Karl Van Welden started, more than ten years ago, Verenigde Planeten / United Planets, a cycle of visual and performative work based on the terrestrial or human presence in the universe. How does man relate to the awe-inspiring grandeur of the universe? Using the planets from our solar system as an anchor point, he seeks visual answers to that key question. Within the cycle he uses different media, depending on whether content and context require a certain form. The work includes performances such as MARS, PLUTO, MERCURY or SATURN, but also video, installations, interventions, drawings, painting and three-dimensional works, which can function as reflections, preliminary studies, but can just as easily exist independently or be combined into one work. Whether it concerns sound or image, with these works the artist also explores versatility, balancing between autonomous poetry and subtle references to social or political themes.
His work has been shown in various contexts such as Kaaitheater, Beursschouwburg, Vooruit, M HKA, KANAL – Center Pompidou, Festival van Vlaanderen, Concertgebouw Brugge, STUK, C-TAKT, C-Mine, Toneelhuis, Marion de Canniere, Gouvernement, Les Brasseurs, Antwerp Art, Frascati (NL), Brakke Grond (NL), Oerol (NL), Metropolis (DK), Hotel Pro Forma (DK), Pact Zollverein (DE), PAZZ (DE), Østfold Kulturutvikling (NO) , le CENTQUATRE-PARIS (FR), Marseille Provence 2013 (FR), Le Vivat (FR), Uzès Danse (FR), Arsenal (FR), Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin (FR-DE), Naves Matadero (ES), Tokyo Wonder Site – TOKAS (JP), Gessnerallee Zurich (CH), CCA (UK), Venice Art Biennale (IT) and Art Basel Hong Kong (HK).
Photo: Christoph Sebastian
MARS focuses on human resistance to great physical forces and started with IMAGES FOR MARS I, a video work in which two soldiers slowly bend towards each other, their feet in a layer of concrete. MARS II is a poetic account of the impact of catastrophes on our thinking. Ecological disasters, economic crises and terrorist attacks seem to be constantly hanging over our heads these days. Contemporary Western society is sometimes described as a ‘risk society’: completely captivated by risks, it organizes itself to a large extent to prevent them. Do we as humanity need such stories, like a child enjoys a creepy fairy tale? After all, our focus on a particular threat also activates us: the fear of a possible disaster drives us to avert it by all means. In this sense, every apocalyptic scenario, no matter how likely or improbable, is a kind of secular “memento mori” – a reminder of our mortality. In this musical performance, Karl Van Welden works with the impact of a rain of ash on music and on the pianist (Frederik Croene) who produces the music. Innocently, ash particles begin to fall lightly. Over time, the dark ash rain descends exponentially on the musician and his instrument, slowly but surely transforming the image and sound.
‘Mars II, the vinyl’ contains the music composed for MARS II, the performance. In this musical performance, Karl Van Welden works with the impact of a rain of ash on music, and on pianist Frederik Croene who plays on an automated piano. Innocently, ash particles begin to fall lightly. Over time, the dark ash rain descends exponentially on the musician and his instrument, slowly but surely transforming the image and sound. It is an exploration of the contrast between the bliss of a certain moment, the strike of disaster and what remains.