BY ADRIENNE VAN DER WERF (INDEPENDENT CURATOR)
When Doron Beuns asked me to write something about his Master's project I immediately said yes. Not only because we have been talking and working together since 2013, but also because I was involved as a curator in his first exhibition 'Monuments to Ephemera' held in his studio in Amsterdam in 2017.
The notion and construction of identity, which has always been a great part of Doron Beuns’ practice, now seems to act as the main theme in his work. By calling his exhibition 'I estrange, therefore I am', he refers to and adjusts an idea from one of the greatest thinkers of Western Philosophy. René Descartes believed that the capacity to doubt or think about your own existence testifies to the reality of your entity. Beuns clearly believes that estranging from his own existence, testifies to the reality of his entity and identity.
To find out what identity means within his practice, I want to start off with the Cambridge definition of the word identity, namely: 'who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that make them different from others.' The definition clearly divides between the person, the qualities and the other that define an identity. Within the five self-representative works that Doron has created, he plays with the notion of these three positions. Questioning who he is within the framework of slick works of art that strike a balance between a commercial enterprise (in which identity is clearly constructed) and a very personal relationship to objects. The commodity-like outcomes of the work are the estrangement of Doron’s personal identities.
The floor piece, 'Self and other walking over self-portraits'is made from 260 self-portraits in standardized A4 format. The metal flooring covered by the fearful, doubtful representation of the artist himself, plays with this commercial-personal relationship. Moreover, it shows him as a person, losing the qualities of his (representation of) identity by virtue of the other.
Within the work 'Self-portrait smashing possessions of self and other' he turns the tables and he himself destroys (commercial) possessions of the (personal) other. Not just to document it, but to create another sculpture out of it. A sculpture in which he as a person is represented. The bust shows how the other plays a vital role in the creation of his identity. By using an exact mold of his face and clothes, without any artistic intervention, he turns the object containing others and himself again into a commercial product.
This is a new methodology if we compare this with artists that have worked with the same techniques. Destruction in art has almost always had political connotations: Gustav Metzger created anti-capitalist auto-destructive art to draw attention to the destruction of World War II and to show his detestation of commercialism and politics. Or Chris Burden, that used his own body as a work of art to destroy or suffer. The de(con)struction Doron Beuns employs, is more about himself and his direct surroundings. Unlike Burden, there is no obvious political stance or questioning of the role of the art itself, in Beuns' work.
However, by estranging his own identity and using only self-portraits, he in a sense is producing the experience that every Western inhabitant of this world is experiencing indirectly. We estrange from ourselves because an excess of identities is imposed on us through social media and marketing campaigns. This phenomenon is part and parcel of the contemporary branding strategies in which brands are more and more operating as a persona, and personas are operating as brands. This confusion makes us question who we are, what our identity is, what qualities it exists in of and who 'the other' is in this meaning-giving mechanism.
The works presented in the exhibition 'I estrange, therefore I am', seem to look like a personal journey of the artist, but are in essence explanatory for every postmodern citizen. We are (and most likely always were) estranged from ourselves, as identity is fluid, not stable and continuously influenced by the other. By using this very human characteristic in a commercial and humorous parole, as Doron is doing within his practice, the artist might even relieve us from this search by just walking on his self-portraits that slowly fade away from under our feet.