artist / participant


press release

Opening: January 31, 7–10pm, Including the performance L’Humour Noir: a ceremony (2010/2018)
Finissage: April 22, 6–10pm, Collective jam session

WIELS presents a retrospective with a twist of Saâdane Afif’s work over the past 15 years. It explores the process of interpretation that underpins the relationship between art and its audience, a process fundamental to Afif’s practice.

Afif’s work takes many forms (performances, installations, posters). His diverse practice is marked by a consistent approach that includes the poetic translation of everyday materials; references to popular culture and particularly to the instruments and aesthetics of pop music; the use of found elements in the tradition of the readymade; the citation of seminal works of Conceptual art; all combined with a wry sense of humour.

Since 2004, he has been commissioning writers and artists to create lyrics inspired by his artworks, which are exhibited alongside them. These texts have become key material for Afif, verbalizing what happens in the mind of the beholder. The exhibition presents a selection of ten projects from which lyrics have been generated. These range from a coffin in the form of the Centre Pompidou (Anthologie de l’humour noir, 2010) to an installation of electric guitars playing chords based on the structure of André Cadere’s Barres de bois rond (Black Chords, 2006).

Afif embraces the WIELS exhibition as an opportunity for production and has installed a music studio complete with instruments at its heart. The studio is open to all, whether professional musician, amateur or neophyte. You are invited to come and take part in a jam session under the guidance of studio master Valentin Noiret. The only rule: use the lyrics contained in Afif’s songbook as the inspiration for your musical interpretations.

The songbook, also titled Paroles, features all 191 lyrics written to date by over 100 authors. They are published with minimal editorial intervention, in their language of origin, without any commentary, explanation or—perhaps surprisingly for a book by a visual artist—illustration. Structured chronologically by exhibition, the book ends with 38 new texts commissioned for the WIELS show. The book is thus a summary of previous interpretations of Afif’s work, and a springboard to new ones.

Curator: Zoë Gray