press release

The departure point
The intrinsic departure point of this formation lies in the year 1961, with two works of art that altered the course of art history: Piero Manzoni's Socle du Monde and Claes Oldenburg's text I am For… By inverting a pedestal, thereby turning the whole world into a work of art in one fluid movement, Manzoni placed a certain step towards what we recognise as a work of art, how that work can be presented and what the audience can expect. Oldenburg's text does exactly the same thing in a totally different guise: in 49 statements, the artist proposes a new way of thinking about the relationship between art and life (or the world). It is a rhythmic list where more attention is given to the sound than to its impact as a manifesto. The artist described it 50 years after it was written as a poetic, slightly satirical ode to the possibilities of using anything in one's surroundings as a starting point for art—the art movement that came to be known as New Realism or Pop Art.

The source of inspiration for the name of the exhibition was a similar step back in time to before 1961. René Magritte turned his own work and style inside out for a few weeks in 1948, a moment that was later catalogued as his "période vache." By painting "badly" (rough and playful) on purpose, he commented on his own work and painting in general as well as on what the world, the art world in particular, expected from him. The title of the exhibition on view at the Middelheim Museum was borrowed from a painting of the same name from this period.

A transverse formation
The artworks are brought together in a very specific setup: one long row of sculptures walks straight across the garden landscape. The sculptures are placed in a tight rhythm, at an equal distance from each other. Together they form a parade or a formation.

That setup combines the dynamics of a parade—the statues almost seem to be marching out of the museum—with uniformity and equality, as all the works are given just as much space. Major names in recent art history and prized pieces from the collection stand side by side with new works by contemporary artists and with pieces from the museum's collection that generally receive less attention. The parade mobilises the entire environment, in response to Oldenburg's statement that "we should not assume that sculptures sit on their asses in a museum."

An ode to the everyday
POM' PO PON PO PON PON POM PON is a rhythmic ode to the unlimited freedom that the arts can assume simply by looking around and being inspired by the commonplace. The exhibition questions concepts like "sculpture" and "monumentality" and the related heroic status of the artist. Related to this is a critical inquiry into the pedestal and the museum as an institution that threatens to isolate the work of art from the rest of the world.

All the pieces champion a contrary vision of both art and life: they are translations of our world with images that are flung back by artists in a mutated or poetic form. The works on display are a result of different junctures and have a very eclectic morphological language. Nevertheless, there is also a common characteristic: it's always an artistic breakdown of expectations, something that's often linked to a contrary and anarchist sense of humour. By linking the sculptures with each other in this specific setup, the exhibition creates figures that encounter each other in a tragic or funny manner, but without drama.

Participating artists
Carl Andre / Joannis Avramadis / Guillaume Bijl / Alexander Calder / Vaast Colson / Aaron Curry / Raymond Duchamp-Villon / Peter Fengler / Michel François / Jens Galschiot / Isa Genzken / Christian Jankowski / Jean Bernard Koeman / Frank Koolen / Jef Lambeaux / Michel Martens / Claes Oldenburg / Peter Rogiers / Bernard Rosenthal / Roman Signer / Olivier Strebelle / Dennis Tyfus / Jose Vermeersch / Henk Visch / Franz West / Rik Wouters

Curated by Lieven Segers and Sara Weyns