination are inextricably mixed.

Beauty – Aesthetics – Ugliness – Paul Valéry


Koen Brams – Marcel Broodthaers, 1970. 'Le but de l'art est commercial. Mon but est également commercial. Le but (la fin) de la critique est tout aussi commercial.'

This text discusses the first exhibition organized by Galerie MTL (a key Belgian gallery that promoted 'conceptual art'), a show by Marcel Broodthaers that ran from 13 March to 10 April 1970. Brams analyses Broodthaers' use of repetition in this show and the interest it demonstrates in the erosion of meaning. He argues that the artist shared this interest with the gallery owner, Fernand Spillemaeckers. He goes on to show that Broodthaers' first MTL show can be seen as a revised version of his debut as a visual artist in Galerie Saint Laurent six years earlier (Brussels, 1964): in both shows 'old' materials of Broodthaers (such as the poems he used to write before 1964) are processed; both shows critique the art market and comment on the gallerist who invited the artist.

Marcel Broodthaers – conceptual art – Galerie MTL (Brussels, 1970-1979) – Fernand Spillemaeckers


Fieke Konijn – Tinguely in the Stedelijk Museum, installation as interpretation 

This text analyses the exhibition Jean Tinguely – Machine Spectacle, which is now running at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Konijn praises the exhibition for its 'performative strategies' developed in order to compensate for the fact that these kinetic works are not allowed to 'work' (i.e. move). At the same time she criticizes the show for overemphasizing Tinguely's historic relation with the Stedelijk Museum and downplaying his important connections with other curators and institutions.

kinetic art – modern art – Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam – Jean Tinguely


Tineke Reijnders – Robert Filliou in Antwerp. 'The secret of permanent creation'

This text discusses a recent overview of the work of French artist Robert Filliou at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Antwerp (M HKA). A subtext running through Reijnders' discussion is the impossibility of capturing Filliou's mercurial ideas through his material art works. The author praises the museum for publishing the book Robert Filliou – The Secret of Permanent Creation, which contains the artist’s unedited conversations with critic/editor Irmeline Lebeer in August 1976 in Flayosc (France).

Robert Filliou (1926-1987) – Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp (M HKA)


Birgit Cleppe & Steven Jacobs – The Louvre and the art film as museum critique

This text discusses eight films – documentaries and experimental films – on the Louvre in Paris. The authors explain how these films deal with two transformations the museum underwent, one from the 1930s to the 1950s, the other from the late 1980s onwards. Cleppe and Jacobs argue that the films made during the first period – Rubens et son temps (René Huyghe, 1938), Les Pierres vives (Fernand Marzelle, 1951)… – can be read as representations of an ideal museum visit. On the other hand, more recent essayistic films (or artists’ films) – La Ville Louvre (Nicolas Philibert, 1990), Visite au Louvre (Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet, 2003)… – critically reflect on the 'postmodern Louvre'. The authors conclude with a comment on Francofonia (Alexander Sokurov, 2015), a film which synthesizes the two key periods in the history (of transformations) of the Louvre.

Art documentary – institutional critique – Louvre


Wolfgang Ullrich – How the work of art critics and art historians is made impossible

This texts recounts how artists in recent times have used their copyright in a new manner – to control the public image of their oeuvre. Ullrich argues that much critical work and art historical research tends to be undermined or even made impossible by these new practices. At the same time, he argues that these attempts are rendered senseless and devoid of meaning as a result of the anarchistic way in which reproductions of art works are used on the internet.

authorship – contemporary art – copyright