The solo exhibition of Bethan Huws in the kestnergesellschaft
promises, with its various groups of works, to offer deep insights into the wide-ranging artistic production by the Welsh artist. Filmic, text-based, installational and object-utilizing works are gathered together here. Huws' mode of artistic expression is repeatedly described as clear and precise on both the conceptual and formal levels. This is not least of all because the mental aspect apparently predominates over the visual element, but also because language plays a crucial role in her works. On the level of contents, Huws revolves around the question of the generation of meaning through and the comprehension of art.
»WHAT'S THE POINT OF CREATING MORE ARTWORKS WHEN YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE ONES YOU'VE GOT?« is the issue raised in a word vitrine from 2006.
Situated against this background is the intense investigation of the oeuvre of Marcel Duchamp, which comes to expression here in a large number of the exhibited works. Thus her film Fountain (2009) refers to his infamous ready-made of the same title: the urinal turned upside-down and signed, dating from 1917. Bethan Huws, on the other hand, presents Baroque fountains in Rome while she reflects upon the function of language in Duchamp's final work Étant donnés (1946-66). She isolates a single element from the latter one and recreates it for her work Étant donnés: An arm holding a gaslight is installed literally as a chandelier. Forest (2008-09) is also based upon an appropriation: Whereas Duchamp's Porte-bouteilles (1914) consists of a single bottle-dryer, Huws causes dozens of these objects, which in any case resemble a tree, to grow into a forest. She thereby shifts Duchamp's attitude of indifference with regard to aesthetic premises into a new direction, one which calls attention to the relationship between language and objects. Integrated into this installation in the kestnergesellschaft will be the projection of A Marriage in the King's Forest (2009), a documentary film about a wedding in southern England, whose world premiere took place in a genuine forest. This is not just a self-aware reference to her own exhibition history: In French, »marier qc. à qc.« means combining or uniting something with something else and, in this signification, refers in Huws' consideration to a peculiarity of artistic creation itself. Her concern with investigating the structures of Duchamp's works in a both profound and objective manner accordingly becomes integrated into her ever-present reflection concerning the production and exhibition of art.
It is from this perspective that the title of the exhibition Il est comme un saint dans sa niche: Il ne bouge pas (»He is like a saint in his niche: He does not move«) may be read. This timeworn saying from the French language describes someone or something unwilling to move. In the context of the exhibition, it refers to the nature of works of art: They are fixed, unchanging objects. That which remains highly flexible, however, is the individual process of comprehension in which the viewer is engaged.
Bethan Huws participated in 1997 in the Skulptur.Projekte in Münster and represented Wales at the Biennale in Venice in 2003. Among the institutions which have dedicated a solo exhibition to her are the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht, the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf, and the Serralves Foundation in Porto. Her works may be found among the Tate Collection.