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'Van Life' by Egon Van Herreweghe at Croxhapox, Gent

The Microcosmos in Van Life 

For Van Life, Egon Van Herreweghe recontextualises life on four wheels in a space used as coach storage for the residences on the parallel street. Part of the ground floor is now used as a platform for contemporary art. The exhibition space is not much bigger than a mobile home and has only one window. This makes it the perfect place to think about compact living and mobility. To do so, the artist presents sun visors on the wall that result from travelling with a converted van. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary for the English Language, the van is a "covered truck or wagon," 1829, shortening of a caravan. The dictionary suggests this was perhaps regarded as carry-van. 

The artistic approach of Egon Van Herreweghe is a sharp comment on the contemporary art scene related to the audience's perception and the artist's position in a constantly changing social sphere. He questions the artistic production and the artwork per se, transitions between form and function, sound and silence, and movement and rest. The viewer, without realising it, becomes part of the work as the artist creates situations and environments that challenge the relationship between the signifier and the signified. According to Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913, Swiss linguist, semiotician and philosopher), the signifier is the physical form of the sign, and the signified is a particular conceptual image and idea to the audience. 

Van culture, a pretty romantic aspect of life, presents itself as without borders, low-cost and sustainable, and allows people to experience new places, make new acquaintances, and do outdoor activities all day long. The sun visors bear traces of all these activities. Practical things such as fruit stickers and parking tickets are combined with memorabilia and photographs from previous trips. Stitched together as a living diagram that radiates the owner's personality and preferences, much like modern-day almanacks. 

The early origins of almanacks date back to the second millennium BC. They are generally called hemerologies, from the Greek hēmerā, meaning day. An almanack was not a simple diary or a calendar; it was a compact encyclopaedia providing information about natural and astronomical phenomena. In the 1960s and 1970s, the yearbook's content increasingly shifted from literature to photography, film, visual arts and design (E.g.The Snoecks almanack has been published in Belgium and the Netherlands since the 1920s. It first appeared at the Ghent family printing company Snoeck-Ducaja & Zoon; It was in circulation between 1925 and 2022). 

As contemporary cartographies of a world in constant movement, we glance at nomadic life in various tourist attractions through the sun visors. Living and travelling in a van immediately evoke a romantic nomadic life without the restrictions, boundaries and obligations associated with a permanent residence. Tea bags, condoms, tourist coins, coasters, tickets and receipts make you wonder if it's all that different. 

Van Herreweghe's sun visors use the art of trompe l’oeil (French for “fool the eye”). Although flat, the images are printed with 'elevated printing' techniques where several layers of ink are placed on top of each other, creating a slight reliëf. In addition, various varnishes and finishes are used to enhance the illusion. A push pin shimmers the light differently than a ribbon, etc. All this trickery, in its full depth and plasticity, emphasises the tension between illusion and reality. 

Is Egon a digital flâneur in a global landscape? Baudelaire identified the flâneur in his essay, The Painter of Modern Life (1863), as the dilettante observer (source, Tate Modern). The flâneur carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, and the connoisseur of the street. Van Life is contagious, with no restrictions, intra-personal connotations, and an assembly of images with remarks on life, contributing to understanding our energy in curiously unique ways. The artist provokes new insights and processes to see what is within people and the fact of movement. 

— Katerina Nikou 

10.12.22 — 18.12.22

Photo by Thomas Min


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