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EXPRMNTL/ÂGE D’OR » Theatrum Opticum Revived

Theatrum Opticum Revived
Tuesday, September 1st, 2020



10.10 > 24.10 / CINEMATEK

The exhibition presents a quartet of ‘peeping boxes’, miniature video installations set in handmade boxes by Eric de Kuyper. They are the result of his exploration of new forms of artistic expression that broke away from traditional filmmaking. He merged video art with his interest in early cinematic optical devices and his childhood fascination with the 19th century toy theatres of Benjamin Pollock’s. Compared to feature filmmaking, video was an accessible and affordable medium, unrestricted by format, scale, budget or production matters. In an era well before YouTube and vlogging, video allowed de Kuyper to be an independent director, set designer and cameraman all in one. 

The four boxes exhibited in CINEMATEKPink Ulysses II, Peeping Box I, Swimming Pool and Renaissance – are part of a series of works titled Theatrum Opticum (1992). With their unique scenography and atmosphere, each is a miniature universe on its own. Inside, the tiny screens display videos that allude to voyeurism and homoeroticism. De Kuyper collaged various types of moving images together in a playful way – from home videos, fragments of TV shows and pornographic movies, to his own earlier feature films. His attitude towards eroticism and the beauty of the male body is not without a sense of humour and admiration. 

Each peeping-box relies on its components to work as a whole: the video would not have an impact without its frame, the hand-crafted scenography would be merely an empty toy box without the video in it. Yet there is also a whimsical friction between them. These naïve, sentimental boxes juxtapose the surprise contents of the videos themselves: athletic bodies of swimming champions, kaleidoscopic compositions of figures cut out from porn magazines and placed on reproductions of 18th-century paintings. While the images are pornographic, they have been stripped of aggression and subjugation. The artist offers the audience voyeuristic pleasure in a cheeky and light-hearted way. 

The exhibition marks the first time in over 25 years that the four boxes were exhibited together to the public. They were originally presented during de Kuyper’s solo exhibition that took place in November 1993 at the Palace at the Meir, as a part of Antwerpen Culturele Hoofdstad van Europa. Currently the works are in the collection of the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen. The boxes have been restored and the videos have been digitised especially for this exhibition. These unique artworks in the oeuvre of this Renaissance man stand as a testimony to the recent history of Belgian new media art which remains largely under-appreciated. 

Curator: Zuzanna Rachowska


About the artist

Eric de Kuyper (b. 1942) is a Belgian writer, semiologist, art critic and experimental film director. He is mostly known in Belgium from his fictionalised autobiographical novels – Aan zee (1988), De hoed van tante Jeannot (1989) and Drie zusters in Londen (1996). His academic writing encompasses reviews, essays, articles, and books on semiotics, film, dance, theatre, and opera. His experimental films – Casta Diva (1981), Naughty Boys (1984),  Pink Ulysses (1990), reveal an engineered penchant for melodrama, love songs, and silent movies; their central topic is homosexuality. 

Practical information 

Dates: 10/10-24/10/2020
Admission: Free
Opening hours: the same as opening hours of CINEMATEK
Location: CINEMATEK foyer
9 Rue Baron Horta 1000 Bruxelles


When: Saturday 10/10, From 17:30 

Followed by the screening of Pink Ulysses (1990) by Eric de Kuyper. Duration: 1h 38m 

Limited number of guests. Please book in advance here.  

Guided tours

To enjoy the exhibition in CINEMATEK to the fullest, the curator of Theatrum Opticum Revived, Zuzanna Rachowska, offers a short guided tour on the days of the screening of the movies by Eric de Kuyper. 

Duration: 25 min. 
Event in English. 
Free admission.

Schedule of guided tours:

  • on Monday, 12/10 at 20:00 (screening of Pink Ulysses from 21:00)
  • on Tuesday, 13/10 at 21:00 (screening of Casta Diva from 19:00)
  • on Wednesday, 14/10 at 20:00 (screening of Casta Diva from 21:00)
  • on Thursday 15/10 at 20:00 (screening of Naughty Boys from 21:30)
  • on Friday 16/10 at 21:00 (screening of Naugty Boys from 19:00)

During your visit

Keep a distance of at least one and a half metres from others. Wearing a face mask is compulsory at the exhibition space. The organizer cannot provide face masks.


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