Jan de Cock

Occupying the Museum

2005–12

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Not on display

Artist
Jan de Cock born 1976
Medium
80 four-colour offset prints on paper
Dimensions
Image, each: 720 × 1020 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the artist 2014
Reference
P20383

Summary

This portfolio of prints, Occupying the Museum, is largely based on the Denkmal 53 exhibition at Tate Modern and would therefore be a significant addition to Tate’s collection. The prints represent de Cock’s typical conceptual approach and critique of art institutions. Occupying the Museum references early twentieth century traditions when art, design and architecture met in the common pursuit of a transformation of society and modern life.

Occupying the Museum 2005–12 is a set of eighty four-colour offset prints on paper measuring 720 by 102 millimetres. The portfolio is stored in a wooden box and each of the prints is signed by the artist. The prints are to be displayed either as the whole portfolio or in groups of ten or more. Occupying the Museum is de Cock’s first editioned work; Tate’s copy is the first of ten artist’s proofs aside from the edition of ninety.

The portfolio in part records de Cock’s project Denkmal 53 which took place at Tate Modern, London in 2005. Photographs taken from different angles document how sculptural and architectonic objects were shown in the museum space. Furthermore, the portfolio includes photographs of works of art by precursors, such as Marcel Broodthaers (1924–1974) and Donald Judd (1928–1994). In addition, there are conceptual designs and quotations that contextualise the images. Some prints consist of one image, whereas others depict a group of photographs and statements. The artist has described the work as ‘a visual essay, a photo souvenir’ (in email correspondence with Tate curator Lena Fritsch, 13. September 2013). The portfolio also includes an essay by art and architecture historian Tim Martin, explaining the conceptual background of the Denkmal project.

De Cock’s Denkmal 53 exhibition at Tate Modern consisted of different sculptural and architectonic elements created to react with the existing exterior and interior of the museum (see Level 2 Gallery: Jan de Cock, www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/level-2-gallery-jan-de-cock, accessed 6 July 2013). It included large architectonic constructions as well as small geometric parts, mainly made of plywood and other industrial materials. Some free-standing objects resembling abstract works of constructivism and minimalism were exhibited in the space. Other elements interacted more with the gallery spaces. Some objects, such as information desks and seating, remained almost invisible as works of art by becoming part of Tate’s architecture and interior design, subtly changing their appearance and disrupting their normative use.

The artist has had a series of Denkmal exhibitions in different locations, including a disused shipyard in San Sebastián in 2004 (Denkmal 2) and the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt in 2005 (Denkmal 7). The title Denkmal is German for ‘monument’ or ‘memorial’, a compound of denk, signifying ‘thinking’, and mal, which translates as ‘sign’ or ‘stigma’. However, in Flemish the word is a neologism that de Cock created: denk also signifies ‘thinking’ but mal means ‘mould’ or ‘casting mould’. As such, the term literally and figuratively refers to a ‘thinking mould’. Each Denkmal installation is prepared by de Cock and his team in his studio in Brussels and then developed further in-situ. The artist has explained this by emphasising his artistic intuition: ‘to be able to trust your instincts, you have to create frames for your work beforehand within which you can work instinctively … the museum is also a frame, you must create an atmosphere in it that encourages the instinct, makes it sharper.’ (Quoted in Farronato 2003, p.92.) The Denkmal works are shown for a limited time; by adapting to the existing architecture of the setting, they question the way people see and use these sites.

As the title of the prints, Occupying the Museum, corroborates, de Cock’s works engage with the institutional contexts of art critically by ‘occupying’ or ‘capturing’ museums and other public art spaces. The portfolio reflects the conceptual quality of de Cock’s practice and represents his critical concern with museum spaces and art exhibitions. It acts as documentation of the Denkmal exhibition at Tate Modern in 2005 as well as an ‘exhibition on paper’ in its own right.

Further reading
Milovan Farronato, ‘Interview with Jan De Cock’, Tema Celeste, Nov–Dec 2003, pp.88–93.
Tim Martin, ‘Occupying the Museum: Jan De Cock’s Denkmal 53 at Tate Modern’, 2005, essay to accompany the portfolio Occupying the Museum, unpaginated.

Lena Fritsch
September 2013

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