Patrick Van Caeckenbergh

(Belgium) b.1960

Lives and works in Sint-Kornelis-Horebeke, Belgium

Although the universe of Patrick Van Caeckenbergh can be described as a personal collection and classification of stories, fascinations and objects, it can be appealing for everyone. Van Caeckenbergh is a dreamer, philosopher, thinker and storyteller, using intriguing visuals to express his ideas and associations. He enjoys crossing borders between different disciplines and wants to escape from the one-sided, limited, mechanical and technical methods of cultural behaviour.  Therefore, Van Caeckenbergh involves notions of coincidence and obscurity, similar to the rhythms of nature. In all his drawings, sculptures and installations, details are very meaningful. He often starts with something small and humble that nonetheless develops over time into a monumental and layered work of art.

At the Taipei Biennial, Van Caeckenbergh brings works from different periods together into an anatomic cabinet. For a long time, the human body and in particular the digestion has played a key role in his oeuvre, as a reflection upon society, consumption, religion and more. 

By entering the cabinet one crosses two guardians, Mister and Madam Bondieu. These personifications are made of cooking pots and refer to the act of boiling, simmering, and have an indirect connection to the digestive system. It’s a fascinating transformation process, which turns something concrete into an abstract entity that can nourish again, especially soil. Cooking, eating and digesting are events Van Caeckenbergh likes to share with people. It’s the perfect setting for good conversations. The body stimulates the mind, another field he explores. After meeting a neurologist in Germany in the eighties, he developed a Meccano box of a brain. During the same period Van Caeckenbergh started cutting out skin from soft-porn magazines, which turned almost into a meditative act. Personal characteristics such as eyes, mouth, toes or hair are never included. In the Anatomic Cabinet the walls are structured with wooden bars holding skin cards we could read as music notes on a score. More skin is integrated in the collage Der Anatomische Mensch. It surrounds a red circle made out of images of human muscles. Pink monkeys holding each other’s hands form a second circle. This work is a manifesto commenting on the brutal images we see on television. We see them constantly, but often our world or life keeps turning, and those events happen again and again. By deconstructing and censoring the imagination, the artist offers the viewer a way to deal with brutality and horror in life. When the artist only integrates blushing cheeks, we are reminded of Charles Darwin who interprets this physical reaction as a proof of shame. Although it’s fascinating to study the human body, the way we treat it isn’t always that honorable. It is often abused and becomes an object of consumption. In Les Hommes Chips, a mass of crumpled papers are held together by a fence that cannot contain it. Each paper shows an anatomical reproduction of the human body. It’s a demystifying presentation, which underscores that we all look very much alike. We lose the softness of skin and cheeks completely in the central installation, Les Dieux Suppliants, which consists of five skeletons, covered by missionary garb, kneeling on a Catholic alms box. Only by reaching out their hands together can they keep from falling apart. With irony and humour he puts the gods in a begging position and suggests it’s time they pray to mankind for forgiveness.

Patrick Van Caeckenbergh has had major solo exhibitions at Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, the Netherlands; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nîmes, France; La Maison Rouge, Paris; FRAC PACA, Marseille; and Museum M, Leuven, Belgium, amongst others. In 2012 Van Caeckenbergh had a retrospective at the M Museum in Leuven. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale in 1993 and 2013; “Beating Around the Bush” at Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht; “Hors – Limites: L'art et la vie 1952-1994” at Centre Pompidou, Paris; “Manifesta 1,” Rotterdam, the Netherlands; “Abracadabra,” Tate Gallery, London; the 5th Biennial of Lyon; “For the Blind Man,” the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit; De Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam; and Culturgest, Lisbon, amongst others.

His work can be found in several public collections, including Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Frac Bourgogne, Dijon, France; FRAC Champagne-Ardenne/Le Collège, Reims; FRAC Languedoc-Rousillon, Montpellier; FRAC du Limousin, Limoges; FRAC Pays de la Loire, Carquefou; FRAC Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Marseille; FRAC Orléans; the Museum of Modern Art, Antwerp, Belgium; Musée des Beaux-Art de Nantes; Museum Middelheim, Antwerp; Museum Overholland, Nieuwersluis, the Netherlands; SMAK, Ghent, Belgium; and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, USA. 

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