Het Vlot, Kunst is niet Eenzaam

Túbélá 2017

Mihnea Mircan interviews Hans van Houwelingen about Túbélá 


MM: For those visitors with a knowledge of the recent histories of contemporary art, encountering your installation in the St-Jozefkerk in Oostende might bring to mind the discourse of institutional critique. The ‘other’ confessional you have installed in the church is in this sense akin to the maneuvers via which institutional critique artists have engaged or exposed the tacit presuppositions, the exclusions and levers of powers that underpin the politics of display. 


HVH: I guess you could speak about the institutional critique of the institution of the church, but for me the installation creates the conditions for a broader critical thinking to take place. An opportunity to reflect, maybe without the theatrics of institutional critique proper, and without the fixed roles which articulate this particular discourse. Instead, there is ambiguity: it is not that my critique already frames a certain conclusion, from which the work would derive its strength. Rather, the installation thinks about – and materializes – the conditions for the critical act to take place. 


MM: I think this ambivalence is reflected in the triangle of relations that structure the work. On the one hand, there is your position: guest and critical parasite, taking advantage of the context of the church, but also of the framework of the contemporary art event to which you participate. Then there is the church, which through your intervention is hybridized in a sense with a museum. Two modes of “seeing is believing”, that of Christian ritual and that of museological strategies in general, two protocols of making sense, become interspersed. Then there is the position of the viewer of the piece: an art lover or a member of the congregation, the carrier of one or the other set of beliefs, of a spiritual or a secular theology.   


HVH: The installation indeed operates within different realms at the same time. On first sight, it is a kind of Duchampian move: you push an object out of a specific context, so that another system of meaning is activated around it. However, nothing is being taken out of context here, on the contrary, the context is overburdened with a doppelganger. The framework of the art exhibition allows a second confessional to be positioned in a church. The first confessional has always been there, the second one, even if camouflaged in its similarity to the first, triggers questions about who and why brought it in, who and why should use it. I want to offer the imaginative possibility for the church itself to give its confession.