press release

WIELS present a major exhibition of the Belgian artist Koenraad Dedobbeleer titled Kunststoff - Gallery of Material Culture. “Kunststoff” translates as “plastic” and is composed of the words “art” (kunst) and “material” (stoff). Dedobbeleer explores the fundamentals of art and material throughout his expanded sculptural practice.

His open and generous work connects art historical and architectural references to elements drawn from popular culture, from shapes seen in the street, to surfaces stolen from high-end design. Like the titles he applies at random to his works—lyrics, snippets overhead in conversation or read in books and newspapers—the forms and materials he employs seem familiar. However, Dedobbeleer renders them ambiguous in the way that he combines, installs and titles them.

The question of display is central to Dedobbeleer’s work. Many of his pieces are themselves presentation devices, but the display mechanism that particularly intrigues Dedobbeleer is the museum itself and the way that it confirms the value of the objects on display. He is fascinated by museological paraphernalia (stands, plinths, vitrines) and printed matter (particularly books and museum postcards) both of which recur throughout his work. Drawing upon the museological convention of labelling as “material culture” anything that cannot be otherwise classified, the exhibition’s subtitle Gallery of Material Culture hints at Dedobbeleer’s ambivalence about contributing further to the mass of objects produced since the dawn of mankind.

The exhibition is structured in three parts: it opens with a dense installation of works that date back to 2003. Loosely grouped by theme, they offer multiple entrances into Dedobbeleer’s way of thinking. This space is installed as an indoor sculpture park or architectural promenade. In the second space, Dedobbeleer presents new works that evoke elements of a classical museum display and furniture. A series of “vitrines” evoke the Gallery of Material Culture, presenting a vast array of objects that defy specific categorisation.

For WIELS, Dedobbeleer has produced a magnificent sculpture in the form of a functioning radiator. Its spiral shape echoes that of an energy-saving light-bulb, as a comment upon energy consumption and “greenwashing.” In the tradition of institutional critique—as a homage to Michael Asher’s 1992 work at Kunsthalle Bern—the piece renders tangible the flows of energy and money through the art institution.

Finally, at the top of the WIELS building, Dedobbeleer has installed a functioning stove, whose flickering flames transform the work into a kinetic sculpture.

Curated by Zoë Gray