A detail of a photo b y Wolfgang Tillmans, titled Philharmonie Bloch I, dated 2017.

Wolfgang Tillmans Today Is The First Day

WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels
February 1–May 24, 2020
Wolfgang Tillmans: Today Is The First Day is the artist’s first major solo exhibition in Belgium. The show encompasses Tillmans’s output of the past three decades—including works that have never been presented publicly before—as well as recent developments in his practice, from photographs to sound and video works.

Today Is The First Day expands upon Tillmans’s highly considered approach to exhibition making, in which the installation is conceived to develop the experience of the work and amplify the artist’s perspective. Curated by Devrim Bayar and Dirk Snauwaert, this show reflects questions about visibility—as both a perceptual and political idea—that are central to the artist’s practice. Among the questions raised are: When does something become perceptible? What is the relationship between what we perceive and what we know? And what impact do new technologies have on how we see the world?

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication, coproduced for the exhibition Rebuilding the Future, which took place at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, in 2018–2019. Conceived and designed by Tillmans and featuring conversations with the artist as well as several additional texts, the book explores the developments in his work over the last three years.

In a poetic passage in the book, the Irish novelist Eimear McBride describes her reaction to Tillmans’s exhibitions:

I have always loved [Tillmans’s] approach to hanging. It feels like the tangible expression of that most private place; where the artist’s sensibility is hard at work, beyond words. It’s vulnerable and resilient all at once. Thought and emotion are inextricably bound up. We feel we are being admitted into an intimacy with him but then find that it is we who have been lured into closer proximity with the humanity of others—and therefore with our own—even with the technical process. And how exactly can it be that looking at thinking can elicit quite such a powerful response? I don’t know. Apparently, it just can. That must be why art’s art. But what I like most of all is how each of these seemingly incongruous elements manage to live in the same house, with their contradictions intact. Perhaps this is because there is also a generosity at work? While I know that, rationally, it cannot be the case that images remain incomplete until they pass from their physical selves into us, their viewers, it sometimes feels that way. As though we are given access to the work as it forms itself. That this act allows it to become complete within us which, in turn, permits us to partake of its fleeting instant of being complete. And it’s really only a moment, just a fragment of time. But in it, memory turns from burden to garden. So, for that split second, we are not alone.
 
Image: Wolfgang Tillmans, Philharmonie Bloch I, 2017 (detail)

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