Taking on a multiplicity of media (films, photographs, installations, publications), Sven Augstijnen’s works address the ambiguity of documentary observation, and explore a territory where the borders between fiction and documentary blur, discourses collide, and historical references overlap with historical gossip.
In Augustijnen’s work, the traditional codes of documentary practice seem to be both expanded and undermined. Discourse, as a vehicle for embodied social memory and symbolic experience, plays a key role in his practice, where the predominant figure of the guide (or the guides: narrators of a story, interlocutors of a community) manifests the importance of mediation in the production and activation of a territory’s identity. Fictions, rumors, personal comments and vague remarks are all inseparable from these forms of living memory. Led by each character’s verbal performance, Augustijnen’s films emphasize the plasticity of the narratives through which reality is collectively constructed, described and shared. His pieces thus present, not without humor, a surreal aspect of those games of influence, manipulation and power, in which the characters seem to be trapped.
In Sven Augustijnen’s explorations of the Belgian past or recent European records, this mutual permeability of history and fiction is seen as a platform for a re-elaboration of the present. Proceeding through association and juxtaposition of fragments, manipulating facts and fictional plots, his research reveals historical urgencies and questions the narratives underlying current political practices.
The oscillation between hazy zones of history and the secret spaces of everyday life appears, thus, as a constant feature in Augustijnen’s art, that manages to tie in widely divergent realities, and place the spectator at the center of a multitude of perspectives.
In 2011 Sven Augustijnen presents his new project Spectres – a feature film, an exhibition and publication. An intriguing journey into the dark regions of the Belgian colonial past, it reveals unresolved conflicts and frictions that are still operating in the present, and questiond the ambiguous borders between fiction and reality, the manipulative power of discourse and the fabrication of history.
Sven Augustijnen lives and works in Brussels. He is represented by the Galerie Jan Mot. Exhibitions and screenings include Tate Modern, Witte de With, Kunsthalle Basel, MuHKA, Bozar, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Museo Reina Sofia, Documenta Magazines/Documenta 12. In 2011, solo shows take place at Wiels Brussels, De Appel Amsterdam, Kunsthalle Bern and Kunsthalle St Gallen.
The artist was nominated by Ann Demeester, curator at De Appel Amsterdam and guest selector for the 2011 Evens Prize.