For his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Valentin, Dutch artist Folkert de Jong presents a new installation composed of recent pieces completed and unveiled for the occasion.

Far from an ode to the religious, in its title alone the exhibition touches on a much more apocalyptic notion. Besides being a dangerous elixir, Wormwood (aka. absinthe, the alcohol that causes madness) is a reference to an album by The Residents a band representing the finest of the American underground as well as to a star of the same name from the Book of Revelation: the star is said to fall to Earth to poison its rivers and springs. The title thus sets the exhibition on the dark side of religion and in the realm of the avant-garde and protest art, typically opposed to the commodification of art.

As in much of his work, Folkert uses historical figures to better manipulate them within a contemporary political context. It is a manipulation as much in form, from statues made of carved wood bought in Scotland to polyurethane foam casts, as in figure: after passing through the hands of the artist, these Christs look more like Goth-ish bogeymen at an Alice Cooper concert.

The ten commandments, dogmatic imperatives that should have held society in a state of humane harmony, have served instead to justify war and destruction. We are reminded here of texts brandished today by some to justify their own acts of cruelty.

The figure of Christ is used as a cultural referent to the history of art, the history of humanity, and the personal history of the artist.

This statuary has for centuries symbolized the link between man and god. Today we have come to desacralize religious transitional objects to make room for other ones, such as mobile phones... Are they not the same thing? Here Folkert may be alluding to our society’s growing abandonment of the spiritual in favour of pure materialism.

Like a necromancer, Folkert de Jong reanimates the sculpture of Christ, yet he cannot bring him back to life. Folkert is not God, after all; he’s just a contemporary artist.

This Jesus is agitated, desperately signalling to us. What is he trying to say, to make us understand? Regardless, a feeling of unease lingers over these giants with their long ebony hair.

With this disturbing, titillating, provocative pageant, once again Folkert seeks to capture the viewer’s attention like a big-budget Hollywood film would.... He’s not making a scene (in the sense of a tantrum); rather, he wants to grip the viewers so they cannot escape without retaining a garish image of the experience they’ve just been through.

Wormwood or the temptation of cosmicide, threat or wake-up call to what’s at stake in the world today....