The Voeten Collection represents a unique combination of both Belgian and international works. Currently it comprises over 1700 art pieces that have been collected during a period of more than 40 years. They are exhibited in two separate locations – at the Art Center close to Herentals and at the sculpture park near Gheel.

Guy Bleus

Demonetisatie A, B, C, ca. 1985, collage, 24 x 34 cm

"On August two, nineteenhundredseventynine at four p.m. I ritually committed suicide by registering "Guy Bleus" as an individual brand name and number. I officially became in the Benelux-trade mark office in Den Haag (the Netherlands) the number 42.292." That is how the mail art and conceptual artist Guy Bleus (°1950, Hasselt, Belgium) announced his pseudonym '42.292', that he from then on also used as signature. With this bureaucratic act the artist demonstrates the advance of the quantitative and nearly intimate relation between humans and social numbers and ciphers. This registration is characteristic for the artistic oeuvre of Bleus that handles with communication, administration and bureaucracy.

The tripartite work Demonetisatie A, B, C (ca. 1985) consists of three collages of banknotes – hundred Belgian franc, one dollar and five Dutch gulden – on pink spotty papers cut in four pieces and thus devaluated. Bleus adhered these pieces on administrative pages coming from the basements of an old linen factory in Kwatrecht closed long ago. The text of the timbres on the right side of the pages says Anciennes Usines De Backer de Rudder & Co – Société Anonyme Gand. Bleus signature 'X 42 292' in red pencil can be found at the foot of the collages. This work was on view in 1996 in the exposition Twisted matter (Verdraaide materie) in De Vierkante Zaal in Sint-Niklaas.

Guy Bleus pronounces by Demonetisatie A, B, C the social myth of questioning the paper: "In a society that is carried by belief in the quantity of ciphers or capital, it is meaningful to explore the relevance of this administrative situation. When belief or faith in monetary values would disappear, also a certain image of society would vanish. This awareness is gruesome. It demonstrates the vulnerability or the Achilles tendon of a system.

The entire problem of authenticity of securities is reflected in this work. Credibility, legality and even social truth are defined by simple things such as a stamp or a signature of a delegated administrator on a piece of paper. One of the reasons why the homo sapiens invented writing and paper, springs from his craving to consolidate the by coincidence or by artistic interventions acquired power. Paper and writing are tools to reinforce the existing social relations. They consolidate power into authority, into legitimated, recognized power. What is once registered on parchment as law, rules or art historical fact, defies time and lays claim to administrative 'eternity'.

Essential in 'Demonetisatie, A, B, C' is not only to indicate doubt, but also temporality and ephemerality of established values. Each social of artistic story is merely 'one' history and not 'the' history. It is always without solidarity and with unknown advantages. To provoke and test the aesthetical topicality of old forms, functions and formulas is a task for the artist. Not to create despair but rather maladjusted forms of life is the function of art to explore thus new forms of tolerance." – Guy Bleus.

By applying administrative actions, Guy Bleus questions bureaucracy. He started using documents, such as a.o. official licenses and certificates, stamps and Artistamps, as memorabilia of administrative rituals, for his mail art oeuvre. He made falsifications and parodies of official documents and created for example an identity card of the planet Mars. Next to the parodying of the bureaucracy, Guy Bleus also acts counter to the art world of galleries and museums by creating a coordinating mail art network and artists community.

To participate in mail art and thus to realize an international, egalitarian and open network by correspondence is central for Bleus. Mail art is not a specific art movement in the traditional sense but a kind of alternative art circuit, an international network of artists who are spreading their work by the medium 'mail' and not initially through official galleries and museums. The exchange of (visual) information or art exchange is central. Mail art or communication art comprises all possible communication media such as telephony, fax, radio, walkie-talkie, etc. and took form as a worldwide art movement in the 1970s. The movement stems from a.o. the neo-dada and Fluxus movement, but also in the Bauhaus and surrealism mail was already artistically deployed. In her most extreme form is communication art an art without material objects. It is namely the communication process, out of which a product as a result or registration arises that is emphasized.

Bleus brings the products of mail art projects together in his in 1978 inaugurated Administration Centre – 42.292. Here he is constructing an archive and cataloguing and classifying not only his own work, but also what other mail artists send to him. By treating each postal object and every artist the same way while archiving or administrative arranging the information, Bleus follows the democratic and egalitarian principles typical for mail art. Bleus' Administration Centre, one of the largest mail art archives in the world with work from more than 5000 artists from more than 60 countries, appears as an official institution and mimics the museum. It is a 'bureaucratic façade' to offer mail art a more permanent and sustainable existence. The idealistic goal is to conserve the entire 'mail art story' by classifying all received results of postal activities. But the Centre is also paradoxical: Bleus sees the objects as communicative items and thus not as something fixed. Though this is confirmed by the traditional approach of preservation in the archive. His Centre is in that sense a contradictio in terminis.

Finally, the sensory also plays a role in the work of Guy Bleus. He expresses a fascination for scents and the olfactory for example by showing 'odour paintings' and aromatic installations, by posting perfumed objects and by performing 'spray performances' in which he sprays a fog over the public. "The use of authentic odours is a significant enrichment for the visual arts: depending on unpredictability's and/or individual experiences such as memories or thoughts, the aesthetical perceptions concerning a specific smell will color pleasant or repellent," states Bleus.

From October 2005 until January 2006 Z33 in Hasselt organized the olfactive exposition Scents:Locks:Kisses with Bleus as curator. For this expo, or better international mail art project, whereby the titles was also the theme, Bleus invited 778 artist out of 43 countries. An online slideshow and dcd-rom form the catalogus:

Because of Bleus' sixtieth birthday the cultural centre of Hasselt organized in 2010 a retrospective of his work. The catalogue that was published contained with lavender perfumed end leaves and a reprint of Bleus' identity card from Mars.

Text: Sarah Gallasz