Becoming Emulsified with a Twist: Rethinking the Object in the Works of Delvoye

December 21, 2016

Wim Delvoye: Movements is a tool designed by DHC/ART Education to encourage visitors to develop and elaborate on some key concepts of the exhibition Wim Delvoye. These concepts are commodification, twist, ornament, and sacred/profane.

Content: Twist

«Becoming produces nothing other than itself. We fall into a false alternative if we say that you either imitate or you are. What is real is the becoming itself, the block of becoming, not the supposedly fixed terms through which that which becomes passes [1].»

– Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Wim Delvoye’s series of twisted works, be they motorcycle tires or neo-Gothic sculptures, crucifixes or dump trucks, are distorted versions of their former selves. These objects are mutated into strange and warped entities, and enter into a realm of the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable. This transformation – most poignant when the objects are combined with some other, often-contradictory element – begs to be dissected. Art historian and critic Olivier Duquenne proposes reading Delvoye’s work through the lens of Deleuze and Guattari’s theory on “becoming” [2]. Quite like the Möbius that Delvoye is so fond of, this process of becoming opens up an infinite number of possibilities, interpretations and questions. Can a dump truck, for example, really be transformed into a Gothic cathedral, in all of its glory, grandeur, splendor, and light… but still be a vessel designed to carry construction material and waste? The answer is simply no. And yes.

This is where the Deleuzio-Guattarian becoming becomes particularly salient. Delvoye’s Twisted Dump Truck Clockwise (scale model 1:5) (2011) can no longer serve its initial function. It has been intricately ornamented with flying buttresses, arches and spires. It has become a stainless steel, valuable, twisted replica of itself. However, as far as Delvoye is concerned, there is no contradiction here. Call it juxtaposition, hybrid, a fusion, if you will – or, as he does, emulsion: a perfect combination of entities that would not normally mix, like oil and vinegar. But the intriguing thing is that they do mix in Delvoye’s work, like a vinaigrette that is constantly being whisked, or like a becoming that is constantly in the state of becoming. Emulsion and becoming involve merging two heterogeneous entities, which lead to a complete loss of stability. The entities defy definition and become anomalies [3]. They are endlessly becoming – as are the dump truck and the Gothic cathedral.

Delvoye uses the strategy of the twist – formally, to distort, and conceptually, to convolute the meaning – to create this continuous becoming and emulsion… a purgatory, of sorts, where seemingly opposing or contradictory elements unite. There is no settling of the elements in Twisted Dump Truck Clockwise (scale model 1:5). The meanings of both the dump truck and the cathedral have been twisted together to such great lengths that no formal or conceptual un-twisting would be possible. Nothing is what it seems at first glance – everything, as it were, has a twist to it.

Twisted motorcycle tires are generally the result of an accident: an unfortunate, unplanned event that leaves a mess in its wake. The twisted tires in these circumstances are rendered useless and are destined for the garbage dump. Taking this into consideration, how do you interpret Delvoye’s twisted tires that have been purposefully transformed into various shapes following specific complex, mathematical patterns?

When thinking about Deleuze and Guattari’s theory on becoming, what are some of the possible outcomes of being in an unstable, in-between state? Can this be a potentially productive or creative space?

Amanda Beattie
DHC/ART Education

[1] DELEUZE, Gilles and GUATTARI, Félix (1980). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minnesota: The University of Minnesota.
[2] DUQUENNE, Olivier (2010). “Wim Delvoye: Le gothique ou le crime de l’ornement.” Flux News.
[3] BRUNS, Gerald L. (2007). “Becoming-Animal (Some Simple Ways).” New Literary History 38 (4), pp. 703-720.

Photo credit:

Wim Delvoye, Twisted Dump Truck Clockwise (scale model 1:5), 2011. Laser-cut stainless steel. Collection Guy Laliberté.

#amanda beattie
#dhc/art education
#wim delvoye