THE VANITAS RECORD
The Belgian artist Koen Theys built an impressive vanitas-still life ("the biggest in the world"), a wooden construction (20m. by 16m.) crammed with skulls, candles and books along with thousands of live snails. In the first part of the video - not a recording of the installation, but a work in itself - the camera slowly strays past the contraption, as echoes of press commentaries and interviews about the occasion resound on and off. In the second part, this touch of self-irony takes on more grandiose proportions as Theys layers images of the press hounds themselves.
One of The Vanitas Record’s ambitions is to point a finger at the erosion occurring within the press when it comes to reflecting upon visual arts and culture. Critical stances are pushed far aside by the media's 'hype mechanism' something Theys himself provokes with this spectacular 'record' attempt. Paradoxically enough this pomp and circumstance is at odds with the original reading that a Vanitas scene urges onto its spectators: a call for humility, a warning about vanity and an understanding of how life passes by in an instant.
Kunsthal Rotterdam – press text