The Shadow Artist

Episode 1: The Unreliable Protagonist

Episode 1: The Unreliable Protagonist follows, in thought and action, the artistic practices of six artists (Pedro Barateiro, Ghislaine Leung, Daniela Ortiz, Imogen Stidworthy, Jozef Wouters and Andros Zins-Browne).

They appear and disappear as Unreliable Protagonists, as part of an extensive collaboration over two years.

Within this first episode, Edgar Schmitz takes on the role of The Shadow Artist. Netwerk Aalst defines his commission as behaving and acting on the moments where we see institutional habits coming up and where vocabulary settles.

The shadow artist forms a critical backbone to the institution — he creates an awareness of Netwerk Aalst´s own handling and the political and social implications of what we do and how we speak.

Edgar Schmitz inscribes himself in the organisation by acting as an editor of texts and contracts. Seemingly innocent, he replaces terminology, he interferes with the physicality of our environment, and interferes with the distribution of our online content. The infrastructure and modus operandi of Netwerk Aalst form the material of the conceptual practice of Edgar Schmitz.

At the end of the first episode, works by Edgar Schmitz appear in and around Netwerk Aalst.

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demolition decor, 2018/19

adhesive shatter resistant glass removal safety film, closed-top polyethylene pallet, overall dimensions variable, courtesy Netwerk Aalst

demolition decor can be applied to a surface in anticipation of its future demolition, or in its place. The film should be applied horizontally on both sides of the surface, and centred at 120 cm from the ground. Once applied, the high tack adhesive cannot be removed; the film should be installed as soon as a demolition has been agreed, or slightly before then.

The Netwerk Aalst version supplies four rolls of film to wrap around the exposed three sides of the building inside and out.

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greenville plug, 2015/19

c-print, dimensions tbc, framed, edition of 1 + 2 artist’s prints, courtesy Netwerk Aalst

The Greenville plug surfaced outside a Hyatt in South Carolina in 2015 and is bordered by astroturf, petals and woodchip.

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sao jose dos campos, 2018/19

set of six anaglyph images, dimensions and materials variable, unlimited edition, courtesy Netwerk Aalst

sao jose dos campos is an homage to a group of seventeen digging for months just outside of Sao Paolo; the work issues six anaglyph images of their labour for circulation in and around the host situation.

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tunneling is the new bridging

Edgar Schmitz thinks the institution is not indifferent to the ways in which we describe it. Language produces a certain version of an institution. Therefore, substituting language, re-arranging it, and re-distributing it, causes different ways of constructing the infrastructure of the institution.

In his role as the Shadow Artist, Edgar Schmitz loans a set of alternative terminology to Netwerk Aalst.

The term Tunnelling was suggested to replace 'bridging' when it comes to talking about ‘reaching out’ to audiences and dealing with the physical, cultural and affective distances between the institution and its multiple milieus.

Tunnelling displaces the idea of bridging by moving toward a more clandestine register, and suggests that connections between two points are not always best made out in the open, may have a dark and intensely material side, and often produce substantial amounts of debris that need to be taken care of. In the kinds of tunnels dug to enter vaults and safes, this debris is often more of a problem than the blatant lack of oxygen, and even the noise.

Talking of tunnelling instead of bridging asks to re-consider what kinds of connections we want, and which type of effort may be required to facilitate them.