Theys Koen - Chateau Classic
1994 - Black and white photograph - 31 x 58 cm
The Belgian visual artist Koen Theys (Brussels, ° 1963) is an important pioneer of contemporary video art in Belgium. In 1989, he and his brother Frank Theys are also the driving force behind the creation of ARGOS, the center for new media art in Brussels, which has since grown into an internationally renowned platform for video art and new media. During his sculpting studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, in the early 1980s, the young visual artist's attention shifted more and more to the audiovisual media, which resulted in the shocking video installation Crime 01 in 1983. Here we see how the artist chops up a dead German Shepherd dog with an ax and presents the dog's limbs to a baby in a bed. The as yet unknown film maker is promptly dismissed from the Academy, but the montage marks the start of a bold and idiosyncratic body of work that zooms in on the most striking and diverse remnants of the broad cultural spectrum. In addition to video installations, the artist also creates monumental visual work, sculptures and photo collages, and performs. At the same time he teaches autonomous video art at the Sint Lucas Hogeschool in Antwerp, a department that he started in 2004.
After the sensational scene with the German Shepherd (a reference to Adolf Hitler and his dog), Koen Theys made the video Diana in 1984, inspired by dreamy film images of a naked Eva Braun by a waterfall. He alternates these and other references to world history with video installations that evoke icons from art history. He makes compilations with images by Pablo Picasso, Willem van Aelst and Frans Hals, among others. As a multi-media artist, he also makes extensive use of YouTube videos and images that he finds on the internet. For the opening of his retrospective at the SMAK, he devises the performance Death Fucking Metal: thirty old rock stars sleeping between their instruments on a large rotating stage. In 2018 he made the sculpture Diasporalia in Antwerp Cathedral: twelve bronze mattresses on which the personal belongings of refugees are displayed.
The artist's versatility testifies not only to a special social commitment, but also to a lot of empathy, humor and a special eye for apparently banal things that he always brings together into remarkable appearances. Exemplary for this is the video installation The Many Things Show from the permanent collection of M HKA. It is a video film that unleashes a thousand anonymous portraits on the viewer like an iconoclasm. They are copy-paste images of people who pose ostentatiously with a personal object to emphasize their identity. The artist will review them on the spoken philosophical text of Joseph Kosuth (Art after Philosophy from 1969) about the conceptual meaning of art. For those who cannot keep up with the flow of images, there are monumental sheets of paper with identical images, accompanied by Kosuth's text, written by hand.