Mathieu V Staelens

Artists should indeed comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

Honestly, the most important thing an artist can do is to observe and show what he/she sees. ‘Perception’ is a very peculiar thing. Its not always what you see, its how you explain yourself what you see. Being aware of the layers of frames you are looking through, context and history.

As a result of my own personal past and upbringing, I have developed an excessively strong desire to unravel identities. Understanding how identities of people come into existence and function as stable entities in a social environment has always been one of my favourite pastimes. Apart from analysing human identities, I am interested to confront it with identity as a product. How does it operate, how is it made, represented, developed, structured and ultimately defined by the personality industries. Such images spoke to me. I always had a strong urge to analyse this imagery so crafty at penetrating my senses. Hence my work intertwines the visual with the contemplative, a hybrid of persuasive visual culture and philosophy.

Philosophy renders me the toolbox to analyse the correlations between identity and visualised image/identity-proposals personality industries offer. Fashion, design, interior, lifestyle magazines and social media among others deliver the attributes, context and social fabric to nurture these identities. Social media (facebook, instagram…) normalise glamour while pressuring the etiquette of social interactions. It raises ethical questions, refutes certain morals, opens new potentialities and creates new restrictions. Etiquette in this new form of interaction is rapidly and drastically changing.

Visually spoken, the language these images share has always triggered me. When there is a language there is much more; beliefs, values and context. It’s a very rich language; it permits to import imagery of any given period. It’s a rhetoric language, a language that firstly inflames emotions instead of reflection. Because of her visual character with its sensational gold, exotic enticements, opulent colours, clamorous chromatics, captivating metals, magnetic values, glittering media, thrilling graphics, alluring plastics and well-thought image sequences it’s designed to touch the senses (The Glamour System, Stephen Gundle, 2006). It stands in fact closer to the tradition of the medium of oil paint before modernity was introduced (Ways of seeing, John Berger, 1972), as it mostly focuses on the individual with a strong imperialistic drive. Being the language of capitalism, it eroticises perceptions to keep its paradigm intact, while disguising as thymotic benevolence. It’s the language of hyper-materialism. Those who remember the physics classes, matter is defined as weight and energy. The materialism I am referring to is a way of life, the weight is the wealth you accumulated and energy is the status and/or success of the brand that is ‘I’. Hence when this language brings the abstract in play it facilitates and undermines the autonomic force abstraction always claimed to be. It boils down to the metaphysics of this premise: on the threshold of abstraction ghosts become objects of their own imagination.

Also worth mentioning is: Preliminary materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, Semiotext(e), 2012. The Young-Girl is simply put: the ‘model citizen’ as redefined by consumer society since World War I, in explicit response to the revolutionary menace. As such the Young-Girl is a ‘polar figure’, orientating, rather than dominating, outcomes. The dominating outcomes are realised by offering an underlying moral that is communicated through the images. Young people and their mothers are at stake here, they are regarded as the social principles of the consumer ethic. (Stuart Ewen, Capitains of Consiousness, 1976) Women, because they reign over the sphere of reproduction, are seen as a place to take control of and colonize. This redefining of the idea of a woman in a pure visual way can only succeed if it manages to deliver an underlying set of beliefs and principles. This underlying frame of reference is quite a crumbled field. This book, Preliminary materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, actually collected all those crumbles and merely categorised these bits and pieces.

“Publicity is about social relations, not objects. Its promise is not of pleasure, but of happiness: happiness as judged from the outside by others. The happiness of being envied is glamour.”

John Berger

This unrelenting emphasizing on the visual brought me to the hypothesis that identity, traditionally located in the soul, has migrated to the body. Making the body to rise in importance and being prioritized, seeing it this way content becomes a consequence of form and subject to form. Qualities of forms surpass values. As if you would turn Plato’s world upside down. My goal is to emancipate and inspire people to pull themselves out of a paradigm that is manipulative towards a more encompassing freedom and eventually an authentic happiness. As an artist, I am developing images that explore this hypothesis of identity migration, without being explicitly directive or instructive – that’s up to the individual. My job is to show, rearrange, recompose and finally redirect the distributed perceptions of the personality industries, even if this means I need to mask it up for the sake of argument!

 

Mathieu V. Staelens/ Antwerp Jan. 2017

 

MATHIEU V STAELENS

Artists should indeed comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

Honestly, the most important thing an artist can do is to observe and show what he/she sees. ‘Perception’ is a very peculiar thing. Its not always what you see, its how you explain yourself what you see. Being aware of the layers of frames you are looking through, context and history.

As a result of my own personal past and upbringing, I have developed an excessively strong desire to unravel identities. Understanding how identities of people come into existence and function as stable entities in a social environment has always been one of my favourite pastimes. Apart from analysing human identities, I am interested to confront it with identity as a product. How does it operate, how is it made, represented, developed, structured and ultimately defined by the personality industries. Such images spoke to me. I always had a strong urge to analyse this imagery so crafty at penetrating my senses. Hence my work intertwines the visual with the contemplative, a hybrid of persuasive visual culture and philosophy.

Philosophy renders me the toolbox to analyse the correlations between identity and visualised image/identity-proposals personality industries offer. Fashion, design, interior, lifestyle magazines and social media among others deliver the attributes, context and social fabric to nurture these identities. Social media (facebook, instagram…) normalise glamour while pressuring the etiquette of social interactions. It raises ethical questions, refutes certain morals, opens new potentialities and creates new restrictions. Etiquette in this new form of interaction is rapidly and drastically changing.

Visually spoken, the language these images share has always triggered me. When there is a language there is much more; beliefs, values and context. It’s a very rich language; it permits to import imagery of any given period. It’s a rhetoric language, a language that firstly inflames emotions instead of reflection. Because of her visual character with its sensational gold, exotic enticements, opulent colours, clamorous chromatics, captivating metals, magnetic values, glittering media, thrilling graphics, alluring plastics and well-thought image sequences it’s designed to touch the senses (The Glamour System, Stephen Gundle, 2006). It stands in fact closer to the tradition of the medium of oil paint before modernity was introduced (Ways of seeing, John Berger, 1972), as it mostly focuses on the individual with a strong imperialistic drive. Being the language of capitalism, it eroticises perceptions to keep its paradigm intact, while disguising as thymotic benevolence. It’s the language of hyper-materialism. Those who remember the physics classes, matter is defined as weight and energy. The materialism I am referring to is a way of life, the weight is the wealth you accumulated and energy is the status and/or success of the brand that is ‘I’. Hence when this language brings the abstract in play it facilitates and undermines the autonomic force abstraction always claimed to be. It boils down to the metaphysics of this premise: on the threshold of abstraction ghosts become objects of their own imagination.

Also worth mentioning is: Preliminary materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, Semiotext(e), 2012. The Young-Girl is simply put: the ‘model citizen’ as redefined by consumer society since World War I, in explicit response to the revolutionary menace. As such the Young-Girl is a ‘polar figure’, orientating, rather than dominating, outcomes. The dominating outcomes are realised by offering an underlying moral that is communicated through the images. Young people and their mothers are at stake here, they are regarded as the social principles of the consumer ethic. (Stuart Ewen, Capitains of Consiousness, 1976) Women, because they reign over the sphere of reproduction, are seen as a place to take control of and colonize. This redefining of the idea of a woman in a pure visual way can only succeed if it manages to deliver an underlying set of beliefs and principles. This underlying frame of reference is quite a crumbled field. This book, Preliminary materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, actually collected all those crumbles and merely categorised these bits and pieces.

 

“Publicity is about social relations, not objects. Its promise is not of pleasure, but of happiness: happiness as judged from the outside by others. The happiness of being envied is glamour.”

John Berger

This unrelenting emphasizing on the visual brought me to the hypothesis that identity, traditionally located in the soul, has migrated to the body. Making the body to rise in importance and being prioritized, seeing it this way content becomes a consequence of form and subject to form. Qualities of forms surpass values. As if you would turn Plato’s world upside down. My goal is to emancipate and inspire people to pull themselves out of a paradigm that is manipulative towards a more encompassing freedom and eventually an authentic happiness. As an artist, I am developing images that explore this hypothesis of identity migration, without being explicitly directive or instructive – that’s up to the individual. My job is to show, rearrange, recompose and finally redirect the distributed perceptions of the personality industries, even if this means I need to mask it up for the sake of argument!

Mathieu V. Staelens/ Antwerp Jan. 2017