text by Sofie van Loo,


Wouter Huis shifts the limits of mental and architectural space, the borders of private and public space, delving into the elusiveness of almost-invisible ‘random’ details, such as the “touchy” pairing of corners, or the ambiguity of black matter. Huis creates minimal objects, interactive (video) installations, photographs and (performative) screenings, and makes interventions in exhibitions and public spaces. He questions (un)conscious methods of categorization, (re)presentation, projection, inversion, contradiction, coincidence and literality/shifting by focussing on small and (so-called) objective changes in space.

Wouter Huis saddles up the viewer with the almost-nothingness of seemingly unimportant details, departing from artistic research as an intuitive/materialized and medialized site-specific (re)action that enters into dialogue with old-school minimalism and conceptualism on the one hand, and on the other, with the cultural, political, scientific and social meanings that are projected onto environments, spaces and onto contemporary art and its ‘exhibition’. Wouter Huis’ eye for detail is often mixed with some subtle humour which doesn’t collapse into sarcasm or cynism, nor does it descend to the (re)creation of socially/politically (in)correct identities.

The titles refer to a (self-)critical playfullness between (the loss of) gesture and concept (as in, ‘object/subject’): What is art without you (2008), No ideas, just blankets (2008), Possible ideas covered with blankets (2008), Something with stripes (2009), Getting Nowhere (2010), Found Monuments (2010), Mind The Gap (2011) and Plaats Delict (2011).

In his videowork Presentation (2011), a representation of a performative non-action in a garage, it is not clear whether he exhibits a bored / fascinated public to the rare passengers that may pass by in cars, on bicycles, or on foot, or whether he is rather displaying the banality/fascination of an art that is presenting details of streetlife to the public. It could be both.

Whence the questions: Is the world boring / fascinating? Are you boring / fascinating? Am I boring / fascinating? Are we all boring / fascinating? Is art boring / fascinating? Are exhibitions/texts on art boring/fascinating? Are projections boring/fascinating? Is silence boring / fascinating? Is talking boring / fascinating? Or when exactly, and for whom, are subjects and their objects boring/fascinating, and does this in fact matter or not at all? Wouter Huis doesn’t give answers, instead he shows the paradox of possible superficial simplicities, possible complexities, and their subtle details, in an environmental/spacialised image which may be imagined, or not. This is never a promise.

Huis confronts the artist and the viewer with both non-critical and critical attitudes, which ask both too little and too much of art(ists) and their public. As if he is trying to reinvent over and over again the question: ‘when it is (not) enough?’, that always triggers another question: ‘for who is what (not) enough?’ Wouter Huis has worked as both artist and curator, and he makes of his modest attitude an artistic/curatorial pretention which may (or may not) confront narrative (re)constructions and architectural narratives that are sometimes too arrogant, sometimes too modest.

This is where a (self-)critical and (hyper-)relative attitude meet the almost-impossibility of an ephemeral kind of beauty, (un)covering in the process its dirty sides. Are human beings and their objectives really ‘(sub)-conscious?’, he seems to ask. Contemporary art is – at certain moments – (un)like Contemporary art, but also (un)like the shifted representation of reality-particles. The photographs of the series Triple X (2011), for instance, show three crosses placed over three blank billboards. All the promotional material has been made absent by the advertisers themselves, as if they agreed with a certain kind of artistic attitude and had decided to say ‘no’ to promotional bullshit, though probably without making this link (but who knows?). Wouter Huis has just photographed this particular detail that he discovered in the underground landscape. Even then, this can’t be called a classical representation of a particular reality, but seems rather to be an artistic gesture, maybe even an aesthetics that is escaping its own aesthetizing effect.

It shows the disappearance of a reality by carrying (for) its presence a little differently. Sometimes ‘it’ does indeed happen somewhere, which is more to do with fascination, than with boredom.