Joannes Kesenne — We didn’t found words, not even whispering



Joannes Kesenne — We hadden geen woorden gevonden, geen fluisteren zelfs


We didn’t found words, not even whispering. The things that once existed between these two people, this man and this woman, it does persist. It is a kind of listening between them to what is of priority. It is a custom that for centuries belongs to the world, but nevertheless flourishes more in the quiet cool of an olive tree, than in what we are used to call these days. What namely concerns them, sojourns, for them who really see, in nothing else than a particular way of intuit. What they show us, is first of all, an invitation to an inevitable look. Those who deserve an inside view into their images, expatiate on the drama às drama itself. It is, so to say, such as an African mother feels how live flows off her child. How the child dies in her womb. Riven by sorrow and despair, she get left. We remember the icon of the Pietà. But in the art of Reniere & Depla, such an image should in the mean time turn inside out. It should bring the Africa of our desire inside ourselves to life again. Each drama that faces us on their way, appeals the mystic body in ourselves. Credo que absurdum.

This is what the art of Reniere & Depla does to us. These artists welcome the world as fugitive strangers. As Flemish-without-papers. More by touch than he who surely knows where the target is paved. It cannot be otherwise, they must have build a storehouse of shared memories. But where? I may say: in nothing else than in the ruins of what some call our Western civilisation.

How their images sometimes touch the things in itselves to the point. Perhaps the expression „to lay a finger on“ should be the right term. Their art touches those who succeed to see. On the same time, their formation of the image skims narrowly along the open wounds of our political culture. Such as: the relics of the Great War, the powerless desolation of beauty, the fatality of Jewish harm in world history, how a landscape can look like just as abandoned as pregnant, the assumption of a family life in front of a destroyed house, say a home, but also that headstrong silence at mouth height, because “in the beginning was the image”.

In 1969 the Jewish-Romanian poet Paul Celan travels to Israël. He gives a lecture to the Hebrew writing fraternity, in which he, among others, speaks the following words:

“I think that I can imagine very well what Jewish loneliness means.(…) I find here, in this utter and inner landscape, much of the love for truth, the self evidence and the worldwide once-onlyness of great poetry.”

Some of the works of Reniere & Depla appear as the blindfolded bearers of these words: how it must feel to live as a Jew in this world, how the flight of the eagle robs of the soul of the landscape, how in the unrepeatability of a gaze much truth has been narrowing-down. With the word Jew we do not allude only to the Jewish people in Israël or in the Diaspora, but to the metaphor jew, to the ultimate symbol of the outcasts of the world, to the victims of discrimination, to the expression “everything of value is helpless” of the Dutsch poet Lucebert, to the Palestinian who lives a lifetime long in the wasteland of one or another Jordan refugee camp.


It is in these images of nameless sorrow of war, of the stuttering step of the emigrant, of the face in the light of the death candle, of house walls with shadows in tears, … it is in this kind of images that the being of the tragic reveals itself as being-lost. Already always we, as human beings, have lost our origin, have tried to forget our animal descent. Meanwhile, we resigned, such as a son can live at the end with the face of his father in the mirror. But since, we also lost our future. Bagdad, Athens, Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople, Paris, Berlin, New York, ... We have seen your ruins, we couldn’t cover your stigma’s of hurt pride. These are the feats of a hero like Aiax out of the Ilias, he who after fighting against a herd of cattle under the moonlight as if it were Greek soldiers, finally cringed with shame and committed suicide. Was it lunacy or heroism?

Don’t ask me: “When?” (“wanneer”) Or this is nothing more then the honour of delusion (“waan eer”). This art cannot hide her saturnal sin.


How to create art in times in which the art scene rather seems to face a return of iconophobia?
What to do? Is it a question of present absence or of cowardly presence? To walk along the artistic path, in between the graveyards of the Old Europe, during the first days of a glowing new millenium, draging along the weight of a horrible history, like the prisonner his heavy globe … what does it means? What does it means if we repeat the words of Balzac, saying “art is the retoric of the promise”? Isn’t it this, superfluous spoken, that art has in common with politics? To be sure, with this „narcissism of the smallest differences“: art claims messianism, as long as politics behave on a machiavellistic way. Art can explore a future as
manifestation of justice, but without a horizon of expectations or any profetic declaration. The advent of the different has to beware an absolute surprise. It has nothing to do with a kind of “waiting for Godot“. It is rather the poetics of waiting for the beloved, while the face already appears in the fata morgana of our imagination. More particular: that expression of the face that appears in the exclusive moment of orgastic hospitality.

Above the melancholic landscape of this art, the angels of death stay on a distance. They keep quiet. Are they tired to bring the sacrifice of violence in the name of nonviolence? This opens up to the seduction of the religious thing. The philosopher Derrida once sejourned at the border of the two sources, the two wells in the desert of the religio. Or take Levinas: the difference between sacrality and the holy. That what makes the difference in Latin between religere and religare, between on the one side picking, collecting and on the other side tieing, joining. What stays in common is the re : the repeat, the cult, the recollection, the re-assembling. It is the promise to put the truth over and over again on the agenda. Perhaps in prayings? Perhaps a pauze, which announces a come-back and a new start? In any case, it is the question of establishing a lasting affiliation with that what escapes us, what goes beyond, what alienates and leaves us behind in despair. But should the pomegranates and hourglasses know more what it is all about? We may doubt. The holy stays not in familiarity, safety or unpredictability. If the art of Reniere & Depla shows us something, it must be indeed that the holy is present in violence in the name of nonviolence. Precisely inside that for which the angels hesitate, shrink and finally withdraw! Listen to Rilke: “Because the beautiful is nothing else than the beginning of the tremendous, that we can still bear, and we have so much admiration for the beautiful, because it scorns - on a resigned way - to destroy us. Every angel is tremendous.”

— Joannes Késenne in Reniere&Depla 2000-2004