Koen Wastijn

From prehistoric cave paintings to modern car-toons, people have been fascinated by the animal world for thousands of years. Consequently, the way we approach animals says a lot about the culture and age we live in. In his work Koen Wastijn (1963) examines the representation of animals.

In installations, sculptures and videos he focuses on the constructed, artificial nature of images of animals, particularly in modern society, where consumption and the spectacular play a decisive role. In addition to this, Wastijn often works closely with people who specialise in making casts of or stuffing animals. Take for instance the three-dimensional work entitled Puma. With the help of a taxidermist the artist prepared real puma skins to form an animal sculpture. Because of the unnatural, artificial pose that was based on the logo of the famous sportswear brand of the same name, he had to use no less than two hides. This immediately gives rise to questions concerning the use of the name and image of animals as a marketing tool. Through the association with a puma the manufacturer has managed to transfer the qualities of this predator - speed, power and flexibility - to his products. And it works: it appeals to the consumer's imagination and unconscious desires. At the same time however, the animal is reduced to a logo, a stylised, distorted sign that is only vaguely associated with a real puma. This contrast is highlighted even more by the powerful spotlight directed onto the sculpture. It gives rise to what the artist calls a 'Platonic tension' between the illusion of the logo - the shadow projected on the wall - and the real, even though stuffed, animal. Koen Wastijn also set out to discover the background of one of these dead animals, which resulted in a video portrait of Lionel, the animal trainer at Bouglione circus who had looked after the puma for many years.

Consequently, this project has become a poignant metaphor for our era. While real nature is on the verge of becoming extinct and is being exploited on a scale never seen before, we all gape at the imitation nature presented to us by advertising and the entertainment industry. - Peter Pollers


13.02 to 01.05.2005
13.02 to 01.05.2005
13.02 to 01.05.2005
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