Alex Verhaest Biography

In her video-based and sculptural works, filmmaker and artist Alex Verhaest interrogates the conventions of storytelling through narratives of alienation, (mis)communication, familial trauma and utopias.

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Education

Verhaest completed an MFA from Luca School of Arts in Brussels, Belgium, in 2007 and the Post-Masters Programme at Le Fresnoy in Tourcoing, France, in 2019. While pursuing her Masters, the artist travelled to Shanghai, where she joined the artist collective Platform for Urban Investigations. In 2009, Verhaest left the collective to focus on her own practice.

Artworks

Verhaest begins her projects with a script, based on existing texts or her own writing. Encompassing interactive films and animation loops, Verhaest's videos often feature theatrical and surreal vignettes—with characters played by friends or photographic images sourced from archives—that recall Old Masters' paintings.

Temps Mort

The myth of unconditional familial love is challenged in 'Temps Mort/Idle Times' (2013), which consists of two interactive films and two smaller series. The work revolves around five family members who, in the aftermath of the patriarch's suicide, fail to communicate with each other.

Aesthetics of classical painting merge with digital technology in the series, as with Dinner Scene, one of the interactive films that shows the protagonists—twice represented—around a table in the fashion of The Last Supper. In exhibitions, visitors may call one of them with a phone number to activate conversations or attempt to do so as they sit in mostly uninterrupted silence.

Verhaest's surreal imagery verges on disturbing in 'Table Prop', in which five still lifes evocative of Dutch Golden Age painting are infested with one-eyed insects (Table Prop – Peter) or a long, scaly body (Table Prop – Angelo). Summoned to life with animation, the gravity of the still lifes heightens the sense of foreboding that pervades the portraits of Verhaest's protagonists in 'Character Studies'.

Temps Mort was also the title of Verhaest's first solo exhibition, which took place at Amsterdam's Grimm Gallery in 2013, and earned her the Prix Ars Electronica in 2015.

A La Folie

'A La Folie/To Insanity' (2016) was inspired by The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka's 1915 novella that opens with the famous line, 'As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect-like creature'. In Verhaest's narrative, lovers Grete and Gregor are nearing the end of their relationship and appear to have turned into monsters according to their accusations of each other.

Presented in Verhaest's solo exhibition by the same title at Dauwens & Beernaert, Brussels, in 2016, 'A La Folie/To Insanity' comprises animation loops presented on both single and multiple screens and bust sculptures of the protagonists. Huddled bodies, dark interiors and sombre portraits recur throughout the series, while voiceovers give conflicting accounts of the same story.

Utopia and Change

Ideas of utopia are central to The Archive of Unattained Futures, Verhaest's solo exhibition at Barakat Contemporary, Seoul, in 2022. Inspired by philosopher and writer Sofie Verraest's doctoral thesis Eutopia Unbound (2016), in which she proposes four types of utopias that have recurred in late-modern Western culture, Verhaest used a deep-learning AI to generate scripts for her video-based works The Archivist and Ad Hominem (both 2022).

Consisting of 60 video channels, The Archivist shows, in four chapters of fifteen screens, sights of human innovation and activity depicted in archival images from the public domain. Each chapter is accompanied by a narration about protagonist Change's letters about their journeys to the four utopias: Oasis (communitarianism), Hub (futurism), Capsule (isolationism) and Bazaar (hedonism).

In the interactive game Ad Hominem, participants assume the role of Change, here an aged revolutionary, who engages in conversation with old friends and strangers on their return journey. The player reaches one of the four endings depending on the choices they made along the way, making the discovery that change is rarely truly welcome.

Exhibitions

Alex Verhaest has presented her works in solo and group exhibitions internationally.

Solo exhibitions include: Alex Verhaest: The Archive of Unattained Futures, Barakat Contemporary, Seoul (2022); Aucun Mythe pour ces contrées de l'esprit, Musée royal de Mariemont, Le havre (2019) and Centre Des Arts Numériques, Enghien-les-Bains, France (2017); A La Folie/To Insanity, Vlaams Cultuurhuis de Brakke Grond, Amsterdam, and Dauwens & Beernaert Gallery, Brussels (2016).

Group exhibitions include: Temps Mort, Tetris, Le Havre (2020); Ghost, Rohm Theatre, Japan (2018); The absence of Paterfamilias, Barakat Contemporary, Seoul (2017); Infosphere, ZKM Museum, Karlsruhe, Germany (2015).

Website

Alex Verhaest's website can be found here and Verhaest's Instagram can be found here.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2022

Alex Verhaest
featured artworks

Archivist by Alex Verhaest contemporary artwork moving image
Alex Verhaest Archivist, 2022 Still image, interactive 60-channel video loop, HTML on closed-circuit
Barakat Contemporary Request Price & Availability
Ad Hominem by Alex Verhaest contemporary artwork moving image
Alex Verhaest Ad Hominem, 2022 Video game, HTML on closed-circuit
Barakat Contemporary Request Price & Availability
The Dinner by Alex Verhaest contemporary artwork moving image
Alex Verhaest The Dinner, 2013 Animation loop
24.5 x 50 inches
Barakat Contemporary Request Price & Availability
Table Prop - Peter by Alex Verhaest contemporary artwork moving image
Alex Verhaest Table Prop - Peter, 2013 Animation loop
24.5 x 29.5 cm
Barakat Contemporary Request Price & Availability
Character Study - Peter by Alex Verhaest contemporary artwork moving image
Alex Verhaest Character Study - Peter, 2013 Animation loop
29.5 x 24.5 cm
Barakat Contemporary Request Price & Availability
Table Prop - Angelo by Alex Verhaest contemporary artwork moving image
Alex Verhaest Table Prop - Angelo, 2013 Animation loop
24.5 x 29.5 cm
Barakat Contemporary Request Price & Availability
Character Study - Hélène by Alex Verhaest contemporary artwork moving image
Alex Verhaest Character Study - Hélène, 2013 Animation loop
29.5 x 24.5 cm
Barakat Contemporary Request Price & Availability

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