Kunstinstituut Melly

Michael Stevenson

A solo exhibition

20 Sep 2020 - 17 Jan 2021

Michael Stevenson, Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare, Liverpool Biennale, 2014
Michael Stevenson was born in New Zealand, and currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany; his home since 2000. His experimental artistic practice combines fine arts and historical research, whereby he explores the intersection of economics and theology. For decades, he has especially focused on the different stages where this intersection is materially crystalized and ideologically expressed. As it pertains to his work, these “stages” come to indicate both the physical platforms, whether private or public, as well as the phases in a learning process or, alternatively, a given historical period.

Stevenson is primarily known for large-scale art installations and ambitious sculptures. In creating these, he sources materials drawn from journals and archives, to manufacturing “boneyards.” He also regularly collaborates with scholars and engineers, as well as with individuals whose oral histories have yet to be widely communicated. Because Stevenson’s artworks have dealt with macro-systems—such as economic theories for controlling inflation in economics, schooling and pedagogical models, and the figure of higher beings or the Devil in religions—his artistic perspective is geographically boundless. A single project may draw conceptual threads and historical events connecting the Middle East to Central America, as well as connect an experimental learning environment in California with a community of practice in Nuremberg or Geneva, where the artist has worked as an art professor for years.

However, even if Stevenson investigates macro-systems, he has always prioritized micro-narratives. Indeed, the main subject of Stevenson’s work is centered on belief systems. But the lens in which these systems are seen, or the voice of the characters which he implicates or figures in his work, are susceptible and likewise vulnerable to ideas. They are at once believers and faithful, and also curious or skeptic. They experiment and fail. Stevenson’s artworks are able to express the emotions mobilized by both systems and people, and in their encounter to trigger new emotions, too.

His exhibition at Witte de With presents works drawn from key projects by the artist over the past decade, and is co-presented by Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art and The KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, where a larger iteration of the exhibition will open in 2021.

This is the artist’s first exhibition in the Netherlands.