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.

text: Sofie van Loo


The state in between the something and the nothing

Wouter Huis works in different media, but mainly focuses on video. Or rather: he places a medium (or mediator) in between what we see and how we see, directing the gaze towards things that normally do not find themselves in the centre of attention but that are always, unobtrusively there in the architecture that surrounds us: the corner of a room, the curb of a street or a covered heap of construction waste in a park.

By doing so –scanning spaces and situations- he also places the focus on the medium as such, whether a camera or something else. During Glocal Affairs (Maastricht, 2008) for instance he infiltrated in the exhibition by placing an “illegal” title card next to piece of a wall that already happened to be partly painted in white and grey. This is White, This is Grey thus became two instant, ready-made monochrome paintings by a parasiting artist, creating something out of nothing.

A more recent project, Performance #1 (2011), consisted of a vacant garage box that for the duration of the event- was turned into a cinema. The audience was invited to take a seat, facing the electric door which was at some point opened to reveal a view into a particularly uninteresting street. This street, and the very little amount of action in it (an occasional car or person passing by) was thereby transferred into both a screen and a new space. Likewise the people inside became participants in a strange and quiet performance. It is precisely this state in between the something and the nothing that seems to fascinate Huis.

text: Nienke Vijlbrief, curator P///akt


Poppositions Blog

Wouter Huis is a Dutch visual artist running a project space in Hoensbroek (Netherlands) called Greylight Projects. It focuses on the development, production and presentation of contemporary art and includes a residency program for artists.

Poppositions visited his new studio in Brussels, a charming old maison de maître only a few meters away from Botanique. What was once a monastery is currently a vacant building waiting for green light to be converted into a modern hotel. Next to the studio, the building will soon hold a guest studio and a project space to mark Greylight Projects’ presence in Brussels. The site is both mysterious and captivating. The ground floor entrance opens into a wide space made of different sized rooms beside a dark corridor. Walking around, it feels like going back to school: in one of the rooms, a blackboard spells out “les jours de la semaine”; in one of the main hall, graffiti leads us to a wall-painted garden with trees and flowers.

Wouter tells us he prefers working with vacant buildings, where the open space is unusual and offers options for exploration. What he finds attractive in Poppositions is the challenge of working in-situ and having to adapt to a fairly unfriendly exhibition space: “Brass is not only an atypical exhibition space; it’s a very difficult place in which to exhibit”, he admits. But as these buildings are so demanding, they represent a great source of inspiration for the artist who can build on the uniqueness of empty space by observing and interacting with it. Greylight Projects were furthermore given one of the most difficult spaces of POPPOSITIONS, the corridors leading to the toilet, but did not mind accepting the challenge of transforming this place into an exhibition venue.

On a final note, Wouter points out the importance of independent project-spaces where artists have complete freedom to try and develop new works and projects that would not find their place in commercial galleries. He shows us a a small slide-projector installation (almost ready) and tells us about a film and photographs that will also be at display, but it is clear that he would rather have the viewer draw his own conclusions then tell us what to expect. Indeed, the way we perceive and observe is one of his main preoccupations. So I guess you need to come by next week to see for yourself!

Greylight Projects will be present at Poppositions with four artists: Silvia Bakker (artist in residence at Greylight Projects this year), Marc Buchy and Stefan Piat (both former artists in residence at Greylight Projects), and Wouter Huis.

Text: Ylenia Maitino