Critics’ Picks

View of “The Invisible Hand,” 2016. Installation view, Parc Régional Tournay-Solvay, Brussels. Foreground: Joep Van Lieshout, Bad Man Hitting, 2002. Background: Leonard Van Munster, Ein Goldener Berg, 2014.


“The Invisible Hand”

Espace Européen pour la Sculpture asbl
Parc Régional Tournay-Solvay - Chaussée de la Hulpe 201
April 13–September 11, 2016

The legacy of the Anthropocene will be littered with parricide: We’ve killed God, and we’re systematically poisoning Mother Nature. How, then, will we account for the current atrocities on this planet? “The Invisible Hand,” the title of this outdoor exhibition curated by Natalie Kovacs, offers one idea, referring to Adam Smith’s concept of enlightened self-interest––a metaphysical force spurred by humankind’s persistent eye on the main chance and the collective effect of those pursuits on human affairs. The ambivalent universe on view, which takes place in the gardens of the Parc Tournay-Solvay, jostles between the utopian and dystopian, the rational and irrational. At the epicenter is global human crisis: Ein Goldener Berg (A Golden Mountain), 2014, Leonard van Munster’s sculpture in which a mound of gilded survival blankets used to rescue sea-thrown refugees––its apex peering out from the park’s central pond––serves as a towering body count (and perhaps just the tip of the iceberg) emerging from the depth of indifferent waters on which it is borne.

Fourteen profane sculptures by Joep van Lieshout are situated throughout the gardens and confront humanity’s relationship with itself and the planet through displays of questionable ethics that provoke the creation of new value systems. Witness, for example, three public acts of violation in fiberglass: Bad Man Kicking, Bad Man Hitting, and Bad Man Fisting, all 2002, life-size humanoid figures, stage politics of dominance and submission, portraying intimidation tactics through terror that exist on a level of global banality (they offered an uncouth playscape for kids the day I visited). Consoling only a little is van Lieshout’s sculpture Panta Rhei, 2011, a self-sustaining closed circuit of three Rodinesque thinkers communing via a shared cannula of thought and excrement. Here, Heraclitus’s ever-flowing stream of time begins and ends with humankind––a gruesome reminder that the hand that wipes one’s ass doubles as the hand that feeds.