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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observation, and explore a territory where the borders between fiction and documentary blur, discourses collide, and historical references overlap with historical gossip.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, be it by the arrangement of documents or by the strategies used in order to obtain and (re-)construct information. 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.
In 2011 Sven Augustijnen will premiere his new project Spectres - a feature film, an exhibition and publications that propose an intriguing journey into the dark regions of the Belgian colonial past. The artist follows different clues and meets a number of singular characters which help him compose an open, elusive and uncanny evocation of Patrice Lumumba's murder, through its different traces, memories and ghosts. The film thus reveals unresolved conflicts and frictions that are still operating in the present, yet on a subliminal level, remaining uncovered by academic historiography or journalistic research. 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.
The works of Sven Augustijnen have been exhibited and screened in international museums and art institutions, including Tate Modern, Witte de With, MuHKA, Bozar and Museo Reina Sofia. In 2011, solo shows are programmed 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.
Sven Augustijnen was born in 1970 in Mechelen, Belgium. He lives and works in Brussels, and is represented by Jan Mot gallery. The portfolio and the films of the artist are available on request.
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