Imagine two figures in a landscape. When pointing in the distance one figure says: “that”, and after repeating exactly the same gesture says: “and that.” The other figure is watching the first figure's naked arm, how the wave of blond hair resonates with the distant prairie grass. Beyond that the figures watch what would be a mile of mountain range. “I see,” it says, and then the first figure rests it's arm.
All repetition simultaneously enhances and dissolves meaning. It reveals the distance we take in relation to things, and the effort it takes to give them names. The very act of repetition is often more meaningful than what is repeated. With the sound “da” a child projects meaning into the world. “Dada” is the reflection of the world, a myriad of random possibilities.
Explaining Dada, Hugo Ball stated “For us, art is not an end in itself ... but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.” When repetition is translated into tautology, and Dada is formulated as Da & Da, we seem to try to impose some order as we state the same thing twice, hinting at an explicit state of Da, some logical proposition; we remain caught in the gesture. Da is just That, and That could be anything. In relation to the statement of Hugo Ball, Da & Da remains an opportunity for perception and criticism, but allows art to be, in the end, in itself. Da & Da (That & That) brings together five artists who have actively been engaging in the reiterative gesture as described above through their work. Dada, but resisting Dada with utter precision.
Re-enacting art history, while inevitably crossing tautological lines, Nikolaas Demoen evokes the role and status of the artist in its many relations to myth, the market, modernism and the avant-garde. Ever poetic, with tragicomic lightness, his installations are memorials to what could be described as the struggle for objective epistemology in the arts.
The work of Vincent de Roder could be described as a continuous study of the line. Horizontal, vertical or oblique; often repeated, or not. Fat lines evolve into blocks, then into thin lines, before they disappear, lines cut. Abstract painting par excellence, de Roder's work illustrates ‘nothing,’ with great clarity, and allows us to perceive the many things with which we fill nothingness, when we encounter it. Small accidents made while painting are kept and cherished with great precision, instilling tenderness. It is exactly this tenderness that turns the repetition of lines (or bands, or blocks) into a tautological gesture, a seemingly logical proposition, a quality that cannot be defined.
The sculptures of Stefaan Dheedene often seem to echo the rational, functional ethos of modernism, as well as today’s ubiquity of modern consumerist design. His approach, which Dheedene calls “repetition and re-organisation,” perverts the parameters related to function, creating (semi-)autonomous objects, hovering between the realms of sculpture and commodity. The extremely precise articulation of his work seems to capture the very idea of an art exhibition “au flagrant délit.”
Jonathan Michels’ various series of charcoal drawings repeat existing images, and through the artist’s choice of images, his virtuosity, and the sheer labor involved, they teeter between content and narrative, between original and copy, between spirit and labor, between value and value. Non-mechanical reproduction as an investigative tool reveals the extent to which our visual culture is codified, and how perception is embedded in structures of meaning determined by hi tech mass media.
For Adriaan Verwée, time, space and the object therein are building blocks that he — seemingly at leisure — stacks, changes, removes and returns. As a result his work seems to be ‘inbetween’ - at the same time finished and unfinished; present and absent; construction and image. The relationship to a certain context is often tautological; his work often seems to be the context of the site it occupies. He describes his photographic works as “side notes for the sculptural pieces and functioning as a sort of aide-mémoire,” adding another reiterative layer that he may further expand with explicit but mysterious titling.