One of the most widely exhibited artists currently working in film, Guido van der Werve combines a love of music, history and geography with personal stories and physical feats. His poetic shorts document a form of performance art while imaginatively expanding both mediums. The 35-year-old Dutch artist, who splits his time between a cottage in Finland and a Berlin studio, returns to New York for his second solo at Luhring Augustine, presenting two new cinematic projects at the gallery’s Chelsea space and a survey of eight films made over the past decade at its Bushwick outpost.
Van der Werve premieres his most ambitious film to date, Nummer veertien, home, in Chelsea. The 54-minute surreal narrative mixes the lives of Frédéric Chopin and Alexander the Great with the artist’s triathlon odyssey from Warsaw to Paris. Swimming, bicycling and running through Poland, Germany and France, he retraces in reverse the 1,000-mile journey of Chopin’s heart, which had been posthumously removed, per the composer’s request, and returned to his homeland. This amazing exploit is layered with footage of sites related to Alexander the Great in Greece, Egypt and India, and interwoven with scenes of orchestras and choirs performing an uplifting score written by the artist.
In Bushwick, other films of solitary acts—such as Nummer acht, everything is going to be alright, which captures Van der Werve crossing the frozen Baltic Sea on foot ahead of an icebreaker—reveal the deadpan yet winning feeling his work endlessly exudes.—Paul Laster