‘The Headless Media Monster’ is a life-size sculpture (205 x 140 x 120 cm.) made of metal, hard polyurethane foam and liquid filler. The artist asked the poet Bart Vermeer to write a literary comment on the work of art. The video clip below shows the sculpture from different angles, with the poem. (2017)
English transl. Ivo Verheyen
The title of this work refers to the pioneering days when planes were developed and we began to realize that flying was really possible. Man’s genius had taken another hurdle – what a wonderful feeling.
How different are things today: planes and airports have become targets of religious and/or political terrorism. The attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001 and on Brussels Airport in March 2016 are just two horrible examples. The plane, once a symbol of hope, of quasi unlimited opportunity and freedom, now carries a bitter and ominous connotation.
Aeroplanes shows the plane as a crucifix – a reference to religion, but more generally also to ‘believing’. The statue looks a bit like a human figure. The stripes symbolize ‘demarcation’ and remind us of the procedures, rules and regulations typical of aviation. Note that the plane is tilted forward, a position that suggests a crash, which, however, is stopped by the yellow-white beam. (2016)
The intense colours are those of the images of a thermal camera: cold is blue; the more energy is used, the redder the images become. The figure clearly wants ‘to move forward’. The pedestal is custom made and follows the forward movement, which is hampered by the large vertical board.
More than one interpretation is possible here. One is that man can be stuck in his own mind or can be (too) strongly attached to something. Even severe effort does not allow him to move on. The suggestion is that the buddhist approach of ‘let go’ can be liberating.
Another interpretation, quite the opposite, is this one: strongly focusing on something, ‘fixating oneself’ as it were, can help us progress. (2016)
Life and death seem to hang in a construction of white and yellow here: a rational demarcation. The artist borrowed this idea from socio-constructivism, a psychological learning theory that says that phenomena are really social constructions. Hendrickx was intrigued by this theory and asked himself if the concepts life and death are also man-made constructions. Is one’s life a self-made construction or is one born into a construction made by someone else? A construction is never just one element, it always consists of two or more elements. Therefore life cannot exist without death. (2015)
Niko Hendrickx’ latest installation is a sinister affair: a robot commits suicide in three different – fairly traditional – ways: he hangs himself from a tree, he cuts his wrists while lying in a bathtub and he shoots himself in the head.
Originally the installation was entitled Suicide Attempts of a Robot in Denial. The way the title change came about is typical of Hendrickx’ artistic approach. After having completed the work, he made a video version of it. While looking for an appropriate music score, he stumbled on the Langham Research Centre in the UK, who make recordings ‘the old-fashioned way’, i.e. with analogue equipment. In February 2014 they released John Cage -Early Electronic and Tape Music, which contains the piece Imaginary Landscapes No. 5, amongst others. Hendrickx immediately saw the potential of the composition for his own work, and changed his title accordingly. In doing so he purposely allows ‘chance’ to play a part in his art.
For most of us suicide is a shocking, or at least a controversial and disturbing subject. That is evidently the case in Hendrickx’ work, too, but at the same time there is a touch of irony in it: it is, indeed, a robot who commits the fatal act. This anthropoid has obviously evolved so far in his artificial intelligence that he imitates man even in his choice of death, thus denying his own existence of wiring and electronic circuitry. For a robot choosing ‘the human way’ to end his life is futile and inefficient, of course. He does not need a rope or a pistol to end his life – he merely needs to switch off the power source that keeps him running.
In the video some landscapes are realistic, others are digitally designed. The artist suggests that the robot is anxious to see reality, like man, but that he cannot: until further notice his optical sensor will not be able to provide him with more than, indeed, imaginary landscapes, i.e. digital recordings of reality. Today it is still man who creates and controls. It is therefore also man whom the video shows cutting the rope, taking the gun away and emptying the bathtub.
Imaginary Landscapes is, like many other works by Hendrickx, about ethics. The artist expresses his concern about technology and science, which seem to move away from us at high speed. Who takes the time to ask the necessary ethical questions? Are we still master of the monster we created, or is it out of control?
Imaginary Landscapes is made of polyurethane foam, covered with polyester and glass fibre, and it is finished off with a layer of blue polyester plaster. The complete installation measures approximately 5 x 5 x 1.80 meters. Between concept and completion a period of three years elapsed. (iv) (2015)
Death awaits each of us, but it is a meeting we would like to avoid. What we are really doing is diverting death from its path: medical science develops techniques that seem to fool it. It is side-tracked, trapped and deceived.
In Death Trap One, the Grim Reaper is trapped and caught in a net. In Death Trap Two, he is deceived. He walks down a corridor, opens a door and falls into a bottomless pit. Both works are based on Death on a Trailer, a steel plate sculpture made in 2000.
In this series the artist gives a dynamic twist to the static character of particular spatial works. From a supply of shapes and forms at his disposal he chooses one or more, works with them and stores them again.
Man becomes the victim of his own inventions. We are now completely dependent on electricity and electronics, computers, automation and the internet: a dangerous situation.
Installation for the exhibition TAKT 2012 at Dommelhof Neerpelt, together with Camera Ball. New title: Bug and Ball..
A modern interpretation of the painting Nu descendant un escalier by Marcel Duchamp from 1912. A video showing a woman in an elevator is projected on a flight of stairs: her body seems to ‘flow’ down the stairs. The artist also made a painted version of this installation. (2006)
The statue, a man-made animal, is conceived as a scale model kit. The different parts have been dismantled, drawn and then welded into a frame. Using the technical drawings the animal can be reconstructed.
The video shows the animal, an artificial creation, in a natural environment. It feels obviously threatened by nature and rolls its eyes in shock.
Spinning Tops: Static object consisting of ‘spinning’ tops.(2002)
Camera Ball: This sculpture is a network of cameras connected with cables. The suggestion is that it grew organically, like a snowball rolling from a mountain and growing bigger and bigger. It was built from the inside out, with a ball in the middle: the nerve centre. The ball goes berserk and ‘collects’ all the cameras: Big Brother is among us. (2001)