Cage for Dendrolgus Dorianus


In its series of exhibitions of up and coming artists, SMAK is presenting new work by Wesley Meuris (b. Lier, 1977). 

Meuris studied at St Luke’s College in Brussels and this year is graduating from the postgraduate course at the HISK (Higher Institute for Fine Art) in Antwerp. In 2002 he exhibited at the NICC’s Freespace and elsewhere, and in 2003 at W139 in Amsterdam. In 2004 his work was shown in a group exhibition in Willebroek, Dendermonde, Damme and Ename. Earlier this year he showed his work in the ‘Project Rooms’ series at Arco ’05 in Madrid.

In his work Wesley Meuris starts out from the interaction between architecture and our conditioned behaviour. He questions current conventions and the automatic approach we take to standardised architectural spaces. His starting point is the basic rules that have taken shape in the course of time regarding the dimensions, materials, proportions and division of the environment we live in. He plays with these conventions (cultural and otherwise) and questions them. In this way he sees to it that familiar forms and buildings come across as both recognisable and strange. One example is a series of prints, models and sculptures based on such architectural environments as swimming pools and sports grounds. On the basis of rectangular forms with marked lanes, he makes variations in form, colour and line and tile patterns. For a recent exhibition in a room at the KULAK in Kortrijk he created a number of changing cubicles that gave the building a different character. In these architectural models he examines factors that dictate how a building is fitted out, such as hygiene, privacy, comfort and modesty. His aim is in this way to unravel the meaning of the constructions. Since 2004 Meuris has been developing a zoological classification system for animals. Cages in zoos are usually designed in accordance with the needs and quality of life of each particular species so that it can survive in an artificial setting.

Other important elements are the architecture, control and visibility. Meuris designed his own classification system for animals on the basis of a predetermined structure and his own visual experiences. The criteria he used are: the nature and species of the animal, the size and characteristics of the cage (water, type of ground, etc.), the climate conditions (temperature, humidity, etc.), care and eating habits, and lastly, the relationship between the cage and the public. This resulted in a series of drawings of something like visionary architectural constructions, forming a catalogue of diverse animal species. Starting from this series, Meuris constructs the individual cages for specific exhibitions. In February 2005 he built a cage for the Galago Crassicaudata (a species of ape) at Arco Madrid, a freestanding glazed cage. Since the cages are empty and not even in the drawings is there any trace of the animals themselves, the work is at the same time a questioning of presence/absence and our own imagination (we imagine ourselves in the cage). We automatically wonder who is being watched, the animal or the visitor. As a construction for viewing, the cage is a duplication of the exhibition space in the museum, where one also looks at objects (instead of subjects, i.e. animals). The empty cage duplicates the logic of the exhibition space. With the individual character of the Kunst Nu space in mind, Meuris made a new cage for Dendrologus Dorianus, a tree kangaroo from Australia.

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