Koen Theys - Waterloo Forever!

Sunday 18th of June 1815 a legendary battle was fought near Waterloo, a village in present-day Belgium: Napoleon’s last one. Defeated by combined armies of Anglo-Allied and Prussian origines, the battle put an end to Napoleon’s position as the Emperor of the French. Earlier, the battle inspired artists for works like the Belgians James Ensor (The cuirassiers of Waterloo, 1891) and Marcel Broodthaers (La Bataille de Waterloo, 1975).

For Waterloo Forever!, Koen Theys registrated the re-enactment by more than 2000 people that yearly takes place in Waterloo - nowadays a heavily visited touristic attraction. This massive fictionalised impression that flirts overtly with folklore and kitsch shows heroic battlescenes by figurants, including reconstructed costumes, horses, cannons and gunfire. Shot in landscape format with inserts of triptych imagery, the work calls to mind the historical drama Napoleon by Abel Gance from 1927. As in other works by Koen Theys, a lot of references to 19th century ‘pompier’ paintings can be detected; in this way connecting them with the use of large videoprojection formats in contemporary art expositions.

The scenes unmask quite quickly the struggle the actors deliver with historically correct representation. Anachronisms appear as they, most of them extras in this huge battle, cannot resist to take pictures of themselves, to use their mobile phones or to smoke industrial cigarettes.

Argos – press text