In his second exhibition with the gallery, Jeroen Jongeleen presents three works from ongoing projects. Since the 90s, Jongeleen’s practice has consisted of ephemeral interventions in urban space meant to question the inherently ideological nature of municipal development and the underlying political and private interests at stake. Through challenging structures in advertising, architecture and other signifiers of regulated public behavior, these gestures re-negotiate the relationship between an environment and its inhabitants. For Jongeleen, they also ask questions concerning the place of art in the public landscape and the role of the artist’s contribution towards it.
In the front room of the gallery is the site-specific intervention “Dirty Line as Landscape (Brussels 2018)”. It sets a tongue in cheek mood in evoking the history of Dutch landscape painting. Proud of the economic success of their cities, Dutch cityscape painters of the 17th century inverted the gaze of landscape painting by painting the city as viewed from the countryside. In Jongeleen’s homage to this genre, he adds an inversion of his own. Car grease, soot and other residue collected from the gallery’s surroundings, form a smoggy, blurred, panoramic representation of a landscape across the gallery wall. Composed of the pollutants that the city and its inhabitants deposit upon one another, Jongeleen’s epilogue to the Dutch cityscape exchanges the utopian view of the developing city for a more toxic perspective.
A pathway comprising fragments of stone, asphalt and rubble which Jongeleen has collected from demolition sites, degrading sidewalks, vacant lots as well as already renewed, pristine parts of the city where detritus of past structures can still be found, connects the dirty line to an endless circle in the back space. In the absence of the structures they originally constituted, these non-functional by-products of constant urban renewal serve as persisting evidence of the cycles of construction, stagnation and demolition within the city, pointing to the underlying economic and political forces, along with specific events, which have fueled that renewal. In their re-constitution within the gallery, they become functional again, forming a 4 new structure while reminding us of their throwaway present and loaded past. It is a work reminiscent of earlier transgressive pieces such as “City Jewels” and “2, 1, 3” in which collections of urban debris were transformed shining similar light on historical constants and variables. Bringing these heavy objects from Rotterdam to Brussels may be like bringing water to the ocean, but is also a move that mirrors Jongeleen’s contribution to the 2015 remake of the seminal counter culture exhibition “Backjumps” 2005. Instead of transporting a work to the exhibition, the artist revisited his piece “Pointless One Liner,” this time running from Rotterdam directly to the exhibition.“ I’d decided to not focus on the end-work that normally fills the walls of an art space, but to represent the actual effort it takes to produce a work itself.” During the exhibition, a 6 hour film of this art work is on view in the gallery office.5
In the back room, the video “Running a Circle Against the Wind,” builds on Jongeleen’s “Running Shapes and Traces” series, which he began developing in 2012 and includes the aforementioned endurance performance “Running an imaginary line from my studio in Rotterdam to its exhibition in Berlin,” (2015). In March 2018, over the course of 8 hours, Jongeleen continuously ran a circle in a frozen crop field. As the emphasis on the action of running in the work’s title insists, the drawing is the end result of Jongeleen’s sustained bodily effort. As in all of Jongeleen’s earth-drawings, the slow process of creating the drawing through repetition acts as a physical manifestation of the difficulty in realizing an artwork. Here this effort is mirrored by the shadow of an untiring wind mill. While sometimes the wind is behind your back, in other moments you have to run achingly against it. The looming shadow of the modern-day windmill evokes the emblematic Dutch Golden Age paintings, which, like cityscape paintings of the same era, portray an image of economic strength and stability thanks to industrial and technological advances. Jongeleen is not simply running against the wind, but against the windmill with the all the progress and historical circles it represents.