The news and various artistic languages that recount it make up the subject matter of Roy Meuwissen’s LAT. 17°33′13″N LONG. 99°24′37″W. Basing his work on two student protests that turned tragic in Mexico, in 1968 and 2014, the artist superimposes historical events and anecdotes to present a cold and incisive report on silencing politics directed at young people, directly reminiscent of Québec’s Maple Spring. The first art history anecdote directly linked to these tragedies refers to artist On Kawara’s 1968 residency in Mexico, and his legendary tear-off calendar-style “Date paintings” series. The context of his current exhibition authorizes Meuwissen to appropriate the artistic standards of the “Date paintings”: the rectangular black format and sense of cold conceptual detachment. Each of his paintings therefore consists of newsprint clippings from the date of their production, which constitute artistic immunity and an intrinsic link to the news, in addition to representing archival documents in their own right.
The second anecdote conveys the fact that in the same year, graphic designer Lance Wyman’s visual signature would become the symbol of Mexico’s Olympic Games, and thus put young people on a pedestal. Meuwissen superimposes Wyman’s iconic font with On Kawara’s black background, and inscribes each student’s name, one by one, as if on epitaphs. A similar style single red painting is highlighted in the main exhibition space, given the name of the student who was discovered and identified. The coincidence of the anniversary date of the macabre event, September 26, 2014, in Iguala (Mexico), adds a further astounding circumstantial dimension.
Meuwissen also reappropriates British artist Victor Burgin’s conceptual photograph, Possession (1976), in a work in which he reinvents part of the content. Burgin’s question and answer: “What does possession mean to you? 7% of the population own 84% of our wealth” points to social inequalities between rich and poor. The image choice also conveys the powers of influence, seduction and manipulation. In this case, the visual has been substituted with a mythical snapshot of a couple in a sexual embrace, despite being surrounded by police during the protests that occurred throughout the Stanley Cup in Vancouver, in 2011. Expressed in statistical format, the title refers to a close reality: “We are the 99%” (of Occupy Montréal).
The interweaving of events, anecdotes and reappropriations, these back and forth tensions between history and news coverage, places Meuwissen’s work at the centre of current political debates, and imbues it with a social engagement dimension.
Meuwissen was born in the Netherlands and holds a BFA from the Alberta College of Art & Design and a MFA from the University of Windsor. His work has been exhibited both in Canada and internationally, most recently in Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco and New York.
In tandem with studio projects, he has also presented ongoing artistic research in the form of academic lectures, most recently at the University of Copenhagen. Other professional activities include the collaborative project Kingdom of Ends initiated with Norwegian artist Ivan Galuzin in Kalliningrad, Russia.