In his new exhibition at Efremidis, Willem Oorebeek covers the windows of the gallery with the oversized lettering “Free China From Tibet” in a Gothic typeface. The inversion of the popular slogan (“Free Tibet”) demands liberation for the People’s Republic of China and raises the question of what this freedom would mean for the Central State.
Oorebeek’s work positions itself against the backdrop of the present moment in the West in which political rhetoric is escalating and public discourse is becoming increasingly polarized. The desire for total unambiguity and an understanding of a constantly differentiating world cannot be met at the same time. The state of affairs is simply more intricate. The artificial clarity of political slogans inevitably runs the risk of discrediting the legitimacy of opinions.
In addition to the discrepancy between writing and what it wants to refer to, Willem Oorebeek’s work also examines the boundary between image and language. The German calligraphy makes the text difficult to read and creates a tension with the clarity of the printed statements. The illegibility drives the letters from the sphere of language into that of the image.
Oorebeek consistently engages with the medium of print: writing and images are copied, reproduced and torn from their usual systems of reference. Form and content become alienated from one another. The clarity of the original statement is lost and contrasts with the apparent unambiguity of the slogan.
Oorebeek’s work reflects the resulting uncertainty and opens up the possibility of finding a way back to an adequate, more balanced public discourse.
Willem Oorebeek (b. 1953 in Pernis, NL) lives and works in Brussels, BE. Solo exhibitions include: Sundogs, Paris, (2018); Yale Union, Portland (2015); Fundação Caixa Geral de Depósitos – Culturgest, Lisbon (2008); Stedelijk Museum voor Aktuele Kunst, Ghent (2006); Ausstellungshalle zeitgenössische Kunst, Münster, with Joëlle Tuerlinckx (2005); Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, with Joëlle Tuerlinckx (2004) and at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (1988 and 1996-1999). In 1997, together with Aernout Mik, he represented the Netherlands at the 47th Biennale di Venezia.