Guy Wouete (e)


Guy Wouete (1980, Cameroon) works chiefly based on his emotions. He has a keen eye for the things around him and allows his intuition to speak. He processes the themes that thus present themselves into a concept. Therein he tries to both make connections to the past and to anticipate a possible future.
“Recently, I was in the Central Station in Brussels. It was full of rubbish and litter. The refuse collectors were on strike. A couple of days later it was even worse. This is the sort of situation I respond to. I had my camera with me and took some photos. I will then work this idea out later.”
Guy Wouete is not one for great theories. His immediate surroundings present him with sufficient subject matter to keep him busy. Threat, hope, despair, slavery, freedom, oppression, disease, etc. Whether these surroundings are African or Dutch, makes little difference to him. Much is universal. The work’s theme determines the medium in which he produces it. It could be a video, or it could be a sculpture, drawing, painting or photograph. He doesn’t want to restrict himself to one discipline. He makes no preliminary sketches. He has a rough idea in his head of what he wants and then allows the work itself to lead him. One act leads to another. An original variation on the Laws of Chance.
The installation he is now showing is inspired by the Amsterdammertjes, the knee-high bollards that famously line Amsterdam’s streets. According to Wouete these are a sort of logo for the city – “we don’t have them in Douala” – but they are also a means for demarcation. They protect pedestrians from the street. They are in fact border posts. His wooden sculptures are a variation on this. Roughly hewn tree trunks that can each catch the wind in their own way. They are mounted on a steel stand, placing them at eye level with the viewer. This stand is ‘decorated’ with international symbols. For one this is an untidy pile of books (in English). “There are few or no borders for books. Far fewer than for people.” Electricity cables hang down from another. The red wires stand for communication that refuses to be obstructed by border controls. Yet another is draped with international flags. The border posts invite being touched. “I like the viewer to feel it as well, to experience it.” Works on paper hang on the wall. They are a cross between collages and drawings. They seem abstract, but on a closer look they tell the story of the artist. Someone who travels a lot, who migrates and who has now been at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam for two years, not knowing what will happen after this period or where he will be.
Guy Wouete is in fact self-taught. He was initially trained as a mechanic. “My mother thought I should be able to look after myself.” Each day on the way home from school he passed a sculptor’s studio. His works were displayed in the window. A few years later he would train him as a sculptor. After a brief course to intensively prepare him for a managerial position in a cultural centre, he made the decision to become an artist. “I have no regrets. I have plenty to say and there are enough ways to say it. I cannot imagine I will ever run out of things to say.”
At the end of the visit he showed me a series of photographs he has taken of a wintery Amsterdam. The photos frequently zoom in on details. “At the instant that I take these photos, I realize that people here in the Netherlands have also had to work hard to get to where they are now. On the other hand I know that the Dutch followed the Portuguese as slave traders on the coast of my country. Many people here have no idea about this.”

Rob Perrée
Amsterdam, March 2010.