Also known as humourism, ‘humoral theory’ was a model for the workings of the human body in which four humours existed as liquids within the body. The humours were blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile, and they governed aspects of the human disposition, including the sanguine, choleric, melancholic, or phlegmatic. As a sort of antiquated ‘medical measurement’ of the body, it dates back to 3rd Century physicians who were interested in ailments and operations of the human body as being natural, as opposed to supernatural. Oddly, they are often referenced today in artistic and certain historic theories, perhaps because they summarize our natural bodily urges, impulses, and physicality into easily understandable categories. While humoral theory may seem slightly silly by today’s standards, they remain a poetic, metaphoric, and abstract means to understand the innate complexities of the human body, mind, and soul. Such thought predates medical, shamanistic, or (quasi)religious discoveries that occurred many centuries later – however naive they may still appear – such as flaying, trepanation, bloodletting, or even more modern psychological revelations as the Phrenology Chart, psychoanalytic study, or the Rorschaech Test, for example – all of which are alluded to (if not directly referenced by) various works on exhibit here.
Further, there is a sort of ‘upending’ of the personal and historical by each artist, beginning with Kowalsky, a Dutch artist, who uses a modern, Jewish-sounding pseudonym precisely for its very ‘unremarkable everyman-ness’; or Talhaoui or Khakshoor, who seem to actively evade what the ‘art world’ might expect of them. Kowalsky manifests this most evidently – at least in terms of the appearance of his works, which embrace a crude, DIY-aesthetic: the use of cardboard upends any sense of the horrific, presenting levity and wit, and also referencing the sense of decay. As a material, it is also impermanent and banal – as he states, rather like ‘coming closer to being human’. It also presents the body as a sort of vessel or husk – where the aforementioned decapitated head sits like an upturned shell to carry the soul – titled End of A System, it suggests perhaps, where the bodily ends and ideas related to the transcendent begin?
Throughout, we can extrapolate that perhaps the artists are looking to comment on ideas of universal humanness: what it means to abandon our identity and speak broadly, about human nature? To make works that speak to – and are made on behalf of – an ideological view of what man is, or what the very crux of human nature can be about.
The title of this exhibition, Humoral Theory, was also quite purposefully chosen as a homonym for humour, (as in something funny), to drive a question at the type of ‘body politics’ – not unlike the odd humor found in Gunther von Hagen’s Bodyworlds exhibition where plastinated bodies are strung up in all sorts of wacky activities, then chopped up, splayed open, and shamelessly displayed for viewer consumption. As viewers, we can consider this as a universality presented in pseudo-medical, almost shamanistic means. There is a kind of wacky eschewal of the scientific which is replaced by various creative liberties, a metaphorical, personal, or even pseudoscientific approach. Rather, they choose a sort of ambivalent, albeit investigated approach, related to their current feelings: situational, causal, and immediate, however dismembered and re-catalogued they are here for the viewer. Any insinuations, segues, or allegories we take from here are perhaps constructs of our own imaginations and our own revelations about ourselves, our beings, and our bodies.
Jerry Kowalsky (b. 1972 Reuver as Jeroen Cremers, The Netherlands) lives and works in Berlin and Amsterdam. He graduated from the Maastricht Academy of Fine Art and Design in 2000. Solo exhibitions include: ‘Tectonic Plates’, Galerie am Klostersee, Kloster Lehnin, Germany (2019);’The control room’, Galerie Bart, Nijmegen, The Netherlands (2019) and ‘Silent Bells’, Berlin Weekly, Berlin, Germany (2018). Recent group exhibitions include: ‘Big Art’, Hembrugterrein, Amsterdam, The Netherlands(2018); ‘Divergent Motion’ – Delphian Gallery, London, UK (2018) and ‘Go figure’, Galerie Bart, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2018). Kowalsky was also included in the recent publication ‘100 Sculptors of Tomorrow’ by Thames and Hudson, authored by Gallery Director Kurt Beers.