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The Living Artworks of Jan Lauwers' 'Silent Stories'

May 24, 2016 | 13:23 Tue
Zhabei's paper manufacturing factory-turned-museum, McaM just keeps offering us exciting and provocative reasons to make the trip out to visit their space. On the heels of their last exhibition, a large-scale showcasing of the gadget porn of Maywa Denki's Nonsense Machines, this past weekend, McaM hosted an installation / performance piece to observe the opening of Belgian artist, Jan Lauwers' Silent Stories. The piece was a remarkable and captivating three-day marathon staging of the artist's "The House of Our Fathers", a work that incorporates a troupe of guest performers acting on the mise en scène of the instillation itself.

For three days, artwork, performer, and guest merged and mingled in a dynamic piece that assailed the lines between theater and museum, observer and participant.

Check out the pictures of the "The House of Our Fathers" after the jump.


Brussels-based artist Jan Lauwers has been creating large-scale performance art since the mid '80s. For his Shanghai show, he and his theater group Needcompany turned this two-story venue into a vivid and unpredictable three-dimensional classic oil painting.

With alternative strains in the background, the audience was free to observe from a distance, as well as walk around to rearrange and reassess their viewing angles, mirroring how the performers themselves evolved their interactions with multiple instruments and art installations in the show.

"The House of Our Fathers" is a piece that situates a de-contextualized, inherited (art) knowledge writ large across a museum showroom, and then focuses on the subjective act of creation that this lack of context necessarily generates in the performer-inheritor. From the artist's statement:

"These... objects have a history of their own that remains unknown to us, and this enables stories to take shape. These objects have literally been torn out of their own past. History is always written by individuals and is thus never an objective report. What meaning does an individual history have in the face of history in general?"

Art, humanity, history, knowledge, progress, understanding, context, truth... here's a guy with his head in a box.

Here's a guy with his whole body in a box.

The House of Our Fathers lasted about four hours on the first day, and eight hours on both Saturday and Sunday. During my two-hour time there on Friday night, the show was rather enthralling. I didn’t even feel bored for a single minute! Also from the artist's statement:

"In my work with Needcompany, I am always experimenting with time. In the museum installations we put on performances lasting a whole day, and the observer decides for himself how long he wants to watch a particular action. The place (in this case a museum) and the action (theater) are deconstructed by the subjectivity of the time involved in observing."

Performers were continuously switching places and interacting with different objects, and were fully committed to the show. The hodge-podge art installations that formed the base of the experience -- over 400 pieces according to the press release -- were a perfect match for the erratic, surreal, and off-kilter vibe delivered by the performers.

A blank human statue on which audience can draw freely. Later it will be sent back to Brussels.


Artworks from Jan Lauders in the past 30 years in association with Lemm&Barkey, Benoît Gob, and Lauders’ OHNO COOPERATION will be exhibited at McaM until July 31. The ticket is 60rmb on-site or 40rmb if you follow McaM on Wechat. Students get a 50% discount.


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