December 2017 : Letters to Artists by Philippe van Cauteren was just published.
Letter to : Sacha Eckes
There is little room for humor or scabrous jokes in art. We rarely get beyond a restrained laugh. As if it’s not allowed to make art that roars. Of course there are exceptions: Honoré Daumier, Grandville, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Filou, Philip Guston, Martin Kippenberger, Paul McCarthy, James Ensor, Peter Land, Richard Prince,
Walter Swennen, Gelitin, Jacques Lizène... It’s a small selection of artists in which humor, witty or not, has a place in the work. Satire, parody, caricatures, slapstick and absurd humor can be found in dribs and drabs in art history. However, it is just a thin layer in an art world overwhelmingly characterized by seriousness and distinction. It’s an observation, no more, no less. Maybe it’s because it isn’t evident to be able to crack a good joke, but neither is this the case with making (good) art. In any case, I have to admit that I am amused whenever I see one of your reworked posters from some cultural center. The elegantly designed poster or ad is reconstructed into a Sacha Eckes. Somewhere I feel an artist’s struggle for acknowledgement, but I mostly sense an artist who lets her work balance on the art world’s carefully built house of cards. Clumsily written letters, nervous crossings-out and caricature drawings are your tools to tone down the art world with an apparent playfulness. Because it doesn’t feel like critique, but more like an off-screen commentary that moves between admiration and judgment. It’s surprising that not one woman can be found in the list of artists I summed up. As if the domain of humor exclusively belongs to male artists. Or does it have to do with my own one-sided perspective? In any case, it’s here where your work feels like a sledgehammer blow. With your ‘Ads of Art’, ‘Imposters’ and ‘Kill Your Darlings’ series, you infiltrate an area that can be called ‘male’. Scabrous jokes are made with a self- consciousness that belongs to you alone and not to some kind of feminist or institutional critique. For many, the lightness and playfulness are unmanageable, not to be taken seriously. From now on, the seriousness with which you handle playfulness to create your work allows me to add you to the list of exceptions.
Philippe van Cauteren, Liège, May 1st, 2017