Hulsmans’ works are – to use a commonplace – hermetic, difficult to understand (if understanding them is even possible). The reason for this lies in the fact that they are, in many respects and to a large extent, restrained. Now, I use the word ‘restrained’; however, I could have also said ‘evasive’, ‘scarce’ or ‘frail’. Works of art, or œuvres, always set off a string of mental sparks, resulting in adjectives that, in a Lacanian glissant manner, move away from the work itself. There is something in these adjectives, though, which is also common to Hulsmans’ works. It is a meaning-trait that we could call lessness. Hulsmans’ works hold back; they always seem to lack something, albeit willingly and deliberately. They lack something, not only semantically, but also materially. Often, the works lack physical weight. Many of them are made of (relatively) light materials, such as paper, cardboard, wood veneer or candlewax. Moreover, the works are often portable (like Point) and easily moveable, to such an extent that it seems like the slightest breeze could lift them up, set them into flight and send them far away. The cardboard quatropus on wheels in Figurated Moods (2005) is a good example. It may stand still, yet it exudes mobility.

In their lessness, Hulsmans’ works do not yield to cultural or artistic consumerism. On the contrary, many of them seem to mock the expectations of observers, not so much of what a work of art should look like – which has, of course, long been a central preoccupation of the art world – but rather of what it should ‘feel’ like. A good example are the many paper works in Hulsmans’ oeuvre, for example the ominously titled I arrived yesterday, Shy and Multi-plier. All of these constructions are reminiscent of furniture or furniture parts. As an observer of these works, you cannot but feel unheimlich in their presence, because they have a certain visual familiarity about them and look like things déjà-vu. Yet, at the same time, they whisper a tale about their otherness engendered by the lack of substance that is contrary to the solidity expected of their shapes. The latter is also true in the case of Hulsmans’ architectural intervention In-View (2009), where an extant architectural detail (the entrance of Antwerp’s Atelier Solar Shop) is copied in cardboard.”

Noël Reumkens (noel.reumkens@vub.ac.be)

More info on his website.

We so far worked together for various projects: (They say this is the) Place, Antwerp; Super! Triennial for Visual Art, Fashion and Design, Hasselt; Multi/plier, Galerie Les filles du Calvaire, Brussels; The Game is Up!, Ghent; Trajector Art Fair, Brussels and Platform P at the Duke, Plymouth.