MUSEION / ΜΟΥΣΕΙΟ
Curated by the imagination of Nick Ervinck

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In this new kind of MUSEION, a place where the nine Muses give inspiration free rein, I enter into a dialogue with traditional forms of art and architecture. Daughters of Mnemosyne, these Muses preserved ancient wisdom and knowledge, animating these precious gifts again and again, creating new forms for them, designing new world views.

As in ancient times, this MUSEION displays a unique combination of art and science. Just as the 'Temple of the Muses' in Alexandria with its famous Library sought to understand the entire world at that time, my virtual MUSEION brings together a collection of artworks that ask intriguing questions to our recent history.

Nick Ervinck in dialogue with Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Hans Arp, Lyn Chadwick, Bernard Meadows, Francis Bacon, Auguste Rodin, Antoine Bourdelle, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Ernst Haeckel, H.R. Giger, Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Joep van Lieshout and Franz West.
Historical pieces from, among others, The Louvre - Paris, The Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, The British Museum - London, Middelheim - Antwerpen, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden - Washington D.C., Museo Nazionale Romano - Roma, Statens Museum for Kunst - Copenhagen, Das Naturhistorisches Museum - Wien.
Enhanced with African masks, rocks, shelves, bones, corals, fruit, toys and tree trunks.

- Dimensions room 1: 525m long x 45m wide = 23625m²
- Dimensions room 2: 50m diameter = 1962m²
- Surface together: ~25500m²

FRONT PORCH

Will we ever escape the anthropocene, the first era in which the Earth's climate and the cosmic atmosphere expose the consequences of human intervention so manifestly clear? Are we experiencing a turning point in history or is this just imagination? Certainly the world today feels rather contradictory, as it is constantly changing and surprising us, the very reason why its daily appearance challenges the artist so much.
My MUSEION shows life in full mutation, shrouded in paradoxical appearances that explore what sculpture can mean in rapidly evolving times. On a walk through these virtual spaces, you meet well-known images from art history  that, in the end, all ask the same great questions concerning the human existence and presence on earth. A mysterious trip to a possible synthesis at a historically important moment that shows signs of both decline and progress?
This search for ourselves tries first of all to establish connections and strives for patterns of connectedness, because all children of Gaia on this planet Earth recycle organically all the resources this earth disposes of. We take and eat from the earth, we breathe in and out heavenly air, and constantly we redefine our cosmic relationships, with every breath, with every step we take. In doing so, we constantly feel the presence of every other being that lives with us and is inseparably connected to us through superficial feelings or deep affection.
 

Almost everything you see in this museum of hybridity has been subjected to processes of change and patterns of connectedness, because as an artist I use heterogeneous materials, different perspectives and ever changing colours, in a way to evoke feelings and meanings that now are enticing and refreshing, then again alienating and uncanny.  This totally renewed formal language may trigger surprise and astonishment, because the question that will always remain is the one about its possible meaning.

Hence, a call for a new kind of consciousness, a search for new eyes, a search for the new human being? Is it about turning old things inside out and finding a new form for what we experience today deep inside?
My personal guide to this will take the form of a BLOB, an explosive organic force field that combines energetic diffusion with an unseen way of staging human geo-metry and geno-metry. This BLOB inspires forces that transform figuration into abstraction, only to have it metamorphose again into a kind of figurative creation. Thus BLOB reaches out to all surroundings, a message of longing and yearning to find unity in diversity, diversity in unity.
How, then, to deal with the old modernist legacy that also started from these questions in order to present the world in an innovative way? In any event, my quest wants to pay tribute to famous predecessors such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Hans Arp who, a century ago, also wanted to explore sculpture to its deepest levels and developed a new language for the same purpose.

BLOB

My work is a way of experiencing the world, in its chaotic beauty, in its indeterminable grandeur, in its poetic charm. In contrast to our traditional experience of seeing architecture primarily in BOX formats, in horizontals, verticals and in angular spaces, I explored another procedure that rather goes for the round, capricious and unpredictable. All too long, Western distrust has  plagued the supposedly formless, for did the amorphous not escape our irrepressible urge to control and rationalise?

BLOB is indeed more organic, shows in full a process of infinite and merciless growth, and expands the minuscule into the monumentally large. Like a moving splash, an enlarged raindrop, a cosmic egg, a form of energetic pulsation that brings all dimensions out of balance and provides them with new life. BLOB represents the energy of a hand outstretched, one that invites participation and exploration, always on the search for embracing all ‘things in heaven and earth’, as Hamlet would say to Horatio.

Choosing for the potential of a world in a permanent BLOB is therefore choosing for a world with a strong innovative capacity, an impulse to a provocative imagination that allows for every possible expansion, that cannot be foreseen, that cannot be stopped.

For me, BLOB is therefore above all freedom that flows outwards, misunderstood freedom admittedly, and that is why it is so attractive to an artist. It represents the desire to be sucked into another world, to explore another dimension and thus to step outside traditional reality. In this sense, it is driven by an attraction that is at once ancient and contemporary, active inside and outside this earth, very concrete but also highly symbolic.

My BLOBs fan out, again and again, from my passion to transform linear sensibility (say: old architectural order) into more round and fluid forms (say: rhizomatically swirling chaos). This is in keeping with my desire to add something to the great story of sculpture, up to and including the desire to reinvent its most elementary forms

  

  ROCKS

During a walk in the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, I saw for the first time Gonshi stones, a kind of naturally hollowed-out rock that evokes many associations and can even take on the shapes of people, animals and mythical figures.

I was immediately reminded of the sculptures of the British sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. They were also the ones who abandoned figuration to work in a more abstract way, a decisive step in the evolution of sculpture, because they discovered the hole in the sculpture, the negative space, which they preferred to use in order to include the landscape behind in his sculptures.
 

I make holes to explore the inside of sculptures, as it were, to make lines move and to make them feel like a kind of subcutaneous experience. With the BLOB shape I discovered in these rock gardens, I want to make the viewer long to be sucked into these wondrous forms and be seduced by a game of rapidly expanding holes.

Walking along these fascinating hollows, he will discover a hundred possible facets of beauty, in which a tantalising form of sensuality is always lurking just around the corner. For me, too, the desire to explore this negative space as intensely as possible and to test the limits of the possible with the technology at my disposal today is a most tantalising experience.


 

PLANTS

The pierced Gonshi rocks, asymmetrical and wildly chaotic as they are, are not so far removed from the still lifes I discovered in the collection of the Meissen vases in London. By making the leaf, stem and fruit lose their seemingly natural colours and exposing them, as it were, to various forms of radiation and genetic manipulation, I played the role of the scientist who acted like God and who, in a virtual future, wanted to pursue general control over man and nature.

Suddenly, the still life was no longer so quiet and innocent any more, as full yellow strawberries in heavily sagging and unprecedented flower shapes, enveloped in white exoskeletons, were now hidden by wry blue petals. Is this regression to the vegetal and animate merely an evolutionary moment for plant and tree, or will we as humans also be facing a similar regression in the near future?

 

In any case, my 'Plant Mutation Project' asks perplexing questions that we usually prefer not to face. Natural landscapes that we have always considered to be our normal habitats are revealed here in all their unnaturalness, to the dismay of many of our entrenched views.

The 'garden of the future', spiced with experiments with genetically modified food, links great poetic beauty to ethical questions, but the legitimacy of my surreal strawberry and coral sculptures reaches out to be alarming.


 

MASKS

The masks from the 'Mask Mutation Project' radiate a special kind of energy that has a strange impact on the viewer. Certainly, questions can be asked here about the use of the specific colours, for the richly coloured African patterns and Central and South American motifs from Maya and Inca cultures are emphatically asserted here.

They are nourished by a strange kind of energy that does not originate from a known natural source and, precisely for that reason, raises questions about the purpose and function of human interpretation. Somewhere in and through these masks, classical representation explodes and therefore the world behind  and inside the mask is at least as interesting as what appears on the outside. 

As the human species goes through a period of unprecedented evolutionary development, as an artist I wonder in what way human faces will change into humanoid masks, into new inter-faces that go along with our abilities to upgrade our thinking and enrich our existential possibilities.

The artist in me feels both the promises of a new technological era and the age-old philosophical and existential problem of just being human, just being an undefined and even unwanted child of Gaia. However, a transhumanist dream haunts me and makes me think of ways to remould the most iconic parts of man, especially his head, along the lines developed by the latest paradigms of evolutionary science.

Don't these lines and colours resemble primary life forms, such as insects or crustaceans, or aliens in Sci-Fi films? Do they not remind us that we are just mutants in worlds that are themselves constantly changing? Perhaps these masks tell us that we ourselves are hybrid beings, somewhere between human and animal, with different kinds of evolutionary brains in constant conflict with each other?



ARCHEOLOGY

Traces of the past continue to determine the present and the future, and in the fusion of these three temporal dimensions, critical questions arise, such as that of the meaningfulness of what is past and of the possibilities of an as yet unfulfilled future. What has been preserved reveals the coincidence, but also the position of power from which relics can show themselves, often a confusing game between high and low cultures, between idealised imperial busts and a heritage with a large Mickey Mouse content.

The extensive use that I make of 3D computer graphics, prints, drawings and sculptures is aimed at partners who have yet to be born, but who are already influenced by our rapidly changing ways of thinking and acting.

 

The middle ground that I construct between virtual and physical worlds, meanwhile, frees the imagination, recycles historical space and poses terse questions about the use/abuse of the past.

Torn from his old certainties, the spectator is thus provoked to start imagining possible worlds that might have been or will be, including parallel worlds for which there is no archaeology yet, but which nonetheless are about an arché, a basic principle of our thinking and an absolute starting point of exploration.

 



HUMANS

Presenbted as new kinds of BLOB sculptures, human organs, bones and muscles seemed to be the objects of choice to represent primary forms of a new alphabet that can help to design the human being of the future.

The cooperation between art, technology and science has proved especially useful when it comes to depicting the human body. After all, the human anatomy remains the ideal starting and finishing point for all imagination that wants to cut deeply into our prejudices and problematises the position of man both in his cosmic grandeur and under cellular microscopy.

 

By using BLOB sculptures both as an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton, this human being appeared to me as a highly problematic being, somewhere in an intermediate zone between inside and outside, human and animal, physical form and mythical narration.

Allowing the imagination to intervene in larynxes and brain areas obviously brought a transhumanist belief one step closer, but mutations in these border areas of the human being indicate that the artist also wants to have a patent on

 


 

CYBORGS

The many cyborg warriors I designed stemmed from a multitude of sources, as Sci-Fi, modern manga and the work of H.R. Giger have long been my favourites. Robots, aliens and monsters populate my mental world and command a special kind of respect because of their unknowable and problematic nature.

Are these cyborgs in their multicoloured mechanical skeleton the gatekeepers of a new consciousness, the new (false) gods of an anthropocene future, or do they recall the bygone rituals of primitive ancestors?

It is a great challenge to want to make contemporary equivalents of the classical busts, the results of thousands of hours of computer assisted work, but also of persistent subtle craftsmanship. 

In that sense, my cyborgs do hold up a mirror to us, for perhaps they are the prototypes of the new human, full of implants and algorithms that will upgrade us in a near future. Once again, they bear witness to an artistic will to fully depict hybridity and mutation and to link a perfectly symmetrical world to a wild and chaotic version of it.

Certainly the new thorny skin of my cyborgs recalls the first inhabitants of the earth who had to keep warm with animal skins. Future technology could in a polyfunctional way extend this extra layer of protective skin to provide extra protection and strength, while producing an artificial armour that could cope with overly drastic changes in climate.


 



ANIMALS

Whereas in Shanghai, the hollowed-out rocks in their evolutionary state still symbolised a nature in permanent energetic coherence, the animal realm appears to be exposed to the same profound mutations.

The whole of traditional nature is evoked in a state of becoming and degeneration. Apparently, no physical element of daily reality is spared from profound processes of change. 

Animals are disturbed in their daily routine, transformed and stripped of their natural physicality. Sometimes in frightening compositions, sometimes in seductive poses, limbs are combined with remains of what could be plants and people.


 

A runaway nature has made them take on the composite nature of Greek monsters like the Chimera, the Hydra or the Harpies. Was it an apocalyptic catastrophe, the arrival of UFOs or just our careless treatment of nature that led to such hybridity?

The mystery in which the animal state now finds itself in all its dispersion goes one step further, however, when only Rorschach spots remain, beautiful in their perfect symmetry, stripped of all human and animal presence. What remains are the mysteries that make up the cosmos.


 



SKIN

What was first presented as static surfaces eventually became skin, sheet or shell. An impure matter was spread across the smooth surfaces of the polished BLOB sculptures. Chaotically breathing bellies and breasts seemed to move, enclosed as they were by a substance that spanned all alien life.

Spatial cobwebs grew in the most diverse directions and took possession of a space that seemed barely contained by them. Fragile and yet unapproachable, but also strong as bones, they spanned microscopically small, but also monumentally large fields.


 

One can think of the fleshy textures of Francis Bacon, one can also feel a tribute here to Eadward James Muybridge who with his zoopraxiscope did pioneering work to be able to include moving images in photography.

Grown within or outside known evolutionary processes, intentional or the fruit of blind chance, mutations of skin and fur show how these man-made fossils can nestle in numerous universes. Unashamedly radiating their bright colours, they raise the question of the meaning of their functioning, certainly forming part of a new dystopian landscape, breathing deeply in the silence after a cosmic storm, original flesh of a new tech world? Soon a smartskin for all of us, necessary attribute for survival, miraculous fusion of the gifts of Gaia and Techno?


 

BACK PORCH

The sculptures that found a place in my MUSEION no longer belong to a reality that we think we know so well. Between and after the World Wars, modernists like Moore, Hepworth and Arp challenged the imagination so deeply that the function and purpose of art had to be completely revised. Like them, I sought a completely different design that made the world feel differently, as a universe preferably inhabitable in a different form language, as a landscape that could generate wonder once again.
Is this wonderment for the sake of exposing what has remained subconscious and snowed under in our culture, and did my years of feverish exploration of negative space serve to encircle the black holes in ourselves? What does the inside of the sculpture that my BLOBs are so fascinated by mean, a descent into the microbiological core of our humanity or an invitation to include interstellar spaces in our world view?
In the midst of these sculptures, the classical representation explodes, and therefore the world inside BLOB is at least as interesting as what appears on the outside. This is a gliding path on which my imagination goes further than ever, for my 3D-controlled technology plays a game with a primary life form that I can manipulate at will.

My artist's hand is therefore hacking Darwin, is remodelling DNA, wants to regenerate plants, corals and animals after yet another mass extinction or deadly radiation. But at the same time, I continue to be amazed by the elusive kind of magnetism that drives our libido, love and lust and apparently will never succeed in eliminating our élan vital.
So, in the context of recent developments in evolutionary science, I seek to implement organic life with man-made technological extensions and explore what kind of meaningful life this will result in.

Genetic and artistic engineering united, side by side, as a wake-up call to a society that is developing heterogeneous forms of life, proceeding more transhumanistically than ever, but letting itself be ideologically lulled to sleep in the process?
After the heirs of Alexander the Great gathered all the knowledge of the then world in the great Library of the Alexandrian MUSEION, it was also used to eliminate opponents. Fear of a rapidly changing world view can be lethal, which is why artists in particular must be more alert than ever.

 



Thanks to the Flemish government in the context of the cultural activity premium
Thanks to prof. Freddy Decreus, Michel, Brent, Benoit, Kayleigh and the artists for this journey.

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