Monika Szewczyk

Monika Szewczyk is a writer, curator, and educator. Since 2008, she has been head of publications at Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art and a tutor at the Piet Zwart Institute, both in Rotterdam. She has contributed essays to numerous catalogues as well as journals such as Afterall, A Prior, Camera Austria, Canadian Art, F.R. David, C Magazine, Mousse, and e-flux journal, which has published installments of her ongoing project, Art of Conversation.


  • Harald Thys and Jos de Gruyter in Vancouver

    June 30–July 28, 2007

    Curated by Monika Szewczyk

    The collaborative work of Belgian artists Harald Thys and Jos de Gruyter is rooted in a folksy, tragicomic sensibility honed into an experimental dramaturgy. Their video and photographic work use simple, symbolic sets, including the paradigmatic spaces of home, battlefield, urban periphery and community hall. They have engaged a recurring cast of non-professional actors as well as invented or adopted personae spanning the forms of puppets, dummies, plush animals, makeshift robots and rejected toys. These characters continually rehearse power dynamics and emotional entanglements, creating worlds not unlike our own, yet more focused, bizarre and bleak. The artists seek ways to confront marginal, incapacitated, lost and alienated subjects without defining these ‘others’ in sociological terms. In this sense, and especially in their novel use of a ghoulish humour, Thys and de Gruyter broaden the scope of reflection on socially produced behaviour.

    Their exhibition at Artspeak will include three video works and a photographic series. The exhibition centres on Thys and de Gruyter’s newest and most ambitious narrative film entitled Ten Weyngaert [In the Vineyard]. Adopting the name and setting of a Brussels Community Center that was built as a utopian space (but is now frequented by troubled people and remains isolated from the city’s public life), the action of Ten Weyngaert is transposed into a world ruled by a spider where robots act as intermediaries between the minute monarch and a motley cast of dysfunctional archetypes. The human cast, as is often the case with the artists’ work, is comprised of family members, friends and non-professional actors—all familiar people placed in a radically non-familiar situation. The unfolding action becomes an allegory of human behaviour under social and psychological ‘pressure.’ Accompanying the film, the exhibition will include a series of recent scene studies in the guise of black and white photographic works. The photographs were conceived independently, but comprise a crucial component of the film’s presentation, as it is here that Thys and de Gruyter introduce many of the characters that we meet in Ten Weyngaert. The exhibition also includes the mime-performance video Le Cercle N.1: The Chair in which a white man switches into a black man, then back again and so on. Artspeak’s publications area will be activated through a monitor screening of an early work, The Experiment, as well as a bibliography/library as a means to further engage with the work of Thys and de Gruyter.

    HARALD THYS and JOS DE GRUYTER live and work in Brussels and have been working together since the mid-1980s. Their work has been widely exhibited throughout Europe including solo and duo exhibitions at Aliceday, Brussels; MUHKA, Antwerp; SMP, Marseille; Galerie Carlier/Gebauer, Berlin; and Galerie EOF, Paris. Their work has also been included in exhibitions at Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin; Bozar, Brussels; and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, among others. The exhibition at Artspeak is their first exhibition in North America.

    Special thanks to Galerie Aliceday for their assistance with this project.

    Postscript 29: Mina Totino on Harald Thys and Jos de Gruyter (PDF)

  • Is It Any Wonder (1600 Kelvin)

    September 9–October 14, 2006

    Mark Soo, <em>Is It Any Wonder (1600 Kelvin)</em> Installation View

    Mark Soo, <em>Is It Any Wonder (1600 Kelvin)</em>

    Mark Soo, <em>Is It Any Wonder (1600 Kelvin)</em>

    Mark Soo, <em>Is It Any Wonder (1600 Kelvin)</em>

    Mark Soo’s installation, Monochrome Sunset (English Bay – Oppenheimer Park), uses colour as an indexical marker to explore aesthetic and socio-cultural experience. Engaging the properties of vision in general, and the history of Vancouver’s representation more specifically, Soo’s project reflects on the relationship between urban experience and the psychological and physiological aspects of light and colour.

    Realized in the form of a freestanding, translucent photographic sculpture backlit by city streetlights, Soo has photographed the setting sun over picturesque English Bay at the same colour temperature as the yellow-orange sodium streetlights found in the inner city’s Oppenheimer Park. Utilized by the City of Vancouver for their unique characteristic of disrupting colour perception, the lights discourage intravenous drug use and crime. When the sunset image is lit by the streetlights in the gallery, it is rendered ashen and the picturesque disintegrates. Soo’s installation is constructed to bisect the physical space of the gallery and posits uneasy dialogues between inside and outside, mainstream and marginal, nature and city. Echoing social divisions and highlighting the gallery’s relationship to its surroundings, Soo continues this spatialization by installing filters on the gallery windows to suggest the conditions of twilight.

    While the scenic image of Vancouver’s waterfront parks remains a central trope of Vancouver’s civic identity, the inner city is also renowned. Soo connects these social spaces with the formal elements of light and colour, while juxtaposing notions of the picturesque with urban planning and control. Further complicating these perspectives, one might consider the use of colour film in entertainment and advertising images that project Vancouver’s beauty, while black and white film has traditionally been associated with the documentary and thus might be considered more apt in the portrayal of the social landscape. Soo’s installation questions these modes of representation and draws attention to their construction to examine perspective, modes of looking, colour theory, and the principles of light itself. Considering the context and placement of the gallery (between English Bay and Oppenheimer Park), Soo suggests a complex transitional relationship between aesthetic convention and the narratives of place.

    Postscript 23: Monika Szewczyk on Is It Any Wonder (1600 Kelvin) (PDF)

Talks & Events

  • Intangible Economies

    November 18–November 20, 2011

    GreyChurch Collection & Project Space, 3092 Fraser Street, Vancouver


    7pm: Antonia Hirsch
    8pm: Hadley+Maxwell


    11am: Melanie Gilligan
    12:30pm: Lunch
    1:30pm: Monika Szewczyk
    3pm: Olaf Nicolai
    4:30pm: Clint Burnham (Response)


    11am: Juan Gaitán
    12:30pm: Lunch
    1:30pm: Candice Hopkins
    3pm: Jan Verwoert
    4:30pm: Marina Roy (Response)

    Clint Burnham and Marina Roy

    Artspeak and Fillip present Intangible Economies, a three-day forum that broadens the notion of economy beyond its financial dimension. Initiated by Fillip Associate Editor Antonia Hirsch, the Intangible Economies series focuses on the multifarious forms of exchange fuelled by affect and desire and speculatively investigates the fundamental role these affective transactions play in modes of representation and, accordingly, in cultural production.

    The premise of Intangible Economies is the assumption that personal relationships are produced by economic activity, and that conversely, affect, and in particular desire, generates economic transactions. In the wake of recent global financial crises, it seems critical to interrogate the notion of “value” in a broader sense. Intangible Economies seeks to tackle the difficult task of tracing the role of affect in economic exchanges relative to artistic production, while also enacting the unruly force of such transactions.

    Intangible Economies was initially developed through a series of texts published in Fillip magazine over the past year and will culminate in a book anthology published as part of Fillip’s ongoing Folio Series in 2012.

    The Intangible Economies forum is generously hosted by Jane Irwin and Ross Hill through the GreyChurch Collection & Project Space and made possible with support from the City of Vancouver and the Canada Council for the Arts. Additional support provided by Best Western Hotels.