press release

The Unreliable Protagonist
September 23, 2017–September 23, 2019

The Unreliable Protagonist will follow, in thought and action, the artistic practices of Pedro Barateiro, Ghislaine Leung, Daniela Ortiz, Imogen Stidworthy, Jozef Wouters and Andros Zins-Browne – six artists set to appear and disappear as Unreliable Protagonists as part of an extensive collaboration over two years.

They are both the pretexts for and the subjects of the episode. We invite them not only to make work but also to serve as curatorial agents and/or objects of study, as invited antagonists and interlocutors. Based on this starting point, an expanded "we" will then develop a programme together with other invited guests and artists.

Institutional behaviour produces patterns, formats, systems, and languages. On the other hand, artistic practices seem increasingly shaped by affective tendencies, temperatures, and densities. How, then, can an altered understanding of the conditions and actors that define artistic production today, allow us to realise other modes of institutional faculty? Can we align the production of a programme in the context of an institution, with the production of work in the context of an artistic practice?

The Unreliable Protagonist opens with two exhibitions:

The Absent Artist (An Exhibition for Jozef)
Danai Anesiadou & Sophie Nys, Anna Jermolaewa, Patrizio Di Massimo, Diederik Peeters, Francesco Pedraglio

It’s always nice to have a fresh start, and what better way to begin than with the autobiographies of the artists in this exhibition? What they disclose about themselves—where they live, to whom they are married, their favourite movie, their greatest fear—might help us understand their view on the world, their socio-political position, or their motivations for making an artwork.

However, what happens if an autobiography is not used to articulate a personal identity, but to escape it?

In an autobiography, the narrator, the protagonist and the author are one and the same. Through narrated facts and events, the protagonist builds up "evidence" of who she is. But then she realises she cannot talk about herself as a fixed identity—because she cannot look at herself from a distance. As she talks about herself, she inevitably loses herself. She is a projection, a performance, a navigation even, moving between who she might be and who she might want to be.

The Opening Monologue
Pedro Barateiro

Pedro Barateiro is one of our Unreliable Protagonists. He enters our two-year-long conversation with the production of a new film: The Opening Monologue. His film also allows us to revisit some of his previous works, which are re-cast to embody new meanings in a scenography in which the film is the protagonist.

In the staged environment of our exhibition, as in the world in which we currently live, information is produced, distributed and consumed at a fast pace. When the production and consumption of information collide, there are no more fixed meanings. Information, contained and contaminated by its formats, languages and distribution networks, seems merely to serve the production of meaning. There is no clear distinction between true or false, right or wrong.

In this vastness of data, images, and words, the spectator appears. As she moves around—navigating, interpreting, distributing—she distinguishes fact from fiction, unaware of the entanglement of both. Truth now lies in the eye of the beholder.


To be expected
In the first year of this episode, expect projects and collaborations with Tamás Kaszás (with De Appel), Chrysanthi Koumianaki, Tea Tupajić, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez (with KADIST) and Jens Maier-Rothe. Edgar Schmitz will provoke and sidetrack our institutional behaviour throughout the episode as a shadow artist. Robbrecht Desmet joins us as our cinematographer and Joris Kritis as our graphic designer.

Netwerk Aalst presents its entire team: Els Silvrants-Barclay, Pieternel Vermoortel, Katrien Reist, Piet Mertens, Charlotte Van Buylaere, Hans Bocxstael, Sophie Verhulst, Jeniffer Vansteyvoort, Vicky Van Keer, Hendry Mendy, Danny Bonnaerens and Kevin Eylenbosch.