Belgian Pavilion
Mondo Cane
by Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys

The Venice Biennale is very much in keeping with the wider context of the real world: the globalized world, Europe, its nations, and its regions. Whether perceived as out-dated, or conversely, as having the capacity to represent and reveal the world that surrounds it, the Biennale guarantees a critique that is renewed and coloured by the most vibrant social issues, since its model, which dates back to 1895 and is based on the principle of national representation, merges with the organizational and political context in which it takes place from one edition to the next.
Tourism, the art of living, craftsmanship and terroir occupy an important place in the contemporary imagery of the Western world. Regional strengths are very much out in evidence and one might even be justified in perceiving some sort of connection between the historical development of the nation-state and the figure of the artisan. Far from evoking progress, the artisan is today entrenched within a rigid and resilient category that neatly serves the interests of nationalism.
On the occasion of the 58th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale of 2019, the artists Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys are proposing MONDO CANE, an exhibition specifically conceived for the Belgian pavilion. Leon Snyers’ architecture and its setting within the Giardini are tailor-made for an artistic practice whose DNA plays with – and plays about with – the structuring systems of the living world.
MONDO CANE exposes the human figure. At the centre of the building are artisans who faithfully exercise their respective skills. The space is also adorned by art, by classical illustrations of nature and culture. Around the edges is a parallel world that is populated by zombies, poets, psychotics, lunatics, and the marginalized. These two worlds exist within the same space, but do not give the impression of being mutually aware of one another. They do not touch. There is clear segregation. The pavilion comes across as a reminiscence of Europe, while offering the embodiment of a walk that is akin to a touristic or anthropological experience.

MONDO CANE is also an Italian expression that became tinged with a particular colour in 1962 following the success of the eponymous series documenting different forms of shocking cultural practices around the world and gave birth to mondo films, a cinema genre characterized by a pseudo-documentary approach with a penchant for the sensational and an emphasis on the effect regardless of the content.
The simple act of articulating the words, “mondo cane”, gives the person pronouncing them a sense of belonging to the Italian tradition. By borrowing this expression, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys become complicit with a local culture in which they may also recognize an aptitude for freely endorsing new interpretations and positions. Like a motto, we can easily imagine “mondo cane” expressing a feeling, a thought, or an attitude, a slogan that summarizes a code of conduct, or an ideal to be pursued.
The realm of the pavilion is not shocking; it is shocked. The trauma it has undergone leaves its occupants mute, pale, and fearful. The paltry activities that are held there are purely formal and produce aestheticized shells, pushing the visitor to perceive what is happening there as a curiosity, out of synch with contemporary reality.
Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys have a habit of distilling fictions from a reality that can sometimes be too real. They happily claim to be attracted to the state of psychosis in contemporary society, while at the same time dreading it and giving vent to it through their creations. Without ever descending into cynicism or morality, they succeed – with skill, and not without humour – in transforming what looks like fear or a state of latency into something voluntary and critical that goes beyond the status quo.
MONDO CANE, the Belgian Pavilion of the 58th Venice Biennale is curated by Anne-Claire Schmitz, director of La Loge. 

Practical information

opening speech 
Wednesday 8 May, 2 pm
Belgian Pavilion, Giardini, Venice, Italy 

professional days
8, 9 and 10 May 2019
10:00 to 19:00
Belgian Pavilion, Giardini, Venice, Italy 
For accreditation passes, please refer to the Biennale organization only. 
Information soon available here

11/05/19 - 24/11/19
Belgian Pavilion, Giardini, Venice, Italy 
Tickets to the exhibition are available on the Biennale's website

About the artists
Jos de Gruyter (b. 1965) and Harald Thys (b. 1966) live in Brussels and have been working together since the late 1980s. The artist duo creates films, drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures in which simultaneously hyper-recognizable and non-authoritarian characters, objects and spaces exist. De Gruyter and Thys have had numerous solo exhibitions at institutions including Konkurs Eksperten at Kunsthal Aarhus (2018); White Suprematism at Portikus Frankfurt and CAC Vilnius (2016); Im Reich der Sonnenfinsternis at MCA Chicago; Fine Arts at MOMA PS1, Die schmutzigne Puppen von Pommern at The Power Station Dallas and Tram 3 ay CCA Wattis (2015); Das Wunder des Lebens at at Kunsthalle Wien (2014) and Optimundus at M HKA Antwerp (2013). The artists were included in the Venice Biennale (2013) and the Berlin Bienniale (2008).

La Loge is institutional partner of the Belgian Pavilion of the 58th Venice Biennale along with Bozar. 
MONDO CANE is commissioned by Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles.