Magazine article Art Monthly

Katleen Vermeir & Ronny Heiremans: The Good Life

Magazine article Art Monthly

Katleen Vermeir & Ronny Heiremans: The Good Life

Article excerpt

Katleen Vermeir & Ronny Heiremans: The Good Life

Arnolfini Bristol 10 April to 7 June

Walking the line between parody, pastiche and trickster humour, Belgian artists Katleen Vermeir & Ronny Heiremans have produced an exhibition, 'The Good Life', which is an architectural proposal that they believe could be built. With a target date of 2011, the artists' proposal is to renovate the Arnolfini contemporary art centre as a high-end apartment building, a Pantheon for 'good quality tenants'.

Visualised from the other side of the docks, the proposed new building--reminiscent of the floating city of Laputa in Gulliver's Travels--forms a pastiche of borrowed architectural elements. At the top is a gridded trellis of apartments in the manner of stacked Le Corbusier 'Dom-inos'. They offer a purist lifestyle surrounded by a skin of glass. The next layer in this trickle-down arrangement is a Brutalist colonnade providing amenities for the apartment dwellers. The underside of the colonnade houses a convex mirror that reflects the regenerated surrounding docklands. The whole unit is perched castle-like atop a giant single pilotis at a securely gated distance of 25m from the ground. Below this the Arnolfini former warehouse building, now a shell, appears like a romantic cult of ruins with picturesque parkland and roaming deer. The Arnolfini's artistic content has been triumphantly morphed, displaced and developed into apartments of distinction, as the dockland developers would say, for the 'creative classes'. The whole shebang appears to be a situationist invitation: a postmodern Bastille waiting to be stormed.

On the ground floor, the exhibition turns on large-scale, floor-to-ceiling films depicting an estate agent's guided tour. The environmental screens run the films in tandem, with speakers that reflect sound back. Shot in the Arnolfini galleries with actors, they can be seen as a total work of art where the white-on-white cinematographic interiors blur and merge with the white walls of the gallery.

Carly Wijs, an actress working in collaboration with the artists, interprets the estate agent role convincingly. Crisply dressed, she uses a mixture of NLP (neuro-liguistic programming) phrases suited to an upmarket sell, with occasional slips of the tongue and a subtly comic, exaggerated corporate manner. She is selling and making apparent what the curator, Nav Haq, has sardonically described as art's 'cool-factor' in an 'experience economy'. Within the real estate hype there is passing reference to the existence of an underclass when we are informed that the gated community has its own police and that there are 'no beggars here'. …

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