Just as buildings hold some of their contents inside, while some leak or are discharged to the exterior, in Josse Pyl’s work, words that have hitherto been held behind the bars of teeth and have not been uttered, finally escape and turn teeth into the ruins of our past words and half-formulated worldviews. The crown on PLATO’s head grins with a row of molars that have just let the seven words of the title – oh, and, hah, beauty, ruin, and slack – escape, which immediately turn into a crumbling message. PLATO has a lower jaw and announces a ruin. Beginning from the roof downwards, Pyl’s intervention opens the one-year exhibition cycle Oh and Hah, Beauty, Ruin and Slack.
From the moment of their origin, plans are ruins. Josse Pyl is looking for a physical background for ideas. He examines the hierarchies between the tools of speech, communication, and decision-making – how words and texts pass through human and other bodies, how language and speech are formed and disintegrate in a metabolism similar to digestion. After structuralist methods of research into the relationship between speech, sign, meaning and body, the artist tries to understand this intertwined system without hierarchy and through objects, organs and environments where words are formed, where they move and are lost. He juxtaposes images and objects of words, knowledge about them, diagrams of speech systems and other mechanics, physical objects in the form of tongues with embossed stamps about their artificial origin, communication technologies very old and very new. Words clutched in the hermetic circle of white molars, figures of speech reminiscent of relief sceneries, bestiaries, alphabets twisted from eyelashes, speech swallowed by a ruminant, teeth like the keys of a worn-out mechanical keyboard.
Meanings permeate all components of Josse Pyl’s artistic work: shapes, motifs, materials, details, compositions, techniques, titles. Everything holds contents that are not separated from form. Even the technique of the work – frottage – resembles activities associated with the body, such as gnashing teeth or brushing them, refining words and growling them between one’s teeth. Together with the roof intervention, Josse Pyl has made a series of drawings/collages for PLATO, which serve as opening visuals of the individual scenes of the 2021 yearly exhibition programme. The technique of frottage goes back to a time when the image could be mechanically reproduced. The imprint of type is also a ruin of type. Technically speaking, all the pieces of information on the image are equal to one another. The visual absorbs both, the digital and manual modes. It intermingles the comical with comics and the textual with the figurative. It mixes what is on the surface (drawing) with what is underneath (the basis for frottage). Pyl created a series of stone reliefs as a basis for the frottages; using paper, pencil and scribble they become ruins and their message is taken over and distorted by the drawing. Frottages emerge from the bones of our voices and communication gets reduced to the physical intimacy of the mouth. The reality of the objects is framed in the black-and-white world of language and fiction. The past is being rewritten.
21 December 2020
Josse Pyl (b. 1991, St-Niklaas, BE) explores language as a material element in everyday reality in order to show the machinery hiding behind the signs and sounds that connect one person to another. Before his residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (NL), Josse Pyl studied at Werkplaats Typografie (NL). His recent solo and group exhibitions include shows at the Brakke Grond, Amsterdam (NL), Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam (NL), 019, Ghent (BE), Art Rotterdam, Rotterdam (NL), Ljubljana Biennial, Ljubljana (SL), Tallinn Art Hall, Tallinn (EE) and the Biennale van België, Ghent (BE).