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The Residence (a wager for the afterlife) at 13th Istanbul Biennial

14/9-20/10 2013
Press Conference 11/9
Professional Preview 12-13/9

Curator: Fulya Erdemci

venue: Galata Greek Primary School
Kemeralti Cad. No:49
34425 Galata Beyoglu

The 13th Istanbul Biennial titled “Mom,  Am I Barbarian?” focusses on the notion of the public domain as a political forum. This highly contested concept will serve as a matrix to generate ideas and develop practices that question contemporary forms of democracy,  challenge current models of spatio-economic politics, problematize the given concepts of civilization and barbarity as standardized positions and languages and, above all, unfold the role of contemporary art as an agent that both makes and unmakes what is considered public.

Apart from Vermeir & Heiremans' contribution to the 13th Istanbul Biennial public program 'Public Alchemy' in which they presented their newly commissioned lecture-performance Art House Index on May 10 2013, they will present a video installation featuring the single screen video 'The Residence (a wager for the afterlife)', the publication 'In-Residence Magazine' and the furniture piece 'Modular' at the Biennial exhibition.

Text Biennial Public Guide:

The videos and installations of Vermeir & Heiremans investigate the complex relationship between economy, spatiality, and social reality in today’s highly globalized world. Focusing on the mechanism of financial structures and the ways in which they produce and generate cultural processes, the duo raises questions about the ever-growing entanglement between urban development, social status, and fetishism. They explore the shifting nature of financial markets in relation to subjectivity and ask how the characteristics of the global economy produce new modes of self-perception. The artists employ financial tools, historical references, technology, and cinematic language to reflect on social codes as well as on the production of value in today’s artistic and non-artistic realms.

In their 2012 video project The Residence (a wager for the afterlife), in parts evoking the wager in Goethe’s Faust, Vermeir & Heiremans collaborated with the Chinese artist and architect Ma Wen, who plays two roles: a capitalist and an artist. The first character, an opportunist cultural entrepreneur, perceives the world through a financial lens and constantly shares his insights on the economic contribution of the ‘creative class’. Ma Wen’s second role as a long-haired artist represents the other side of this money-oriented reality: as a dissident of the ongoing accumulation of wealth, he finds himself excluded both physically and symbolically from the gated communities that comprise this flashy world. The project features two additional fictional characters: a wealthy investor and a woman named Lady Credit, an emblematic figure, performed by one actress who plays all the dozen female roles in the film.
Filmed in China and Belgium, The Residence narrates a compressed and frenetic plot—the entrepreneur is commissioned by the investor to develop a house for his afterlife—that takes place in an excessive, pretentious, and glamorous environment (full of expensive apartments, fancy interiors, and fashion shows). Accordingly, the text that is represented by the different figures is as corrupted as the world they live in: it is not an ‘original’ script but rather an assemblage of quotes from different sources. These sources may include lifestyle magazines or literary works. When juxtaposed with the visuals, these textual and verbal layers intensify the artificial feeling The Residence aims to convey. (text by Yael Messer )

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