Jenkin van Zyl’s first solo exhibition at Edel Assanti transforms the gallery into an engulfing environment built around a new single-channel film, Surrender.
The exhibition is entered via the gaping jaws of an enormous inflatable rat sculpture, whose fleshy innards create a sculptural walkway leading to the inner sanctum of a love hotel, festooned with a canopy of bunting. At the centre of the installation, four beds mirroring one of the scenes from Van Zyl’s film serve as a viewing platform for the projection. Characteristic of his psychotropic style, the film melds the 20th century phenomenon of dance marathons – gruelling endurance competitions wherein couples participated in non-stop dancing for hundreds of hours – with the cryptid lore of the “rat king”.
Conjured with a queer irreverence attentive to the power of role-play and fantasy, the film undertakes a carnivalesque exploration of abandoned yet grandiose neoliberal landscapes; an underworld revolt of transient spaces encompassing the hotel, the stage and the set. The dance floor is the focal point of the film, where four rat couples expend themselves in increasingly bewildering tournaments that play with the limitations and expansiveness of the body. Within the exhibition, the rats’ competitive challenges are memorialised in a separate mirror-lined trophy room, where plinths formed from towers of energy drinks glisten and interact with smoke drawings.
Jenkin van Zyl is an artist and filmmaker based in London with a multidisciplinary practice comprising film, performance, writing and sculpture. Van Zyl’s work combines these disciplines in hallucinant, immersive installations, typically centred around film. Van Zyl’s diverse frame of reference gives birth to fantastical communities inhabiting fleeting spaces: ghouls breeding cakes in aircrafts, inflatable beasts in a desert fortress, or rats writhing in love hotels. Binaries are displaced by instability, deviance and multiple selves. Beyond the screen, the protagonists and their worlds have a material legacy
as “escapees”, in the form of sculptures and objects that pervade van Zyl’s oeuvre.
Jenkin van Zyl: Surrender, 19th January – 4th March 2023, Edel Assanti
About the artist
Jenkin van Zyl (b. 1993) received a postgraduate degree from the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2021 and was the recipient of the RA Gold Medal Prize. Recent exhibitions include The Horror Show!, Somerset House, London (2022); Barbe à Papa, CAPC Musée d’art Contemporain de Bordeaux (2022); Machines of Love, Tramway, Glasgow (2021); Hors Pistes, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2020); Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery, London (2019); Oblivion Industry, The Horse Hospital, London (2019). In March 2023, van Zyl will design the set for Oozing Gloop at Battersea Art Centre. Van Zyl lives and works in London