Festival Exhibition: Olaf Breuning

Opening: Friday 23 August, 2006 19:00h at Centraal Museum (Utrecht)

Regular opening hours:
24-27 August | 12:00 – 17:00h
25 August | 17:00 – 21:00h


This year, Impakt features the first solo exhibition of Olaf Breuning in the Netherlands. This New York artist from Swiss origin has won international recognition with his photographs, videos and installations. Thanks to a large number of exhibitions in museums and galleries all over the world, his star has risen quickly over the last few years.

In his works, Breuning refers extensively to the idealised reality that the popular media conjure up for us in their relentless image flow. Breuning does not shun from seducing the audience with tasty stereotypes. If you let yourself be seduced, you can then start to discover the full complexity of Breuning’s visual language. In an intelligent manner, he plays with the expectations and desires that are omnipresent in our daily lives thanks to fashion, films, commercials and music videos.

The protagonists seem to be desperate for real experiences in Breuning’s universe, which is as recognizable as it is absurd. They roam around as solitary knights, they unite in obscure tribes, they submit to bizarre rituals or they seek refuge in adolescent subcultures. They are outsiders in a world where you can switch identities at will. Authenticity proves to be nothing but a myth: the artificial reality that comes to us through the media can no longer be distinguished from physical reality.

The exhibition in the Centraal Museum consists of a selection from the photographic works Breuning made between 1998 and now, three video installations and three sculptures. The sculptures, which depict coffins with human features, bear the titles ‘Ice cream’, Snowman and Chocolate’ (2004). Their faces are distorted into a sardonic smile. Breuning had these ‘melting men’ made in Ghana, according to the principles of Fair Trade. As an apparently ironic reference to cultural roots and exoticism, traditional handicraft is also a theme in his most recent photographs like I Am Scared of the Chinese (2006). In a photo series with the ambiguous title Camp’ (2002), armed combatants pose in their improvised camps. The associations with the present-day situation, Taliban and al-Qaeda are obvious, but the attributes that are present give rise to confusion. The frightful men wear Texan boots while proudly showing their trophies and paintball guns. And at a closer look, you can see that little effort has been made to hide the fact that Evil was portrayed in a studio. The video King’ (2000) shows a king who wears Nikes and drives around in his four-wheel-drive through the desolate mountain landscape of the American Midwest. His personal quest, represented as a road movie, is alternated with hallucinating, nocturnal scenes from music videos and cheap horror movies. In its form Group’ (2001) is something in between a National Geographic documentary and a home movie. A group of Vikings wash ashore and then start to transform into beastlike savages. Lord of the Flies in a camper. ‘Home’ is Breuning’s ‘pièce de résistance’. For this complex work from 2004, Breuning travelled around the world for twelve months, visiting places like the Machu Picchu in Peru and the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. As the artist puts it himself: ‘a journey was undertaken to experience polarities of stupidity and holiness.’ Home consists of a synchronised double projection with a hypnotic soundtrack that Breuning composed himself. One screen shows black and white images of a man, played by the actor Brian Kerstetter, who roams around aimlessly through a deserted villa. This sleepwalking narrator shares his bizarre dreams with us, which we can view in ten colourful episodes on the other screen. Here, the same actor performs a wide variety of roles, varying from a cowboy to a tourist or a drugs dealer, in a hilarious and staggering quest for a ‘home’. Just like in Breuning’s other work, perception is the main theme in Home. Fact and fiction, reality and dream, physical and artificial reality; they have merged completely.

Film Installations:

Home (2004, 32:00 min)
dubbel projectie, acteur Brian Kerstetter
Group (2001, 10:00 min)
King (2000, 9:24 min)


Augen Zu (1998, 122 x 155 cm)
Vampires (2002, 122 x 155 cm)
Deadlock (1999, 122 x 155 cm)
Camp I (2002, 122 x 155 cm)
Camp II (2002, 122 x 155 cm)
Camp V (2002, 122 x 155 cm)
Horsefarm (2004, 122 x 155 cm)
Snowmen (2006, 122 x 155 cm)
Titi Caca (2006, 122 x 155 cm)
I am scared of the Chinese (2006, 122 x 155 cm)


Chocolate (2004, 68 x 55 x 230 cm)
Snowman (2004, 86 x 56 x 212 cm)
Ice Cream (2004, 74 x 55 x 193 cm)


Curated by Peter van Dijk
Since 1997, Peter van Dijk has been the coordinator of the Academiegalerie, the exhibition space of the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht (Utrecht School of the Arts). Furthermore, he has been one of the core members of the Panorama selection committee of the Impakt Festival since 2000.

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