Artists: Yannick Val Gesto and Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx
Exhibition title: Residence Evil
Curated by: Yannick Val Gesto and Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx
Venue: Het Bos, Antwerp, Belgium
Dates: February 27 – March 8, 2015
Photography: Courtesy of Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx
A duo-exhibition by Yannick Val Gesto and Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx
Yannick Val Gesto and Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx, both artists from the same generation (*1987/*1989) and both fascinated by cyberculture and new media.
Distinctive about their work is the materialization of the digital. Taking the intangible, virtual elements and characters from cyber worlds and subsequently pouring them into a physical state and placing them in a different reality and context with new meanings and stories as a result.
The title for the duo show is a reference to the 1996, Japanese, survival-horror, Playstation game, called ‘Resident Evil’. A game featuring 2 protagonists, each with different abilities and a slightly different path throughout the game, but ultimately, having the same goal. As such, it serves as the metaphor for their collaboration and position as artists towards each other and their overlapping themes.
Yannick will dig in the heap of picturesque digital content available throughout the web for precious items he then alters into something of his own. This often results in compositions drenched with information and an unconventional feeling of aesthetics, at some times shiny, at some times dirty. For Residence Evil he did quite the opposite as well, stripping close-up images of some of his favorite anime characters, until only black outlines remained on a white, empty background, removing the outspoken anime characteristic. He wished to create a certain anonymity, without losing the original attractive power and poignancy of the screen-capped image. Through a more subtle and universal language, these works transcend their source material, beyond the niche.
Benny, who is also active as a curator next to being an artist, emphasizes on the aspect of identity and disguise. “The transference of our personalities to the digital world grants major opportunity for disguise”. He researches and plays with the way people translate themselves into a digital context and focuses on the haze they create around them, in both the digital and the tangible world. As follows, he printed a selection of screenshots he made inside Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, in which you can see his character acting as a documenter of everyday life in the Fantasy realm. At the highest point of the exhibition space he wrapped a fake vine around a steel pipe, attempting to cover it, shrouding it in mystery.
Both Yannick and Benny have been gamers since childhood. To Yannick, gaming is artistic research, a form of escapism and therapy. Benny goes for total immersion, moving inside game worlds as himself or a persona. As such, gaming, amongst other otaku and internet related subjects, has a big influence on their artistic practice. Their artistic lives are filled with elements from these other worlds, with a different rule set, characters and aesthetic and throughout the years, their position towards the in-game universe and cyberspace has shifted from playing, participating, observing to experimenting and enshrining.
“As individuals we cannot deny the digitalisation of our visual language, culture and identity. As artists, we have the power and freedom to create a bridge between cyberculture and art.”
Val Gesto and Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx worked together earlier on the artist publication ‘Deviant’, a publication on fan art and the influence of new- and social media on contemporary art.
Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx, Slices of life (FFXIV A Realm Reborn), 2015
Yannick Val Gesto, Boxersketch, 2015
Yannick Val Gesto, Hobgoblin, 2015
Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx, Slices of life (FFXIV A Realm Reborn), 2015, (Detail)
Benny Van den Meulengracht-Vrancx, Shrouded in mystery, 2015
Yannick Val Gesto, Redface, 2015
Yannick Val Gesto, EPISODE 1, 2015
Yannick Val Gesto, EPISODE 2, 2015
Yannick Val Gesto, EPISODE 3, 2015
Yannick Val Gesto, EPISODE 4, 2015