Various Artists’ journey towards Corporate Scenism began in the early 1990s, when a young artist won the prestigious Xavier Lust award at the Jeune Peinture Belge (today known as the Belgian Art Prize) with the installation Carmella Giansoldati. Winning the award could have been the start of a solo career on the Belgian art scene with galleries being quite interested in the large-scale installations this young artist was producing. But instead of pursuing this career opportunity, he decided to use the award money to travel to Brazil to visit a friend.
This event marks the first attempt to escape from being considered an individual solo artist. And without maybe calling it as such at the time, Trudo Engels invested in ‘being a scenius’.
‘The genius is individual, the scenius is communal, is the talent of a whole community.’ Brian Eno (who coined the term)
Engels didn’t want to become a vertically skilled artist having to adjust to trends, nor to conform himself to the norm of the day. Instead, he started defining his own arena by flirting with the arts scenes in Brussels where he collaborated with a range of musicians, dancers, performers, as a scenographer, visual artist, director, etc. The versatility of roles he took on during these years would later become the core motor of the fictitious collective Various Artists.
Around the year 2000 the creation of a scene of one’s own became even more institutionalized. By co-founding the arts organization ‘nadine’, the collective Various Artists forged its current structure. As the small arts centre needed to programme over 100 shows per year, the fictitious characters, which had been moulded from the start of Engels’ artistic career, joined the stage.
In 2008, not accidentally the year of a major financial crisis, Various Artists was officially born. The birth of the collective meant the death of the artist Trudo Engels, as he could no longer function merely as an installation artist. Practising as VA meant abandoning the paths of the solo artist as a name or brand.
Whereas the characters of Various Artists at first operated as various individuals, with their own research and production database, they slowly moved (over a period of eight years) towards an operational system of processes. The collective now functions as a whole, as a community positioning itself in a flux of circumstances, where the Various Artists can be seen as processes. The characters have each been stripped of their personality and reduced to their essence.
By letting the VA collaborate, the outcome is unknown. This temporary abandoning of control leads to a state of surrender guiding the work into new directions.
‘If you take the ego out of the way, you start seeing the world differently, and valuing the difference. You acquire alertness, you know you’re not in control anymore.’ Brian Eno.
As Corporate Scenism emerges, the works of Various Artists almost become as though commissioned. When an idea or concept is dropped into the group, the VA ‘process it’, meaning they all touch, shape, dismantle or change it, and a new idea or product is generated. The ‘automated processes’ of VA can interestingly be connected to our current society, where the robotization of production and services is becoming the norm.
Corporate Scenism can be defined as a work method that processes matters, issues, statements, ideas, etc., resulting in institutionalized methods to generate collective ideas and products. The automatization of Various Artists offers an alternative to the contemporary artist working as an individual in an increasingly robotized and hyperconnected society.
‘Dannie.0 – Scanned Only’ is dedicated to Various Artists’ Corporate Scenism. With texts by Olivia Ardui and Elle contextualizing the work methods of Various Artists, and visual works by several Various Artists.