zaterdag 14 september 2019

Fascinating Fiona

How does she do it? Presenting what in the first instance might be called long-dead and defunct archive, but imbuing it with life, interest, amazement while at the same time keep ing a stayed distance, an immobilization behind glass and screen, a moment frozen in time come alive for a bit, or even just a fleeting moment, hardly discernable…


Shadow Archive - les archives des ombres - straddles the formidable distance between museum of contemporary art and Mundianeum - something of a curiosity in the universal order of things… or rather the chaos of life, attempting to order the impossible with a positive conviction we hardly understand nowadays… A utopian challenge to our current cynicism, a breath of musty air from a time when peace and prosperity for all humans seemed possible… a time when there was still amazement at the wonders of the world… 
perhaps with this exhibition one can rekindle the notion that not all is lost: that artists at least, still entertain these feeling of discovery, of conviction that there is something good to be found behind the piles of investigative papers and reels of footage, reams of cartography and all sorts of recording devices, albeit digital by now… that there is a point of view to be defended, even if old, antique or just plain out of style - and these multiple views form a personality, an attitude, an understanding.




She goes back further than the specific history of Paul Otlet and the Universal Decimal Classification system, - in fact she augments with a more subjective layer in which the defunct remanants become alive: imagination, conjecture, projection, all elements of the original, to be consulted in perfectly arranges traditional viewing cases, aligned systematically as Otlet would have appreciated, but ended-up with video presenting impossible views, simultaneous synthetic subjective… Other projects, all revolving around collections, memories and the attempt to fixate fleeting times, with the ‘circular ruins’ turning us in circles of Jose Luis Borge’s story amid connecting and knotted ropes, strings to wander through… 

The two-tome approach to the catalogue is also very apt: the distinction and conversation between two approaches, with references to other works and more specific detail on some aspects dealt with, makes for interesting and agreeable reading: the otherwise dry matter of systematic classification right up to the utopian fantasy of a universal city, which as it happens was planned ‘right down our alley’ making Antwerp the centre of attention (which I’m sure would have chuffed enormously) - included even an open letter to the habitants of said city…


The exhibition at MAC’s being well worth while, the second leg is a bit of a disappointment: the Mundianeum has been over-renovated, as is often the case when authorities finally decide that something is worthwhile… Obviously there was a lot of money spent, with underground archive an ample facilities out back, but the spirit of the old musty remnant of a once great archival project has been reduced to a tid-bit funfair with lots of video and info-panels, coffee-corner and the obligatory shop taking up a large chunk of the space: as do entrance hall and ticket counter… a typical example of the “Walibification” of institutions everywhere: they have to become entertainment venues..

Luckily we have Fiona tans wonderful synthetic version of what the Mundianemu could have once been: a huge depository of knowledge built along the lines of a Panopticum, with by now dusty and forgotten reading & writing desks, lamps askew, chairs overturned… a future vision of the past, the now already being past, exept perhaps in the mind’s eye.




zondag 16 juni 2019

anderlecht sortie/sort of dérive dirigé


The Maison des Artistes in Anderlecht is a leftover from those sumptuous days of an emerging Belgium when Brussels was all abuzz with new art and artists associations were all the vogue... A stately building with creaking floors and damaged stained glass windows form the school playground next door, once no doubt a lush garden with fountain and such... A portrait of Akarova next to the janitor’s mop reminds us of greater days... but still a very agreeable place to visit, especially since there is a wonderful exhibit of work by Jérôme Giller to admire: his first overview since living in Belgium.



Based mainly on a series he began a number of years back in Tourcoing, the show begins with a retrospect description of various urban walks he has organized, often in conjunction with a show or a residency project involving local youth groups and art classes, or just with local people in general, but very aware of the immediate surroundings and life on the street. Large posters represent each of these walking projects, be thay industrial such as Route de Feu or Borderline, such as the first one following the frontier between Belgium and France... a rather surreal border, and in some ways a bit unusual... strange, far-fetched...
The map and the territory, stuck in a small mailbox by Filliou comes to mind. When watching the videos of the urban walkers negotiating the most incredible obstacles in their quest to remain as close to the theoretical border as possible, the difference becomes painfully apparent: we say we know where the borders are between things, places concepts, but in fact have little idea of it at all until we breach it or attempt to adhere to the fine dotted line as put down by surveyors and politicians....


Aside from the walks there are videos with what can be called cameo-appearance street interventions: displacing things that are in themselves already strange enough but become downright surreal when shifted. Often cued by existing situations they have a lighthearted and serendipitous nature, a tad mischievous, often surprising to the instigator himself. These collections span various cities at various points in time and have a fascinating universality about them which I would think appeals to everyone.
A large video of a project done at Herstal  has a mesmerizing effect: smoke rising from the coal heaps surrounding the area. After extraction the refuse coal ignites spontaneously, creating small volcano-like vents where flora and fauna of a completely different sort manage to survive, mini tropical paradises with their own sorts of insects swarming around languidly smoking crevices... quite fascinating view of what might be considered non-places where nothing happens – quite disregarded by locals who are used to it all, even though the mining of coal had ceased many years before.
Wonderful drawings of frontiers, border-walks, structure of surroundings, silhouettes of things observed, elevations and notes make it all a fascinating look-read and represents well the process... the constant passage of information all sorts which only later perhaps become more significant when the lines are merged... The map with only the border and the walks around Brussels is a case in point: a seemingly banal city map becomes a pearl of an image, recognizable and abstract at the same time, with the ‘usual information’ blocked out by a thin veil of whitewash.
I have to admit I again failed to participate in the walk attached to this show- not being able to spare the time – but did attempt to catch a glimpse by hanging around the general area I though they might pass... to no avail. I will certainly make the effort to make the time next time..., which I sincerely hope, there will be.
Jérôme Giller at Maison des Artistes, 14 rue du Bronze 1070 Anderlecht
Still until

Sunday 23rd of June (finissage)

<grensVlanderlecht.jpg>picture taken bij Jérôme himself somewhere on the frontier Anderlecht....

zondag 31 maart 2019

Lettersetter sundown

Lettersetting Sun


A project that had been in deep sleep for many years surfaced again recently: the transposition of some typewritten texts by the late M.B. into typo-printed versions... hand-press, individually composed, lead and wooden letters... a process few people find the time to busy themselves with nowadays, and part of the reason I quit way back when... 
But now it resurfaced for a specific project, and I felt I had not really finished at the time, so I agreed to have another look at it all... even though I had recently seen the folder in which the copies of originals were kept, I could not find it and so had to rely on versions I had printed at the time. Otherwise there was also the fact that the press I used then was unavailable, as well as the lettering used, so the whole thing had to be rekindled from scratch. By chance I could make use of the material at the FMC out in the countryside, which made it a sort of pleasant outing at first... but became a bit of a drag die to the relative distance from town – I had to drive out more often than originally planned, and it all took longer than I thought, and was a bit more difficult due to some unforessen circumstances... but on the whole it was ok... at least I hope so;

Fact is the goalposts shifted slightly, there were more prints needed, and for different venues, and at a certain point I realized I was using the wrong texts, and so the thing became a bit of a chore... which in the end I wondered if it was a good idea to get into it all again, and where it might end (it is not over yet at this juncture, I will have to report back...)
But one of the interesting things is that driving back to town in the evening is like riding into the sunset: giving the whole thing a sort of coyboy-hollywood experience, while on the radio they announce that the Lettersetter is making it’s way up north: heading our way. The Lettersetter is a local name for a bug that eats trees... somewhat like the budworm that ravages North America, it’s coming up from the Mediterranean, along with termites and such, to eat us out of house and home, and probably gobble up our archives too... It takes it’s name from the fact that it burrows under the bark in neat systematic parallel rows, much like we plow furrows in our fields, combined with a typwriter-style enthusiasm, even though I don’t think it rings a bell at every new line, or zip cogs per paragraph.

As for the project: we will have to see; a first contingent of prints was crumpled into a sort of snaky ball and hung out to dry, others fragmented in a showcase along with a few open letters... will let you know more soon...




As it was, we produced some classic looking pieces too, and yes, a series or suite of perhaps five better examples... I didn’t go to install the work myself and was a bit surprised to find that the suite had been massacred, leaving me with just fragments of a few examples, some of whiche then I belatedly say were even erroneous: alas again, an oversight of one R... that pesky R which registers as a trade mark in my brain... so, try as I might: failed again!
 
Grrr... off then to the opening and a sneak preview just before the dignitaries did their rounds... and yes, now I could see what had transpired... my co-producer cut up and mixed the texts in a playful but rather daredevil fashion, creating an installation of what was in effect but a slightly more than usual printing job... aside from cut-up and mix-match there was a banner as well as another snake, this time surrounded by gobelins and soft red velveteen in oak presentation tables with a steep incline... neo-gothic sort of flemish fantasy style... with a video of the empire mirror running on the wall behind (rather than the mirror itself which I had sort of hoped for, but I guess the insurance didn’t see it may way...)
 
The rest of the show was a bit of a hodge-podge with some good highlights, but the fact that it is a tourist trap rather than a study of Breugel’s surroundings, we all had a very well catered for opening walking dinner style affair, attempting to emulate the free-for-all depicted in some of his work... didn’t really get to that, the whole thing slightly more stayed than it should be...


The rest of the show was a bit of a hodge-podge with some good highlights, but the fact that it is a tourist trap rather than a study of Breugel’s surroundings, we all had a very well catered for opening walking dinner style affair, attempting to emulate the free-for-all depicted in some of his work... didn’t really get to that, the whole thing slightly more stayed than it should be...
Rysalvy’s wine-tasting session under the tree (there is but one left) was worth it though: far from being the blow-out Breugel would have depicted, one had quizzical glances after tasting the dry polenta offered as neutralizer... to then drop away to the official tent for some decent dessert...


losses

the year began with losses
too many losses





RIP

Isi Fiszman
Latitia Yalon
Andrew Webb
Eric Duyckaerts...

and more...




vrijdag 7 december 2018

Shards/slivers/smithereens

The once proud factory that laid the foundation for a whole town - La Louvière – has all but disappeared, and in it’s place a newly designed commercial zone attempting to replace some of the lost livelihoods... as a small retribution to the once mighty Faïencerie Royal de Boch & Fréres a pottery museum has been installed in the only remaining building, housing the old kilns... an a sumptuous collection of their production, albeit not as extensive as it might have been... it’s a pity that the town that owes its existence didn’t see fit to keep more of it’s heritage, perhaps link it to a wider cultural background (Anna Boch, member of Les XX and ‘La Libre Esthétique ’ was the only one to buy a Van Gogh painting during his lifetime) 


Just outside the museum, broken terrain where once vast halls of ceramics stood... 
Here, in another one of her intriguing projects, Anne Mortiaux had been quietly scraping away dirt in a combination of archeological dig, wild public/urban garden, landscape installation and artistic as well as social investigation. All through the summer she had been scouring the grounds for remains of a once glorious past together with local kids and residents from around the site as well as former employees, who, not only could help in identifying the fragments unearthed, but add their own stories to the whole affair as well as give is all an important context: It was an affair because as so often, this wonderful piece of history – no only local – was in fact mismanaged and victim of short sighted greediness... 
as often is the case. 




Suffice to say that bad management let things slide, and by the time the factory expanded into functional ceramics (loo’s & washbasins) in the seventies, it was already too late, and lackluster vision and updating production created an untenable situation in which only a handful of workers were left to defend the honor of the great Boch name in a dilapidated ruin... Workers who would give their all to save the place, but confronted with owners that would not shoulder the debt even though they could have done easily... striking to no avail, a last flicker of hope when a last-minute takeover seemed to breathe life into the remains only to find out that they had been had and the whole thing was just a phantom transaction... 
















pictures of protest and resistance by former employees as part of the presentation








I remember passing the site and being amazed that city, state and government could let this all happen... various artists wandered through the halls, taking picture of the stacks of half-finished ceramics, just waiting for a glimpse of hope... but vandalism and decay soon took over and no-one was interested... these were the days when larger, more viable factories were laying off thousands and moving to low-wage countries... nobody gave a hoot for a 40-odd crew of die-hards... but they kept going until last...

This is also a story being told in the workshops that Anne Mortiaux has created... on the one hand a playful replica of the processes in making ceramics, with children enjoying all the different hands-on stages of production, working clay, decoration, sorting and comparing, setting out schematic production lines... while at the same time immersing the whole thing in history – the history of the illustrious factory, to be sure, but also the history of the syndic battle, the social  & personal impact on lives & livelihoods... for that seems to be an aspect that has not yet been demonstrated on a wider scale – especially not in the museum (up till now) – perhaps understandably, being not such a happy episode... but this project could present itself as a prototype for a way to present this ugly aspect in the most sympathetic way possible, and help future generations to perhaps avoid the disastrous demise of an otherwise perfectly viable business...

There will be a further series of diggings & investigations during the next year when the weather permits, so keep an eye out: plans are taking shape to build up the area soon.

See the site of Keramis, La Louviere
















photos begin and end LL

vrijdag 23 november 2018

Under-grounded Spinoza Maulwurf

Notes from the Underground
Or rather letters from the rat hole, (Maulwurf)*.

Djos/Gouvernement 
Bonnefanten/Bonn (flanneur/ende-gelände)


I had promised myself to certainly go and see the other part of the ‘reciprocity’ double bill Sart-Tilman (Liège) and Gouvernement (Maastricht) Vortex-Cortex by Djos Janssens... just a few days to go but I made it and it was worthwhile. The Gouvernement itself is another one of those design statements which on the one hand seem reasonable but on the other quite an infringement, if not to say onslaught on the surroundings... Somewhere between brutish industrial landscape integrated reminiscent of bygone town fortifications it sits on a pleasant part of the river once lambasted by industry... Bonnefanten a stone’s throw away.
It’s a government building and Djos Janssens uses the existing flavor of a discreet design welcome hall to separate (temporary isolation he calls it) out a few elements: chair, view, ambient colour. Wooden walls enclose a short green corridor to the plate glass window – modified by green film save for two eye-holes and a text by Baruch de Spinoza (Ethica I presume, but would have to check) – it works: mesmerized by the weeping willows on the waters edge, considering what Baruch said, and screwing one’s eyeballs to the plate glass window to compare natural and green beauty – while on the other side a soundtrack is offered along with a slightly less endearing view... but all the same perfect pitch to get away from the office even if only for a little bit... 

Het behoord tot de aard der rede
Om dingen in een ander opzicht
Te beschouwen uit het gezichtspunt der eeuwigheid

Immers naar mate een beeld
Met meer dingen verbonden is
Zullen er ook meer oorzaken zijn waardoor
Het kan worden opgewekt...



In Dutch... even though they like to bandy French around in these parts (Ceramique wijk, where porcelain once reigned...) The English commentary on the outside of the crate-structures were perhaps a bit too... could have been discreetly added like shipping info instead of big block letters... seen as normally Djos likes to include nearly unreadable text... and confounding at that; but one does not see them immediately, which is a good thing.

It works well, and in fact it is quite essential to view both parts of Vortex-Cortex to bring home the constant oscillation between the headstrong willingness and defeatist enjoyment of pondering a simple thing such as the river going by or a cloud. We are confront ourselves with the irritating tendency to undermine our own integrity...

Speaking of which: (quick liberal translation texts: it pertains to the way of reason to view things in a different point of view from eternity.... and   for to which measure an image is connected with more things, more causes can be conjured...)






Onward then to the east, where they were destroying the remnants of a historical forest in order to dig coal... halfway to Bonn, where I had to be... but this time I didn’t go into the museum (as I didn’t to the Bonnefanten (couvent des bonnes enfants) either – since the David Lynch exhibition (SoMeOne in My House) was not until the week after... and in Bonn the only show that sort of intrigued was the Flanneur – but I was doing enough of that myself... so I found myself staring into the abyss at Niederzier/Altdorf, near Oberzier where I used to enjoy a ride through the forest on my way to Bonn... a couple of years back I was involved with some fringe activities to COP21, big meet where people talk about saving the planet but don’t... and at the time (Ende Gelände) thought they would never get that far... The idea of shutting down nuclear power stations- in itself commendable- to fire up old coal plats is idiotic... more so, the Chinese are now marketing their old technology with great success... Serbia for example... we are going backwards and I don’t get it any more... So here are the Germans, with Die Grünen in tow, destroying age old forest & habitat to dig up Braunkohle, the dirtiest coal you can find, to offset shortfall by nuclear exit... talk about undermining...

ende Gelände, not as proposed an end to open cast coal mining,
but an end to the green leafy habitat which protesters tried to save...







                                                                                  extrem Maulwurf


































Popgo advertisemant /Maulwurf
Yes on a lighter note I could not help seeing Denis Tyfuss’ss exhibition at Middelheim as a sort of secret strip-mining activity... The massed flocked to see the snot-nose aesthetics of an aleatory combination of yuk-yuk and rumpled noses... while he ups the finger in the general direction of a hand-wringing public claiming to find his work wonderful, beautiful, fun and deep, he shoots tennis balls at his own and friends counterfeit locked in gravel and adorned with Rasta goldilocks... has people pay to produce their own booklets and blow hot air into commercially available advertising irritation, resulting in a dance macabre everyone finds well found... 

























Sitting on a park bench (with advertisement) watching the punters excitedly scurry about I noticed a slight movement in the leaves... and after a while saw the mole hill grow, all the while the park was full of fools that never saw a thing... I thought of the bravery of such a mole, (Maul Wurf, jette-geule (taupe) or throw-gob)  digging away blind in the dark risking to be squashed at any minute by an unconcerned foot above... Thinking that is what Dennis is doing, burrowing right through the artworld and it’s affectations without a care in the world... that is a rarity nowadays...



Promissory notes / Copers sokkel
As is Leo Copers’ uncompromising intervention on the empty plinth in the city park... here too avoiding the pitfall to produce something to go on it: just a note to say, well, back in a tick, gone fishing or whatever... and keeping it going, for it has now been quite a while that I have seen various post-its... surmising it is not he himself posting them, and can imagine not even someone with the brief to do so, but just anyone too... which undermines authorship, authenticity and authority all at the same time...
Quite a bit of digging going on lately!


(* seems Nabakov reminds us that the translation of Dostoyevsky’s novella is wrong, and should refer to letters under the floorboards, somewhere near the mouse-hole entrance to some underground labyrinth to be sure, but not mentioned specifically)

dinsdag 23 oktober 2018

ConstructionSight

Buildings... we’ve got lots of them, all sorts, but many ugly ones... some interesting, but alas most still very inefficient and wasteful... That is the point of departure for a new look at what we build... ‘You Are Here’ ... an exhibition workspace investigation, part of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, using the defunct WTC in Brussels as a urban debate platform workspace exhibition – World Trade Center becomes World Transformation Center... clock is ticking... 
Radical changes in out attitudes and actual re/conversion need to be in place by 2030. That is the proposed scheme: time for talking has run out. Wandering about in the stripped WTC building (I had been there before in a fiscal matter years ago) it felt incredibly dated, dark, dank thick thinking... heavy... A dinosaur from a bygone age, now host to a number of interesting and light-footed interventions, conferences, meeting, try-outs and such... Looking out the window at the buildings being built all around I am convinced that this sort of discussion is absolutely necessary.



Within this context the apparition of a space within a space – Remake 1:1 – Johan Van Geluwe / Art Recycling Terminal (ART of MOM). He had a scheduled exhibition in Reclclart, Kapellekerk station, torpedoed by the powers that be, and so, as part of this exercise in rethinking our urban spaces, translated the whole thing to a floor in the WTC, sitting as it were in front of this reconstituted gallery as an objet perdu in the once hallowed halls of a major bank that folded with the famous flop-crash of 2008, taking with it the savings of many an unwitting citizen who thought the government would help them rather than international speculators... 
Now standing next the vault of said bank, heavy doors wide open to access an empty chamber with only the remnants of a wall-sized poster of some imaginary vacation island one might escape to with all the bullion that may or may not have been stashed here... (imaginary reserves?) and reminding me of the palm-tree idyll Johan Van Geluwe created at Waregem Library for an 80th birthday show... a step up from the more modest ‘hofjes van eden’ which locals liked to adorn their meager properties with.... Brutal brutism has overtaken us and history and with newly-emptied pockets we have to find a way to offset the vicious profit-taking that renders art like this homeless... Recyclart has not permanent address, it needs to find a new space every time – at least for the moment... but this is already a good raised finger to the powers that be: mobility in every sense will render the old constructions useless and ineffective...


We need to go live & organic, move with the elements and become part of them rather than try to dominate them and break them and squash and maim and tame...



Another curiosity that comes to mind here is the ‘Vortex-Cortex’ parallax view Djos Janssen created for Reciprocity design Liege (in fact two venues: “Temporary Isolation 1&2”, at Maastricht (Gouvernement) and Sart-Tilman (musee en Plein Air U.Liège) the theme being “fragilitas”... With his relatively unobtrusive interventions Djos Janssen has again been able to balance his own personal style with the surroundings – in this case quite challenging: defunct brutism once the pinnacle of contemporary architecture, now still barely functional and a curiosity in it’s own right: a labyrinthine structure with relatively few windows and natural light, but interesting spaces and sympathetic materials... and to a degree, at least for those times, an ecological attitude and outlook... (though proposed green roofs were never realized, and time has taken it’s toll on various elements, the basic set up is one that tries to harmonize with the nature around it – not being able to foresee the exponential growth the university would encounter and the feeble transport infrastructure – making again cars & carparks a major feature of the once green campus up on the hill.


‘Vortex Cortex’ addresses some of this sliding mentality, being at the same time adherent to head and heart, both similarly under construction, modification, adjustment... On the one hand a darkened video-room with endless driving text, mesmerizing stream of thought/consciousness type of pattern – (seen at La Lettre Volee) and a bright, analytical room with but two chairs, circular reflective fragmentations of icebergs calving, like his ‘Chantier d l’utopie’ (homage a ES) the hard-hat aesthetics are offset by the soft approach suspended between intellect and feeling, doubt of self, the position of self, the impact and effect – edging even towards the paranoid and referring to one’s own thought as electroshock: “slowly and violently memories come and go in my shocked head...” with the remnant of an archaic distribution panel as ‘trouvé’ conduit-piece. The texts oscillate to enhance the doubt, juxtaposing the extremities we experience and try to remedy constantly, conundrums, yes tending toward the bipolar.
Here too, the good intentions clash with hard reality, as the surroundings in which the need for a streamlined educational environment must cater for the free thought and consideration, conversation and meditation needed to be able to create new concepts... a park as well as parking, sculptures as well as benches and forum for discussions, the ancient amphitheatre reinterpreted as part of the global plan of the campus: some things work, others don’t, and even with a bachelor in applied theory still not clear why.


A fragile exercise that needs to be approached with some spare time, which alas we sort of ran short of due to getting lost in the expansive campus (google had directed us to the veterinary college as being the open air museum) – goes to show that a trust in newfangled technologies does not always further your cause or understanding... if ever...

And we have only seen half of it: the other half in Maastricht is only open to the public on weekdays... another fifty-fifty challenge aspect to be mentioned... one can not view this exhibition fully in a weekend.