Why Are You Angry? is curated by Philippe Van Cauteren. The museum texts and interpretative tools for this exhibition have been developed by students on the postgraduate Curatorial Studies course at KASK, School of Arts Ghent, in collaboration with Ghent University and S.M.A.K. Margot Bossy, Sofie Frederix, Yimeng Wang and Julie Wyckaert undertook this work as a practical assignment within the Audiences and Learning module that trains future exhibition curators in audience-focused thinking and working.
Why Are You Angry? brings together a selection of S.M.A.K.’s most recent acquisitions in the fields of video, photography, and installation. The title takes the form of an open-ended question that visitors are encouraged to answer for themselves. It can also be read as an invitation to interrogate the current global social crisis from an emotional perspective. The act of questioning – whether this be the artists, the artworks, the museum, or other visitors – is central to the exhibition. The artworks function as guides during the search for answers. It is hoped that the displays will act as a catalyst for a range of thoughts and feelings, from regret and dislike to enjoyment and wonder.
The exhibition includes works by Sine Van Menxel, Jacqueline Mesmaeker, Sofia Hultén, Rosalind Nashashibi, and Lucy Skaer. The title is borrowed from a collaborative film of the same name by the British artistic duo Nashashibi/Skaer, which is shown at the end. Their work was inspired by the painting ‘No te aha oe riri’ by the French artist Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), the title of which translates as ‘Why Are You Angry?’ He created the work in Tahiti and the film revisits the painter’s historic voyage to the island. Nashashibi/Skaer’s view of modern Tahitian women questions our notions of exoticism, colonialism, and everyday life, while the title of their film encourages viewers to pose their own questions as they search for a form of narrative.
With her video installation ‘Enkel Zicht Naar Zee, Naar West’ (Single Sea View, Facing West) (1978), Belgian artist Jacqueline Mesmaeker reveals fragments of her personal memories and invites viewers to step into a new world where they become immersed in a feeling of total freedom. Swedish artist Sofia Hultén presents a thought-provoking ensemble of works that range from the video ‘Fuck It Up and Start Again’ (2001) to sculptural pieces such as ‘With Added Dimensions’ (2010), ‘Nu Cave’ (2011), ‘Gatefold 10’ (2012) and ‘Particle Boredom II’ (2017). Hultén transforms ordinary objects into new forms via subtle gestures. In this exhibition, for example, the materials appear to have been salvaged from urban storerooms. Her approach is humorous and serious in equal measure. Sine Van Menxel is represented by a recent series of photographs entitled ‘speekselsporen, tongstreken’ (traces of saliva, strokes of the tongue) (2020). The artist licked a series of photographs with her tongue to leave traces of her saliva behind on the prints. These unexpected marks add another dimension to the peaceful images of nature. Van Menxel enjoys experimenting with photography and her surface interventions on these prints resemble brushstrokes.