Heiremans, Ronny & Vermeir, Katleen.

Katleen Vermeir *1973 in Bornem, BE
lebt und arbeitet in Brüssel, BE


Ronny Heiremans *1962 / Heist-op-den-Berg, BE
lebt und arbeitet in Brüssel, BE


Ausstellungen [Auswahl]:

2010 'Trickster makes this world' – Nam June Paik Art Center, Yongin-Si, South-Korea, KR
2009 'Video Lounge' – CEAC, Xiamen, CN
2009 'The Good Life'– Arnolfini, Center of Contemporary Art, Bristol, UK
2007 10th instanbul Biennale – Istanbul, TR

The Good Life

(dt. Das gute Leben)


Date: 2009
Length: 16:00 min.
Format:  16:9, 2-Kanal Installation
Specification: Colour, Sound


Kunst und Leben miteinander zu verbinden war das Bestreben verschiedener Avantgardebewegungen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Künstler wollten die Grenzen zwischen diesen Bereichen aufheben, so dass die Kreativität der Menschen die Welt in einen besseren Ort verwandelt. Ronny Heiremans und Kathleen Vermeir nehmen dieses Konzept wörtlich – und spitzen es ironisch zu. In ihrem Video entwerfen sie ein Zukunftsszenario, in dem eine Kunstinstitution das eigene Haus verkaufen will, damit es in Luxuswohnungen umgebaut wird.
Eine Frau, die sich als Immobilienmaklerin entpuppt, führt durch die Räumlichkeiten eines fiktionalen Kunstmuseums. In ihrer Rede preist sie diese volltönend an, indem sie gezielt architektonisches Fachvokabular, aus dem Kontext gelöste Zitate des Kunstbetriebs und Werbeslogans aus Lifestyle-Magazinen einstreut. Eine solche dystopische Umkehrung, Kunst als Lifestyle zu leben, führt dazu, dass man in einem Schlafzimmer schläft, an dessen Wand einst ein Bild von Warhol hing, oder dass man seinen Morgenkaffee samt Croissant auf einer Sonnenterrasse genießt, die an einen Renaissance-Palast erinnert. Trotz seiner fiktiven Natur erzeugt Heiremans’ und Vermeirs Szenario den unheimlichen Effekt einer gewissen Plausibilität. Kann die Businesswelt in dem unvermeidlichen Zusammenspiel von Kunst und Kommerz wirklich den Wert von Kultur erkennen? Oder handelt es sich bei ihrem Engagement einfach nur um eine doppelbödige Strategie für einen größeren finanziellen Profit?





► 1. Your video has been chosen among over 1700 festival entries to participate in Videonale 13. How central is the video medium to your overall artistic production? Is it complimentary to other media you use or do you work exclusively with video?


Video is quite central in our work. Given the opportunity, we try to generate a specific context for our video work, including lectures & public interviews, printed matter, installations, soundscapes etc. In the case of The Good Life (a guided tour), the video piece became part of a total environment, which embraced the social and political context of the art institute as such.


► 2. Is there a particular theme, concept or problem your art addresses the most?


Since 2006 our collaborative work focuses on the question of representation and mediation of architecture. It speaks about how these representations are integrated in a series of political and economical processes of control and manipulation. In our work we try to visualize the intricate links between art and value, life and economy. In that sense The Good Life (a guided tour), is a meditation on the inextricable relationship between institutions of contemporary art and the wider structure of the economy, harnessed today by the 'creative class'.


► 3. What artists do you relate to or find significant for your own art-making?


A lot of art and filmmaking we find inspiring, without singling out specific practices. We have a preference for art that plays with codes that define our reality. We enjoy art that in a witty yet persistent way is linked to its social, political and economical conditions. And yes the artists should have a sense of humor, even be some kind of trickster. The list of artists that fit the description is quite long.


► 4. Do you think the video medium can address social or political issues better than other art media?


Obviously the moving image is a very powerful tool of communication in our societies, and very popular as well. But it does not necessarily mean it addresses social issues better. We see video being used as a tool of emancipation as well as of manipulation. Our feelings for the medium are ambivalent, to say the least, since both emancipation and manipulation seem to take place simultaneously. We do acknowledge there is no such thing as a transparent format or medium, but we hope that in the works we produce some of our doubts shine through.

That is probably why we try to contextualize our video work through the use of other media as well. The Good Life (a guided tour) is a fine example of this. The concept of urban regeneration, as well as the unavoidable gentrification of the surrounding areas, has become a dynamic process that plays out globally, a reality on which our video reflects. The video’s generic environment and use of language allows it to inscribe itself into different urban contexts, as if relating to a specific context. Yet it could have been shot anywhere in the world.


For the inaugural presentation of The Good Life (a guided tour) in Bristol we decided to work on a site-specific display. So we came up with the idea of positioning the film as a ‘marketing tool’ in a fictional real estate development, which was presented under the name of THE GOOD LIFE. Although the development was part of the Arnolfini Futurology program, which was organized by Nav Haq, exhibition curator at Arnolfini, Bristol (UK) in 2009, THE GOOD LIFE was never introduced to the public as an art project.


THE GOOD LIFE proposed to develop the building of the inviting art institute and to sell it off as luxury lofts. We commissioned the Brussels architecture office 51N4E to work on an iconic, but feasible proposal for the Arnolfini building, which brought the Arnolfini Board of Directors in a position to have the plan executed or not, since the art institute owned the building. The exhibition spaces were installed in the manner of real estate marketing suites that at the time were present everywhere in the city. In the entrance we had set up a banner with the future development. In the ground floor gallery our video The Good Life (a guided tour) introduced visitors to the new development. The woman in the video who first seems to be an exhibition guide transforms into a real estate agent selling the visionary architectural proposal. Her hyperbolic language is derived from clippings from the Bristol Architecture Institute press archive, real estate advertisements & brochures, etc. The immaculate spaces in which she walks seem to be situated in one big museum, whereas in fact the building in the video consists of different white cubes located in England and Belgium. In a small room upstairs there was an architecture model, a series of artist impressions of the new development, and a public consultation book in which visitors could write their comments and approve or reject the proposal. The main galleries were completely empty, except for a few iconic designer chairs on which people could contemplate the proposal in a glossy real estate leaflet.


► 5. Art can be seen as a mirror that registers and reflects life or as a tool that transforms it. Which of the two positions is close to your own art-making philosophy?


In our view it is not a mirror that simply reflects, but rather one that distorts, magnifies, exaggerates and ultimately ‘frames’ aspects of life. The question of transformation is related to what happens with the ‘consumer’ of the art. We’re quite happy no artist has control over that part, although we must admit that it was most gratifying to read people’s comments in the public consultation books. You could say that the hundreds of notes and comments scribbled or drawn in the books (two of them were filled) were the ultimate mediation of THE GOOD LIFE project: reading through it you could sense the people looking for their way round a confronting reality we had put on their path. Some of the reactions and discussions going on in the book were very extreme, varying from aggressive refusal to thoughtful reflection, as may become clear from following quotes: 

“If the Bristol City Council let this travesty get developed, then God help the city. It's almost impossible to live here. It's so expensive. And this would only make a shitty situation far worse. Bugger off back to Belgium...”

“...Walking around the galleries made me remember all the wonderful exhibitions and shows and good times I've experienced here and there was such a sense of emptiness (in me!) and loss at imagining it all being taken away and sold off. This is so much more about the feelings it engenders than perhaps the thoughts. I love the previous comment a couple of pages back about how The Good Life turns the whole harbour side into art. So much fakery and selling of everything...the kind of chilling, Orwellian "doublethink" way of presenting a tragedy like the selling off of Arnolfini as something brilliant which "embraces culture". The artists have given us a wake-up call like a glass of water in the face...”


► 6. How do you understand success in an art-making career?


We see the artist as a producer. If we succeed in making the work and bring it into the world, then the most important part of our job is done.


► 7. What is the most difficult and the most rewarding thing about making art  / being an artist?


“The ultimate standard in modern society is (...) money.” (Brantlinger P., Fictions of State, culture and credit in Britain, 1694-1994, Ithaca & London, Cornell University Press, 1996, p. 23.). This being said, we see today that more and more aspects of our lives are framed by an economic mindset. The economy – and by extension ‘money’ – imposes an all-encapsulating format on any idea of value. Also in art, the perception of success is often defined by material success, by how you’re quoted on the market. Although we do not see art as necessarily in opposition to the market, we do have the impression that it becomes more and more difficult to defend non-quantifiable values, ways of working, contents.


A collaborative practice, when it works, is very rewarding. With collaboration we don't mean people executing our ideas, but a practice in which you have to allow yourself as an artist to lose control and to produce art work that goes beyond the individual’s scope.


► 8. What are your upcoming projects?


Since fall 2009 we are working on a new video film THE RESIDENCE, in which we will continue to play on the relation between art, architecture and value, and the mediatization of these hybrid geographies. Within the framework that we defined for this film, namely the economy and its mantra of progress as the sole measure of things, we have developed a narrative. Against the backdrop of an unknown city of images and projections, a symbiotic relationship develops between an investor and an ambitious architect. Before making the end balance of his life, the investor embraces the ultimate investment that will project his name into the future. THE RESIDENCE is not strictly linked to the geographical places where it will be produced. Although for the larger part our research for this project was focused on China, THE RESIDENCE will not be a film about China. The project will be inaugurated in ARGOS, Brussels in January 2012. In context of that presentation we are also working on a publication and a lecture.


► 9. What do you do when you don't make art?


Indulge, explore, unwind, kiss, eat, laugh, create, snuggle…imagine, reflect, pioneer, sleep…destroy, touch, giggle, …flirt, destroy, tease, giggle, touch, cheat, relax, devour, smile, …


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