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Roeland Tweelinckx’s (BE, 1971) sculptural installations engage in a masterly play of simulacra and replication that undoes these objects from their former function.
Contorting the shape and subverting the former features of these everyday objects, Tweelinckx enables the viewer to rediscover the magic of the everyday, something that is usually taken at face value. Most of the objects that populate the artistic universe of Roeland Tweelinckx appear to be functional apparatuses and objects: hot water radiators (found in most houses), medium sized ventilation grilles (found in office buildings around the world), red bricks and H-beams (staple products in housing construction), fire extinguishers, carton boxes… Not the kind of objects that make up the core of most contemporary mixed media sculptures, but essential elements of our everyday living environment. In addition, Tweelinckx’s more recent work incorporates more delicate and homely but still functional objects: abraded porcelain vases and plywood side tables found in thrift stores. Taking his cue from these functional homely objects, Tweelinckx then takes two decisive steps that force us to ask difficult questions about the status or art (and art history) today and about how it relates to our post-digital world of simulacra and illusion.
In a first step, Tweelinckx isolates these functional objects from their natural habitat. In that sense, his work seems to be a critical continuation of a well known Dadaist and surrealist practice, in which a found object is invested with almost magical qualities simply by taking it out of its ordinary context, stripping it from its functionality and placing it within the confined space of the museum. But nothing is what it seems. Tweelinckx takes a decisive second step that renders his work deeply critical of both the Dadaist tradition and of the post-digital world we live in: he plays with trompe l’oeil and replication. The force of the Dadaist’s found object depended upon it doing two things at once: while investing everyday objects with the secular magic of art, it also democratized art and criticized the elitist space of the museum. From now on, everything could potentially become art. But if all objects can potentially become art, this not only lends a certain aesthetic magic to the everyday living environment (a desired outcome for most Dadaists); ultimately, it also wears out the force of that aesthetic enchantment.
If everything is aesthetic, if everything is enchanted, and if everything is art – then, really, nothing is.
That issue becomes all the more pressing in a world in which the very status of objects has come into question and in which each and every one of our Instagram posts needs to feel enchanted. While most found objects were industrially produced, they were also relatively unique – found in a specific place and time, limited in number and invested with an irreplaceable use value. In a world dominated by 3D printing, supply-on-demand and customized production and the hyper-illusionary world of digital emulation – in short, in our post-digital world the classical status of the object as something ‘real’, something undeniably material and unique (even if only through its use value) has disappeared. At the same time, everything we encounter in the digital domain is marketed as glamourous, as imbued with an aesthetic, as touching upon a whole way of living. That is exactly the situation in which Tweelinckx work offers us a critical take on the Dadaist and surrealist tradition that marked the twentieth century. Because on closer inspection, the viewer is shocked to discover that Tweelinckx’s so-called found objects are not ‘found’ at all. In fact, they are perfect replicas of these objects; they are exact copies of everyday functional objects, executed with an unparalleled feel for replication and trompe l’oeil!
Rather than playing with (found) objects, Tweelinckx’ work plays with the illusion of there being ‘original’ and ‘found’ objects, forcing us to ask difficult questions about the post-digital world of simulacra we live in today. In doing so, his work opens the door for a revaluation of what has been seemingly been lost: rather than employing the aesthetic force of ordinary objects, as the Dadaists did, Tweelinckx’s work is a celebration of the critical capacity of images, simulacra and make belief that has always been at the heart of art. Now more than ever, his works seems to suggest, we need to draw upon these forces of art to obtain a critical attitude toward the world of commercial make-belief and delusional representation that inundate our social media accounts.
Text by Bram Ieven (University Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society)