The Vleeshal, Middelburg
artists & participants
I Think I Look More like the Chrysler Building
January 23–March 21, 2021
"I am supposed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, but I think I look more like the Chrysler Building!" It is exclaimed by a somewhat disappointed Roger DeBris, the flamboyant character from Mel Brooks' American comedy The Producers, who has dressed up and assesses his own costume. The title of this exhibition alludes to an important question: how does our body relate to urban space? The city shows similarities with the human body in function and characteristics. This relationship between city and body also manifests itself in our use of language. Consider for example the way we use words from the domain of architecture and city planning to describe social and personal matters, such as "team building," "breaking through the glass ceiling," or “the walls have ears.”
Architecture can enable us to position ourselves within the world and to define ourselves in relation to others. The artists in I Think I Look More like the Chrysler Building show that you can also reposition and redefine yourself by imagining a different architecture. This is necessary because architecture and urban planning in the West are often all too one-sidedly based on the idea of creating a Utopia. The proposed solutions and grids may be ideal in theory, but are often detached from the subjective experience of everyday life. By manipulating their environment—or the other way around; by complying with it—the artists in this exhibition explore ways to relate to their surroundings in a more personal way.
The word "space" alone already contains a paradox: on the one hand it refers to demarcation, on the other hand to the infinite. In addition to a physical dimension, space also has a social dimension. In 1929 Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One's Own in which she reflects upon the following question: Where are you truly free as a woman? Within the walls of your own room or in the world outside?
The artists in I Think I Look More like the Chrysler Building create personal spaces that allow them to navigate through the public ones. The public spaces assigned to us are mostly based on rational principles and rooted in economic motives. They have a normalizing power that also has a major psychological and social impact. To counter this, these artists collect and assemble materials that reflect themselves, and create imaginary landscapes that—unlike actual landscapes—can define and represent the individual. Thanks to architecture and decoration, we can create spaces that allow us to live our lives the way we want, outside the normative frameworks of society.
Kasper Bosmans, Lena Henke, Win McCarthy, Annelies Planteijdt and Diane Simpson each navigate through the urban landscape in their own way, but they all investigate similar issues: how can our environment be mapped? To what extent are the body and psyche subject to this environment? And can the body and the city influence each other? Vleeshal would like to thank Bortolami Gallery, New York, THE EKARD COLLECTION and Galerie Fons Welters, Amsterdam, for their generous support.