Under a Sinking Sun
02.04 – 29.05
Can an exhibition that could not open exist at all?
In the last few days, reports in the press and on social media by often anonymous people called for the cancellation or boycott of the exhibition of the Dutch artists’ collective KIRAC (Keeping It Real Art Critics), which opened at KIOSK on Saturday 2 April at 8pm.
I believe that organising exhibitions is much more than a promotional stunt for the exhibiting artist(s), especially when the art institution is located on the campus of an art academy. Curatorial work not only requires knowledge but also creativity and commitment. My invitation to KIRAC in February 2021 was meant to bring the members of the artists’ collective into contact with their admirers among the student population. I was curious to know what it could mean for a curator and for KIOSK as an institution to work with what I consider to be the most exciting representatives of artists working with institutional criticism. Getting a yes from KIRAC’s pretty radical founders was anything but easy. What could this project be for Stefan Ruitenbeek, Kate Sinha and Tarik Sadouma besides a trip down memory lane, to the time they themselves took their first steps in the art world at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam twenty years ago?
When the co-curators of the Graduation exhibition of KASK & Conservatorium enthusiastically suggested combining KIOSK’s invitation with a visit from KIRAC to the students at the end of June 2021 in order to discuss and break taboos within the academy, I was delighted.
An exhibition is more than a presentation of one or more works in a room. It is a long process of research and dialogue. Between the first conversations with the artist(s) and the opening of the exhibition, all sorts of events may occur that have an impact on the event itself, ranging from drastic social changes such as a pandemic or a war to rather anecdotal developments within the practice and oeuvre of the invited artist. In October 2021, three months after filming the scenes for their new episode to be shown at KIOSK in 2022, a performance took place in Amsterdam that impelled some to reduce KIRAC to representatives of rape culture.
My first thought when reading the reports of this event, which I did not attend myself, was that the members of KIRAC had created a polemical situation in order to collect footage for their new film. I understand that victims of sexual violence will consider this tact- and tasteless, at the very least. The members of KIRAC did not shy away from any of my questions regarding their motivation for this event, which led to the decision not to respond to explicit social-media request to end the cooperation between KIOSK and KIRAC.
The protocol followed by KIRAC in making film portraits of people and institutions in unconventional circumstances in their case always resulted in impressive and confrontational works of art. History will tell whether or not their work belongs to the tradition among which I also count Theodore Géricault’s monomaniacs, Otto Dix’s ruthless portraits and Werner Herzog’s direction of Klaus Kinski.
I would like to ask everyone to take the time to look at KIRAC’s films, to form their own opinions and not to be led or distracted by the hasty conclusions in press articles and on social media – all too often written by respondents who neither attended the events nor saw the films, or only superficially so.
Today, I am once again disillusioned by the way a hastily ill-informed journalist spreads false information. His behaviour is detrimental to what was once called the Fourth Estate of democracy.
I continue to believe that KIRAC does not in any way advocate the glorification and trivialisation of rape culture, and that my invitation and the ensueing exhibition do not compromise the safety of the spectator. As someone who has been in daily contact with works of art from all periods and continents for almost twenty-five years, I believe – naively, I suppose – in the power of art, the power to set any spectator in motion, to make their mental world more complex, to change their view of reality, to lead them to new experiences, or – why not – to process trauma?
Simon Delobel, 30 March 2022
On Friday March 25, 2022, Simon Delobel wrote the following text for the email invitation of the exhibition:
On 27 February 2021, I sent an email to Kate Sinha and Stefan Ruitenbeek, confessing a light addiction to their movies. I didn’t know if they would react positively to my invitation to stage an exhibition in spring 2022. I didn’t know if my phone calls would be recorded. I didn’t know that one member of my team would prefer not to collaborate on this project. I didn’t know that my colleagues co-curating the Graduation Show at KASK would enthusiastically invite KIRAC to participate in that event. I didn’t know that a huge number of students were discussing each new KIRAC episode at length. I didn’t know that I would agree to a Sexual Offering performance for the graduating students in the Cirque Auditorium. I didn’t know that it would be the best attended KIOSK event of 2021. I didn’t know that I would receive anonymous messages on Christmas Eve, telling me I would be the first curator to exhibit apologists. I didn’t know that I would have to spend hours in individual discussions to convince people of the qualities of KIRAC’s works. I didn’t know which artists would never work with me again. I didn’t know that Tarik Sadouma was a gentleman. I didn’t know that a young Chinese artist would recommend that I never share private information with KIRAC. I didn’t know I would answer “yes” when a colleague asked me if I was ready to lose my position for this project. I didn’t know that an art critic I respect would be sincerely worried about Kate and Stefan after watching the first version of their movie. I didn’t know that KIRAC would expend so much energy on this project. I didn’t know that a Venetian countess would exhibit her work at KIOSK. I didn’t know that KIRAC would ask graduated students to take care of the scenography for the show. I didn’t know that a drummer and a choir would accompany an abortion performance during the opening. I didn’t know that a mask would be given to each visitor for the opening. I didn’t know much. Was that for the best? Let me know.
KIOSK presents the new episode of KIRAC (Keeping It Real Art Critics): Under a Sinking Sun. The film shows the ins and outs of the members of the Amsterdam artists' collective before, during and after their visit to the Graduation Show from KASK School of Arts at the end of June 2021.
Under a Sinking Sun is the dizzying account of the encounters between the three main actors of KIRAC (Kate Sinha, Tarik Sadouma and Stefan Ruitenbeek) and young people who want to play a part in their work in one way or another, in particular Jini van Rooijen, the star of KIRAC's previous production: Honeypot. KIRAC's 24th episode therefore functions as a cruel but no less cheerful portrait of a world in full moral and technological development.
For the presentation of the film in KIOSK, KIRAC could count on the help of dozens of people: from members of the KIRAC academy and the Patreons van KIRAC to NFT artist Ben Lunato and graduate artists of KASK School of arts (Robin Verslegers, Sybren Janssens, and Chris Hoeben).
- Open daily from 12pm to 6pm
- Free entrance
- Louis Pasteurlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.