Pushing yourself off the chessboard
On the tectonic encounter between some of Koen Deprez’ early and recent work
In saying something here about the architect and artist Koen Deprez (1961) the intention is to introduce his work to people not yet familiar with it, or to continue thinking about it with people who have been looking at it for a while. This article anticipates two imminent exhibitions, one at Galerie Zwart Huis (Brussels) and another at PAK (Gistel). Old and new work will be on show in both locations.
Deprez is both artist and architect. This doesn’t mean that he produces artworks and builds houses, but rather that he has developed a way of thinking that makes use of images and techniques emanating from those areas and makes works which, while trying to surpass those images and techniques, enriches them.
Galerie Zwart Huis will be showing drawings produced in 1983 which are part of Agressiepark (Aggression Park) ‘Brussels’. All kinds of architectural programmes and functions collide in that work (e.g., there are playing fields, one half of which is intended for one sport and the other half for another). It was inspired by a film about an amusement park in which candidates fought with combatants from different eras until something went wrong and all the eras merged.
First impressions suggest that his oeuvre is prompted by a desire to engender architectural forms that are not confined by ‘functional thinking’. What this boils down to is that an object can never be purely ornamental. You might say that the more lifeless, the ‘deader’ the ornament, the more it restricts our life by keeping it on an insipid track. The livelier it is, the greater the chance it will create breathing space.
On a deeper level, however, the architectural aspect of Deprez’ oeuvre is based on a more fundamental, artistic approach which I would like to call ‘tectonic’. All of it seems to be directed at escaping an oppressive world in which indescribable tensions accumulate, the release of which is feared, but in the end also desired. In Deprez’ world the 9/11 attack is a moment of architectural release, when two modernistic forms praised by Le Corbusier unpredictably intersect.
Another image for Koen Deprez’ oeuvre is the chessboard. Viktor Shklovsky loved the way the knight moves, because the sidestep implies an unexpected manoeuvre or a change of rhythm. To Deprez it just seems that way. Nothing can ever happen on a chessboard because all the movements are determined by the rules of the game and the inexorable movements of the chess pieces. In a conversation with me last year, he compared this to the situation of a student in higher education, who is trained to solve existing problems. Unexpected sidesteps are certainly admired and encouraged, but in reality they don’t contribute anything to what already exists.
How do you push yourself off the chessboard? How can we escape the reasoning and behaviour patterns imposed upon us?
One way to do this is to have old and new work collide: not only is the chronology unimportant (there is no progress in art), but the removal of the time factor creates new clashes and links which lead to new ideas, forms and events.
Montagne de Miel, October 19th 2017