Wim Delvoye (b. 1965)
Sybille II (1999)
The subject of Sybille II by Wim Delvoye is the skin. The magic of the work lies in the use of extreme close-ups. They cause the pictures to at first look like an imaginary, lifeless landscape. After several minutes worm-like objects on the surface come to life. Suddenly the true nature of the images is revealed. Delvoye creates a work of art that confounds our conventional notion of what constitutes the beautiful. The film shows a series of sequences in which various forms, invariably in tones of white and ivory, seem to emerge from nowhere in a delicately cross-stitched landscape. These apparent creatures are mesmerizing, as they weave about in a space the viewer can't initially locate. At a certain point (it took me a number of minutes) you realize that you're not seeing exotic, underwater life, but extreme close-up views of people squeezing blackheads. The dancing forms are filaments of pus released from under the skin, and their explosive appearance in the frame suddenly reads as grotesque and not pleasing. "I want to portray human beings as a kind of organic living being, that's what they are actually, an organism," Delvoye has said, and a number of his pieces use a scatalogical frame to articulate that organic nature.