Johan Grimonprez is an artist and filmmaker. He studied at the School of Visual Arts and attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York. Grimonprez's critically acclaimed work dances on the borders of practice and theory, art and cinema, documentary and fiction, demanding a double-take on the part of the viewer. Informed by an archaeology of present-day media, his work seeks out the tension between the intimate and the bigger picture of globalisation. It questions our contemporary sublime, one framed by the media, which acts as a fear industry that has infected political and social dialogue. By suggesting new narratives through which to tell a story, his work emphasises a multiplicity of histories and realities.
In the exhibition, Grimonprez presents the short film Every Day Words Disappear (2016). In 1515, Niccolò Machiavelli stated that it would be better for the Prince to be feared than loved. Some five hundred years later, the political philosopher Michael Hardt asks what it would mean to base a political system on love, rather than on fear. How can we transform a society that is increasingly defined by a permanent state of war and an industry of fear? How can we realise the paradigm shift necessary to move away from a reality that depends on the exploitation of people and the cult of privatising public resources? Hardt looks for an answer in what he calls 'the commons', by which he refers, not only to natural resources, but also to the languages we create and the relationships we conceive together. In Jean Luc-Godard's film Alphaville (1965), the eponymous dystopian city-state has banned all words and concepts relating to the idea of love and affection. When the character Natacha von Braun (played by Anna Karina) tries to express her feelings, she has to reinvent the words, for the concept of love is foreign to her. Like the protagonist in Alphaville, Hardt suggests that we need to redefine the tools to act politically together. Hardt embarks on a journey to identify the transformative powers of the ongoing struggle to reinvent democracy. Within this struggle, he understands 'the commons' as an antidote to a society run by fear and as the basis for a paradigm that is based on dialogue and cooperation.
Grimonprez's projects have been on view at museums worldwide, including Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; and MoMA. His works are in the collections of Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa; and Tate Modern, London. His feature films include dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (1997 – featured at Documenta X) and Double Take (2009). Travelling the main festival circuit from the Berlinale to Sundance, they garnered several Best Director awards, the 2005 ZKM International Media Award, a Spirit Award and the 2009 Black Pearl Award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival; they were acquired by NBC Universal, ARTE, and BBC/FILM 4. His current film project (with author Andrew Feinstein), Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, was awarded a production grant from the Sundance Institute and premiered in April 2016 at the Tribeca International Film Festival, New York.