Ben Benaouisse (b. 1971, Familleureux, BE; lives and works in Ghent) has already completed a long journey as an artist, one that originated in the world of theatre and dance and gradually developed towards more visual forms of art. As an autodidact, Ben Benaouisse is an artist who, mainly through the ‘here and now’ of the direct creative process itself, not only questions what he can add to his own practice, but also to a society and art world in which ‘everything has already been done’. Through the use of diverse media – ranging from painting and drawing to installations and performances – he develops a constantly evolving artistic oeuvre through the tactics of appropriation, using existing artistic, religious, political or social codes, reforming and transforming them into a new meaning or context. Both in terms of the conceptual interest and use of materials, Ben Benaouisse’s work demonstrates strong links with artists such as Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers and Robert Rauschenberg, all of whom he greatly admires.
The performance ‘Hands Against The Wall’ consists of an action in which the artist stands against a (museum) wall, hands and legs outstretched, for a self-determined period of time. Many of Ben Benaouisse’s performances find their origins on the democratic stage of the public space, often taking place in a shop window or simply on the street. Despite their simple and even static form, viewers will often experience them as being extremely direct or, indeed, confrontational. By appropriating a simple but universally recognisable posture, and giving it an equally simple but telling title, Ben Benaouisse’s performance ‘Hands Against The Wall’ immediately evokes a number of connotations such as aggression, oppression and repression. In a society that seems to become ever more hardened and polarised by the day, such references are unfortunately searingly topical and relevant…On the other hand, because of its static nature, this performance can also be read on an aesthetic level as a living sculpture, with a small art-historical nod to the famous ‘Singing Sculpture’ from 1970 by the British artist duo Gilbert & George.