Gert Verhoeven. NEW FEET
"Si vous ne vous positionnez pas correctement, vous ne pouvez pas vous attendre à maintenir votre equilibre et exécuter votre élan de façon constante."
Gert Verhoeven has never resisted the urge to escape the restrictions of the creative existence and the manipulations of the art world. In a first series of drawings : "L'Esprit Devenu Doigt" and in the video "Papa M'a", he projected the disturbed relationships within the artistic family on the image of his hand and fingers and indicated art history as its authoritarian father. Often, he also quoted Marcel Broodthaers: 'Magritte is the father who eats his children'. In order to undermine the destructive force of the father, Verhoeven initially used the tactics of shrewd resistance, subversive behavior and hilarious exaggeration. With words and images, he suggested the perverse relationships between the fingers of his hand and brought up memories of bloody and fleshy scenes through the use of messy enamel paint.
In later audio sculptures, like "Autoped" and "Papasion", Gert Verhoeven explored the power of artistic expression in the same ironic fashion and tried to grasp the position of contemporary art within social practices. For example, Verhoeven observed that contemporary art has been banned from the political scene and is exclusively operating in an aesthetic context, completely neutralizing the impact of its revolutionary exhortations. After reading a text by Slavoy Zizek in which the philosopher states that "the perverse transgressions have been recuperated by the art establishment in order to keep the art market functioning and alive", Gert Verhoeven felt obliged to alter his original strategy and decided to re-examine his first series of drawings. Out of his closet, he collected the rejected and failed drawings of earlier times and used them as a literal background for 'New Feet', a series of word/drawings in which he further wanted to explore the positions of art on the basis of his new findings.
To get out of the deadlock of the hand and the fingers, Gert Verhoeven has moved down to the feet and the toes. With a lot of black humor, he evokes, through this gesture, the bizarre phenomenon of the artists without arms who can paint the most detailed landscapes with their feet. In a first stage, Verhoeven has branded every old drawing with a large stamp of a pair of rippled feet that he places right in the middle of the paper. Afterwards he has submitted the surface of each page to a meticulous examination and finally delivers his comments in the form of a number of verbal and visual actions: Verhoeven repaints, crosses out, deletes and turns the page. He demarcates limits and indicates positions and directions by means of numbers and arrows. Toes get added, colored and painted; forms are identified and personified; titles edited and texts rewritten from his new insights. The result looks like an impressive diagnosis of a syndrome that unfortunately remains a complete mystery without the explanation of a doctor. In the eyes of the patient, the diagnosis still contains the whole range of possible outcomes, but in the case of 'New Feet' the liberating answer will never follow since the artist is finding himself just as much on unknown territory and even turns out to suffer from the same affliction.
In his new drawings, Gert Verhoeven is paying a lot of attention to this overlap in the active and passive roles and the exchanges between artist and spectator, It is remarkable how he succeeds in rendering this dynamic in the position of the feet alone. Depending on the fact if the toes are turned downward or upward, the feet seem to belong to a standing person who thrones above the head of the spectator and pushes his weight forcefully against a transparent floor or seem to belong to a lying figure, who stoically offers his fragile foot soles to the perverse look of the fetishist or the torments of the sadist. In the annotations, he points out the characters of the 'faiseur', the 'facteur' and the 'masochist'. When it comes down toreleasing the artwork to the world, Gert Verhoeven personally does not feel much for the reckless 'USE ME'-statement of Bruce Nauman. He rather prefers to adapt the shrewd method of Franz West, who explicitly invites the spectator to touch the work, to sit and stand on it, or even to finish it. However, under the pretext of these 'user-friendly' instructions, he keeps control over the reception of the work. Like a real masochist, it is he alone who defines the rules of the game and assumes the right to change them at any time.
"New Feet" is closely connected to the general line of thought of Gert Verhoeven; like the former works on paper, sculptures and video's, this series of drawings represents one single movement within a choreography that encircles the authentic art in continously changing constellations.