From 14 June until 10 August, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents ‘Detours’, an exhibition by Roy Villevoye (1960, Maastricht). This exhibition in the Bodonhall of the museum provides the first comprehensive view of his artistic practice, with over forty works ranging from photographic works, films, installations, billboards, slide presentations and paintings.
Towards the end of the 1980s, following a successful period as a painter, Villevoye went in search of a new artistic direction. He found inspiration in his travels beyond Europe, especially in the former Dutch colony of Papua. His encounters with the Asmat people led to new works in which the symbolic meaning of colour is an important theme. He initially processed these new experiences into paintings, but gradually Villevoye sought other media to give form to his research into cultural codification and identity. Colour is an important element in the large panoramic photographic work Kó (Showing Primary Colours in Kombai) from 1995, in which industrial colours loom up in a tropical rainforest.
Together with Jan Dietvorst, Villevoye has made several longer and shorter films in Papua, engaging the viewer directly manner in the artists’ encounters with the Asmat people. The films expose the mutual interests that underlie these interactions and look beyond the standard stereotypes. In the film The New Forest, impressions of life in the tropical rainforest are interspersed with portraits of the Asmat people. They deal with the magical relationship between man and his environment, but also with links with the Western world. For example, one of the Asmat people interviewed talks about his trip to the Netherlands and the clogs he bought there. Villevoye’s film Beginnings shows two naked Asmat people walking through the rainforest as Adam and Eve. A subsequent scene shows a white Adam and Eve in the Dutch Kennemer Dunes National Park. The actors’ personal stories help to undermine the stereotypical view of paradise.
Villevoye’s work appears to touch upon anthropology and its post-colonial fascination with non-Western ‘authentic’ peoples who are believed to live like our ancient forefathers. However, Roy Villevoye shows us that the Asmat live in an age as confusing, complex, hilarious and inimitable as our own.
Detours includes several billboards, produced by advertising painters in Mumbai based upon photographs taken by Villevoye in India and Papua. The encounter between two cultures and the manner in which various cultures appropriate each other’s artefacts is dealt with in a razor-sharp way in the installation Red Calico. This shows T-shirts adapted by the Asmat people, which Villevoye has found, collected and combined with photographic portraits of their owners. For the exhibition, Villevoye has made several new films and a new installation that place his work within a new focus.
To accompany the exhibition, an English-language monograph will be published with the support of the Mondriaan Foundation and the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture (Fonds BKVB) and with contributions by the anthropologist Amanda Ravetz, Sven Lütticken, the evolutionary biologist Tijs Goldschmidt and Lex ter Braak.