At the beginning of the 1990s, Martin Kersels experimented with his body. As an active member of the group SHRIMPS (Paul Casey, Gayle Youngquist, Steve Nagler, Ryan Hill et Weba Garretson), he performed a series of familiar and simple gestures: holding, throwing, falling, kissing, cadencing, rocking; performances that oscillated between radicality and the absurd, both transpiring through the photographs taken during the performance. Simultaneously, he developed a 3-dimensional work guided by movement. Inspired by objects and the body language of daily life, Martin Kersels builds not only staged spaces where body and machine interact, but also animated sculptures producing incongruous actions and sounds. The bizarre dimension of his work is only a façade, his plastic work is in fact underpinned by a conceptual and critical reflexion on our relations to the world and society. The constant discussion between bodies, space, and the object is an integral part of his practice.
For his new exhibition at Galerie Vallois, Martin Kersels questions the myth of the Olympus. Heaven for the gods, protected from man, the Olympus symbolised perfection (both body and spirit), complete happiness, joy of life, the carefree and plentiful. And yet, after reading Homer’s Odysseus, the artist observed that gods, just as men, are not exempt from vileness, vices and mediocrity. “They looked like gods, but acted like humans. By western standards of aesthetics and ethics, the exterior did not match interior.”* A space is created between inside and outside, the appearance (what we are supposed to represent) and the essence (what we actually are); a dichotomous vision which the artist applies to objects by questioning the relations between a product and its mode of fabrication, between surface and materiality, between form and function. The exhibition in its formal aspect is also an element of disruption: Olympus (2014) sets the exhibition space into motion, now mobile and unpredictable. A synergetic dynamic is at work as a removable structure transforms and regenerates forms; meanwhile the viewer’s circulation participates in upsetting the general balance.
At the heart of a surprising scenography are bricolage works, the materials of which come from daily life. Altered, accumulated, associated, they tend towards abstraction. Playing on fake pretences, the sculptures underline the notion of passing, from one state to another, from the familiar to the strange. The loss of control, of bearings and the shift (perceptive, spatial, temporal and corporeal) push the viewer to rethink myths, norms, objects which constitute her/his own environment. By exploring the both pathetic and absurd dimension of society, Martin Kersels creates a critical space where disobedience, joy, incoherence and derision open the way for a possible liberation.
*interview with Martin Kersels , January 2014