Eden & Lernout

Skills: Artists, Duplex 2017-2011

On the works of Irena Eden and Stijn Lernout develop stage sets, sceneries, displays, architectural sculptures, and architecture. In contrast to 1960s and 1970s art, their work is not about breaking norms or crossing the boundaries of genre but about revitalizing the heteronomous possibilities of art and the negation of the dictates of autonomy.

Exhibition views of the exhibition “Below, Beyond and Above – A gravity that slumbers” at Duplex100m2, 2014

Taking the concept of autonomy associated with modern art as a starting point and moving beyond it at the same time, they design architectures (Wegzehrung, 2005; Radio uk WM, 2006) as a means of public affairs and social communication. They conceive of architectural installations as a form of language, a way of thinking whose material translation of metaphors into form prompts sociopolitical reflection. Architecture serves as a quintessential connection of aesthetics and function, as an open-ended repertoire with fixed rules.
Eden and Lernout’s installations provide frames of reference and orientation that retool or reroot ideas and foster new avenues of perception. They build models (La isla bonita, 2007) whose spatial arrangement generates new horizons of experiencing knowledge. In a playful fashion, their space-related sculptures open up new data structures, the graphic interface of which is open to democratic and anti-hierarchical reception.
With their works, they challenge the concept of the self-contained common body in terms of its unity and homogeneity and invest empty spaces with symbolic expression.
The concept of space was first defined as a vessel for objects and only later as concept or configuration space. The invention of perspective revolutionized the way we think and the concept of space accompanying it, thus making new representations possible. In the era of Art Nouveau, spatial thinking and the notion of spatial order were, above all, guided by social awareness. For the first time, space was seen as a whole, allowing for compositions of the interrelated spaces of a harmonious, inseparable whole into spatially economical structures.

At the center of Eden and Lernout’s works, it appears, we find the formulation of a hope, a given spatial fact, the inner logic and structure of which is based on a quest for a productive logical consistency in a coherent relationship. According to Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, interlaced representations of this kind that take possession of space stand as the essential element of art. This means, Eden and Lernout’s works (Reference to instable conditions, Part I, 2008; Mobile Home, 2008) must be understood as an artistic contribution comprising concrete and fictitious realities that open up new ways and views of a knowledge display. The representational procedures they define form a visual approach to holistic panoramas of knowledge. With their modular stage sets, they depict sociopolitical issues, which are localized in a mental framework, with the aim of sparking a dialog. These panoramas of knowledge are combinations of basic reference spaces that are captured by analogy to physical space. The artistic trick lies in the fact that these integrated objects are of an abstract nature, which lets the intellectual content of subject matter become visible. This combination of different systems of concepts allows us to take a transdisciplinary approach to social problems and answers. In doing so, these two artists make use of the familiar human concept of space and frames of mind (Ein Haus für ein Zelt I +II, 2006; Dauercamper, 2007) and link them to meaningful spaces of knowledge. This process allows the viewer to link different fields of knowledge and make them intelligible. The challenge for the viewer lies in the metaphorical rendering of common perceptions, of the connection of social references, and the bridging of contexts and their concepts. Often built around an aesthetics of reduction, these installations interweave rational, analytical patterns of thought and dynamic complex representations into mental spaces that are in accordance with the human sense of space.
Through combinations of perspectives of natural and fictitious spaces (Optimist, 2007), Eden and Lernout expand the reference spaces of our awareness of place and subject matter. This visual approach makes meta-approaches conceivable and imaginable. In a simple way, their mental spaces illustrate a universal reference system of issues, contexts, associations, coordinates, data, and knowledge and point us to reference spaces we can make sense of in spite of the complexity involved.

These are propositions of a holistic view of the world that are based on our everyday perceptions and allow us to engage in flexible observation by example without the need to take a fixed position or perspective. One of the strong points of Eden and Lernout’s art is that it uses metaphors as a mental transmission belt to weave multidimensional contexts of the physical world into comprehensible configurations. By means of „crossthreads,“ they connect real, abstract, and virtual spaces to form a homogenous whole and, thus, link to the contradictions of their materials, media, and conceptual order. Their projects (Berlin Next Door, 2006; Nichts leichter als das, 2007) are mental maps of symbolic places, which mark the points where the past and future meet.
Thus, meta-societal sets of problems are merged into a synthesis of thought, terminologies, and political views. Only by overcoming limits of language and thought in this way can we engage in a change of perspective, which generates a graphic navigation process that makes playful perception and understanding of structures and their contexts possible.
Eden and Lernout create spaces, which always keep sight of the social dimension. Their transparent and harmonious works are convincingly in touch with reality and striking in their design because their measure is always derived from the human dimension.

Florian Waldvogel
Translated from German – English by Matthias Goldmann

Selection of Paintings

Selection of Sculptures