Philippe Van Wolputte

° 1982

Born in Antwerp (BE).

Philippe Van Wolputte graduated from Sint-Lucas in Antwerp in 2006, after which he resided in Amsterdam from 2007 until 2010 for advanced training at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten. His visual work mainly consists of urban installations supplemented with photography, video, and sound. His artificial reconstructions of cellars, vaults, construction sites, dilapidated buildings, and catacombs, which the artist calls 'urban caves', are the result of years of urban explorations worldwide. The underlying premise is not decay and the ephemeral nature of things but our human inability to allow and accept the ephemeral.   

Since 2003, Van Wolputte has been exploring devalued urban sites in anticipation of their demolition because they no longer have a function in the economic hierarchy. In 2005, his fascination with abandoned and forgotten sites resulted in Temporary Penetrable Exhibition Spaces, a project he worked on for ten years. At the M HKA, he showcased forgotten sites from various cities in 2015, repurposing them as autonomous art reconstructions. This project is a seminal work within the artist's oeuvre, who seeks different ways to draw attention to the excessive speed with which vacant properties are rejected and closed to the public. Major renovation plans often lead to the exclusion of anything that is deemed unadapted and not up to the average standard. Any source of disorder must be crushed immediately, and anything that might threaten reason or good order banished and condemned. In this view, the underlying geographical and urban order runs parallel to the mental exclusion of anything considered irrational, chaotic, and unreasonable. In some instances, however, hasty decisions to cut off and exclude these sites can cause people to feel disoriented and insecure. Societal speed seems to be compounding the loss of tolerance and lasting meaning.

The artist's artistic actions and reconstructions vary widely. He builds a metre-long tunnel, shaping it purely from memory with remnants and building materials; he creates an oppressive video installation of several crawl spaces inspired by the architecture of the catacombs in Paris; and he makes a video of a truck driving around Jakarta, spraying demolished buildings with a water hose to stop the spread of particulate matter. Other site-specific interventions in public spaces are temporary and short-lived actions (often clandestine and/or illegal) that passers-by often overlook. By deliberately blurring the lines between fact and fiction, real and fake, Philippe Van Wolputte creates situations in which production and documentation become intertwined. As such, they reflect the complicated way we use archival material as an entry point to evoke a bygone art-historical reality and thus often mythologise its nature.

To create his 'urban caves', Van Wolputte mainly uses simple materials that he finds on the site of his intervention. The artist creates these places to preserve and relive memories. They are attempts to maintain or hold on to what is or was demolished. His installations are the legacy of an economic past and imprints or replicas of industrial decay, exuding an often unsettling atmosphere.


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