However violent and dystopian these worlds may be, there remains a romanticising of childhood as a golden age of libidinous urges, uncontrolled by a superego. (Katy Siegel about Carroll Dunham, in Artforum in February 2000)
Michael Van den Abeele is as versatile as he is productive. His drawings, gouaches, oil paintings, sculptures and animation loops are full of absurdism and plastic inventiveness. In his most recent work characters appear with rambling names and motives, "the bright man," “the spray tube of Eindhoven”, ”Smiley Smile”, “Legoman", etc. Sometimes they are rickety and explosive, sometimes translucent and anti-human, but always endowed with indestructible phlegm of artificial bliss. One by one they have emerged from Circus Maximus, a small collection of 54 sketches. This collection is a manic succession of distorted constructivist compositions, pushed in overdrive by libidinous impulses.
In Bonus Malus, the exhibition that Van den Abeele designed with architect Arnaud Hendrickx, these impulses gain further momentum. The most striking result of this collaboration is a building that serves as a Neolithic pavilion: an anachronistic Fremdkörper constructed from German quick building blocks, it stands as a zone-free creation the middle of the exhibition space.
Despite its brutal intent Bonus Malus cannot be characterized as one-dimensional. Van den Abeele's paintings and sculptures entail a rather deceptively light-hearted element. The shapes vary continuously between flatness and volume, as a precursor to a world where humanity no longer constitutes the norm. Together with Hendrickx, he imagines an arena where the bonus-malus system develops into an ontological spectacle, driven by an elusive social-Darwinian capriciousness. Thumbs up or thumbs down; that is the question: whatever the precise outcome may be, it currently remains in the middle.