Kevin van Braak
Elephant, sculpture in teak wood, ± 850 x 350 x 140 cm, 2015.
For the 5th edition of the international outdoors exhibition Lustwarande in Tilburg, Netherlands (until October 25, 2015), artist Kevin van Braak created a pervasive sculpture of a life-size poached elephant with cut out tusks. It strikingly captured the exhibition theme ‘Rapture and Pain’. Elephant directly addresses the important social issue of animal poaching and the risk of extinction. It comments on societies actively and passively supporting poaching and simultaneously recollects the Baroque era as the start of this history in which the import of exotic animals, including elephants, became fashionable in Europe. The Lustwarande park was designed as such a Baroque park. Baroque gardens were the perfect setting for presenting exotic animals and emphasizing the owner’s wealth. It is a setting that fits Van Braak’s artistic practice. In general his work revolves significantly around politically and ideologically problematic topics. Previous projects were centered on the way ideologies are revealed and concealed by looking at their power display in buildings, on sites, and in artifacts. Sculptures, installations, events, performances, and video works allow Van Braak to uncover sensitivities and narratives that intersect with the histories of buildings, objects and contexts. His diverse use of material and media plays a pivotal role. It has to literally carry the concept. Elephant is made entirely of wood in collaboration with Indonesian wood carvers, who are famously skilled in working on a monumental scale and with an impressive attention to detail, both essential features of this work. The Indonesian art of woodcarving is often labeled as ‘kitsch’ in the western art world. In Elephant Van Braak turns this judgment around by making it vital to a very emotionally charged subject. The audience is invited to both look and touch the elephant skin, whose reality gives it an explosive force that is as hard-hitting as it is sensitive.