Yaïr Callender, For the vision of Abou Ben Adhem; 1646, The Hague

Yaïr Callender (1987) is an artist with a great feeling for monumentality.

As he has shown in earlier works, monumentality to him is not just a matter of size and proportions, neither is it about an object to mark a certain event or to remember a special person.

In his kind of monumentality Callender wants to communicate with the public, or, like here in 1646, a gallery space, with the audience.

What his monumentality communicates is a celebration of knowledge, the spiritual and the social, three big columns of humanity.

Although he is clearly inspired by the greater and smaller monuments of global art history, he doesn’t feel the need to impress the audience.

His eclecticism isn’t for postmodern quasi-intellectual self-referential intertextuality, it wants to speak to the mind, foster reflection, imagination and communality.

He doesn’t want you to take part, he wants it to take part in you.

Abou Ben Adhem, who appears in the title of Callender’s present installation, is a fictional figure from a poem by Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), one of the minor poets of the days of early English Romanticism.

The poem, which is quite well-known in England, tells about Abou Ben Adhem, who dreams of peace and who sees an angel in the moonlight of his room, Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom, and who declares to the angel that he is one that loves his fellow men, and, not really one who love(s) the Lord.

The angel writes in a book of gold, and reappears to Abou Ben Adhem the next night with a great wakening light.

The third protagonist in the poem is the Lord, whose messenger is the angel and who blesses Abou Ben Adhem in the end for loving his fellow men.

The poem obviously served as an inspiration to Callender as you can tell from his use of light and dark in the installation, allusions to day and night, the warmth of the light (just take a seat and feel it!), finding peace and comfort for and in life and death, and the spiritual in communication when you share a water pipe (which you can imagine Abou Ben Adhem might have done).

Callender’s monumentality is particularly warm hearted, even if you haven’t read about Abou Ben Adhem (for which it is, i’m afraid, a bit too late now).

[Click on the pictures to enlarge]

© Villa Next Door 2018

Content of all pictures courtesy to Yaïr Callender and 1646, Den Haag

Bertus Pieters

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