The Vanitas Record (2005)


installation view

set's photos

Video installation for 1 projector
33.37 min. (loop)
HDV – color - stereo
Orig. version: Dutch

Director of photography: Danny Elsen
Assistant Camera: Jan Dellaert
Second Camera: Koen Theys
Assistant: Dimitri Riemis
Machinery: Alex De Heus
Gaffer: Wim Temmermans
Electro: Gideon Van Essen
Scenography: Bert Leysen – Dries Dejonghe
Props and Objects: Jeroen Boels – Erik Dehaes – Dirk Eelen
Voices: Arnold Naessens – Roland Patteeuw – Manfred Sellinck – Koen Theys – Annemie Tweepenninckx
Sound: Koen Theys
Editing: Koen Theys
Realisation & production: Koen Theys
Co-production: Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds – Kunsthalle Lophem

Vanitas is Latin for vanity. A Vanitas painting is a form of a still life consisting of a collection of objects that symbolise the brevity of human life and the transience of earthly pleasures and achievements. Vanitas paintings were most popular in the Netherlands of the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Most recurrent objects in the gouaches and oil paintings from painters by the likes of Frans Hals, Willem van Aelst or Harmen Steenwijck are skulls, candles, hour-glasses and clocks, overturned vessels, books and (fading) flowers. Those objects act as a reminder of the inevitability of death, and the pointlessness of earthly ambitions and achievements. For the exhibition LocusLoppen, the artist Koen Theys built a gigantic installation. ‘The Vanitas Record’ was a three dimensional still life that measured 15 x 20 meters. In the setting of amongst others
skulls, books, alarm clocks and candles, Theys placed 20.000 living snails. In the first part of the same titled video The Vanitas Record – not a documentation of the installation, but a work on itself with different added contextual layers – the camera travels initially along the installation, showing in detail the books, crawling snails, buzzing (alarm) clocks and extinguishing candles.
Slowly, Theys adds a second layer of (self) relativity and (self) irony, inserting pieces from radio and television interviews he had on the occasion of building this ‘record’. In the second part, the ‘Vanitas Record’ turns almost into grand guignol, as Theys blows up the already large press and public attention at the opening of his installation to the proportions of a mass event where visitors and press are leading to roaring applause and a bombing of flash sounds.

… Koen Theys filmed The Vanitas Record and it turned out to be a masterpiece. ..”
Mark Ruyters - De Tijd

entire article (NL)

“ … But the difference between this contemporary vanitas, brought to superlatives, and the classical vanitas, lays in this excessive accumulation of objects …”
Marie-Claude Lambotte – Les Vanités dans l’Art Contemporain

entire article (FR)

“ … but never before did he touch on it so directly as in The Vanitasrecord. A motive which keeps coming back is the ‘fantastic’ - though in a Kafkaesque sense : a theme is carried through to such an extreme, that it begins to turn on itself. To Theys it is a way to visualise certain impossibilities or dilemmas in contemporary art…”
Stoffel Debuysere – Arts numériques

entire article (NL) (EN)

"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…”
Kunsthal Rotterdam – presstext

entire article (EN)

“ … The conversations follow one another and overlap one another, making the installation say one thing and than its opposite. …”
Caroline Champion & Samuel Zarka – Exploratrice des Saveurs

entire article (FR)

“ The video of Koen Theys is extraordinary, not because of his Book of Records characteristics (The biggest Vanity in the world!) but because of everything it contains. … “
Onar Retetout - Main Tenant

entire article (FR)

“ … It was a sight and scent never to forget. Snails hanging from clocks and candles, symbols of transience. Snails in the empty eyes of the skulls, symbol for the inevitable death. And snails that agonizingly slowly ate Nietzsche, Hegel, Sartre, ... as a symbol of vanity and pride… “
Daan Ballegeer - De Tijd

entire article (NL)


Set's Photos