works and lives in Ghent, Brussels and New York
1986 BA in Mixed Media, Academy of Fine Arts, Gent (Belgium);
1987 International scholarship: Research on Sibilmin, Papua New Guinea (Indonesia);
1992 MFA Video & Mixed Media, School of Visual Arts, New York(U.S.A.);
1993 Scholarship of Independent Study Program at Whitney Museum, New York (U.S.A.)
Johan Grimonprez (° Roeselare, 1962) graduated in 1986 on the Academy of Ghent in mixed media. In 1990 he made his first movie Nimdol June 18, 1959 – Nimdol June July 6, 1987. When he studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York he realised the video Kobarweng or Where is your helicopter (1992). Already in this project you can see his interest in documentaries exploring the blurry lines between fiction and reality. In 1994 he extends the themes of this film in It will be all right if you come again, only next time don’t bring any gear, except a tea kettle… (A landscape of mimetic excess), a 5-channel video projection.
In 1997 the film Dial-H.I.S.T.O.R.Y was one of the most surprising works on Documenta X. The video-essay exists out of a fast montage of news fragments showing hijackings mixed with commercials and silly camcorder stuff. It is ‘an eccentric rollercoaster ride through history’: from the romantic revolutionary hijackings of the sixties 'till the terror of the anonymous parcel bomb, dating 1997. It shows that images out of their original context are always manipulated and misused by certain ideologies. The artist was influenced by the novels White Noice and Mao II by Don Delillo. Grimonprez shows that ‘terrorism’ is a phenomenon that only exist through television; because what is shown has not really happened. CNN borrows from Hollywood and vice versa. David Shea (New York) took care of the sound track.
The idea of a overwhelming choice of viedo material evolved 'till videotheques and video lounges, often win cooperation with others. The first one of that kind was Prends garde! À fantôme, on le devient (1997), realised with cHerman Asselberghs. Visitors could drink a cup of coffee and eat some cake while they watched a movie they choose themselves. In the videotheque deliberately all genres were included.
In 2000 Grimonprez created another video lounge: Inflight Lounge, again a work in which the visitor has an active role in ‘making’ the art work. He is now in the environment of a departure hall of an airport. On the walls a Mickey-T (Mickey Mouse with alien eyes), a pictogram that shows us we can only leave the plane on high heels if it’s been hijacked and a Master Jack-logo is painted. A cup of coffee or a glass of water are at our disposal. While sitting in a comfortable chair he can watch a movie of his choice. This time a selection of airplane movies is made, often with a hijackings end. As well airport classics as bizarre commercials were included in the supply. The literature on the tables is as little for a reassuring kind: the Inflight magazine overflows with hijacking information, together with ‘Safety on Board’-cards (what to do when your plane is hijacked?) and barf bags.
The Inflight Lounge exists in different forms and under different titles: Maybe the sky is green and we're just colourblind, I’m a bit like you, I’m a bit in the clouds, ... The video collection is always actualised by the artist, often together with others like Charlotte Leouzon.
Since a few years Johan Grimonprez has started working on a web project: Zap-o-Matik (www.zapomatik.be). It is a condensation of a video library made specifically for the web. The difference with the other libraries lies in the fact that the theme of Zap-o-Matik is the history of the remote control in relation to the commercial break, with clips and ads of the first remote control. In the web project there are two ways to navigate: chronologically throught its history or zapping by way of its keywords.
In 2005 Grimonprez produced Looking for Alfred, together with Zap-o-Matik. The film documents the search for Hitchcock look-alikes.