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
Sunday 23rd of June (finissage)
picture taken bij Jérôme himself somewhere on the frontier Anderlecht....