7 Walks (learning through the soles of our feet)
Vermeir & Heiremans in collaboration with David Aubin, Margot Elmer, Emily Rosamond.
7 Walks (Learning Through the Soles of our Feet) is a co-production of nadine vzw and Jubilee vzw. Many thanks to the Service des Archives, patrimoine et réserve précieuse of the Université libre de Bruxelles. Supported by the Flemish Community.
Three public walks on 1, 8, 15/10/2023, 14-18h (for details, see below):
01/10/2023: WALK #01 – Brussels city centre
The geographer who didn’t like maps
08/10/2023: WALK #02_Saint-Gilles
A source for value distribution? From a cooperative for drinking water to an Rationalist Orphanage
15/10/2023: WALK #03_Ixelles
Little rivers together make big streams. The world as a work of art
Learning Through the Soles of our Feet
7 Walks is an artistic research trajectory in collaboration with guest walkers and participants. Using walking as a public research method and developing a direct relation with the natural or urban environment, the project aims to connect the ecology of the arts with a natural common good – water.
Vermeir & Heiremans develop three new walks in Brussels for nadine, initiating a dialogue on concepts such as ownership, public goods and governance, and exploring forms of value redistribution and mutualism. At the same time, they examine cartography from an alternative pedagogical perspective.
The walks activate the archival documents that the artists present in nadine’s exhibition space. These documents are a generous loan from the Service des Archives, patrimoine et réserve précieuse of the Université libre de Bruxelles. They highlight the role of anarchist and geographer Élisée Reclus (1830-1905) within the Université Nouvelle and the Institut des Hautes Etudes. These institutions were founded in Brussels in 1894 by progressive thinkers and dissident ULB professors after Reclus’ invitation to teach geography at the Université libre was cancelled for fear of reputational damage in connection with Reclus’ anarchist views and sympathies.
The self-organized Université Nouvelle became an international meeting point where Élisée Reclus, as well as neo-impressionist artists, writers, lawyers, activists and progressive politicians taught. The Institut des Hautes Etudes offered free adult education with the emancipation of workers and students in mind. In this context Reclus set up the Institut Géographique.
Geography takes up a central role in alternative learning, with walking as a didactic method. The great tradition of anarchist education swears by the axiom that the best learning happens… through the Soles of our Feet. Anarchist geography saw 2D maps as a means of creating dependent subjects rather than empowered citizens. Reclus did not like 2D maps either, instead his teaching started from the observation of the nearest stream. Based on his book Histoire d’un ruisseau (1869) he practiced an intuitive geography, one that was in direct contact with its environment.
Vermeir & Heiremans gladly take up this advice in their walks to observe the Brussels’ waters: the sources, drinking fountains, lakes and the invisibilized vaulted rivers.
Next to historical documents the artists have installed a giant globe hanging from the ceiling of the exhibition space, with a printed image of the earth derived from powerful NASA satellite data. We see the earth and its fragile envelop, the atmosphere, showing us weather patterns from space.
Creating a giant globe was one of the dreams Reclus wanted to realize: a realistic representation of the world, devoid of boundaries, meridians and abstract cartographic symbols. According to Reclus, “the globe outdoes the map by nature of its truthfulness: it represents the planet in its true structure, it varies exactly according to the real contours, whereas maps, increasingly false as they are applied to greater parts of the planetary surface, can only deceive the viewer regarding the relative dimensions of different regions while on the curvature of an artificial globe it is impossible to err with regard to the relative area of the various terrestrial entities”. Flat 2D maps deform countries and continents due to their chosen projections. Those maps reflect the power of the person or state who commissioned the map. Therefore, Reclus’ Institut Géographique created small globes and 3D maps for schools promoting alternative education.
Today we can assemble the wealth of photographic information on a variety of reality maps and globes. One can retrace these maps and globes to one picture that revolutionized our view of the world. In 1972 NASA distributed AS-17-148-22727, the first photograph that showed the complete earth, emancipating itself from earlier cartographic conventions, or so it seemed. In fact, the picture has been re-oriented by NASA. The original picture shows the south side up, and the continents ‘upside-down’. NASA also cut out the globe from the black cosmos and re-entered it in close-up in the middle of the image.
Why did NASA re-orient the globe with north on top? Even Élisée Reclus represented the earth in that way. It is a cartographic reasoning. In order to find oneself on the earth, north is placed upwards, and so the map, as a powerful concept, is re-surfacing again. Despite itself, AS-17-148-22727 became a map. Cartography seems so ingrained in our brains. How can the world be made visible, as it is and not as we think it is? How can the cartographer disappear? How can the vast empty space of the cosmos be visible, and the fragile tiny earth in it?
To make the cartographer disappear was Reclus’ motivation to create a Great Globe at the scale of 1/100.000, resulting in a monumental object of 127,5 meters of diameter to be presented at the 1900 Paris World Fair. Reclus envisaged to appoint neo-impressionist artists to draw the color decoration for the enormous surface of the globe. “The great symbolic power of that object, which was never realized, was an attempt to minimize as much as possible the dichotomy between the world and its representations, that is to make the world an artwork.”
Reclus’ vision clearly merged art, geography and activism. A form of social geography in which one can act upon the world and be embedded in it, to (socially) reform it for all living beings. “The earth is infinitely beautiful, but for us to associate ourselves to its beauty, to glorify it by a respectful art, there is no other means but that of becoming free of instituting the decisive revolution against money and of ennobling the class-struggle by abolishing the classes themselves”. Reclus warns us that ugliness is created by speculation and accumulation. The reason for that he saw in “the fact that everything can become private property.”
Today the powerful NASA image has become a new type of map. Inside the virtual world of Earth 2, we rediscover the image as a geo-located Metaverse, in which a direct relation with where you are in the real world is created. Earth 2 is building “a pristine 1:1 scale digital replication of our planet Earth. Earth 2 is one of the most successful startups in history and has grown into the biggest Virtual Land Registry in the world with over 100 million tile land parcels sold.”
In his short story ‘On Exactitude in Science’ (1946) Jorge Luis Borges describes the Cartographers Guilds who had struck a “Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it”. Later generations had allowed the map to fall in ruins. When in these 1:1 Metaverse Earths, the real earth and virtual earth are linked in the form of real estate parcels, and when intellectual, material and immaterial property converge, public space, the commons, movement and free speech might become severely restricted, opening up the possibility of the propertization of everything.
The walks through Brussels question the dark side of all these forms of cartography as an infrastructure of power and surveillance, what occasionally becomes visible in the urban fabric. In these walks Vermeir & Heiremans address the possibility to co-create an emancipatory cartography, starting from artistic practices embedded in the landscape, a cartography that can generate new narratives, collaborations, mutualism and agency.
1. Reclus É., ‘Projet de construction d’un globe terrestre à l’échelle du cent-millième’, Paris, 1895, 3-4. in: Federico Ferretti, Pioneers of the History of Cartography: the Geneva map collection of Élisee Reclus and Charles Perron. Journal of Historical Geography, Elsevier, 2014, 43 (1), pp.85-95.
2. Gillet, A. AS17-148-22727 – Face à la Terre, Geogr. Helv., 70, 27–32, https://doi.org/10.5194/gh-70-27-2015, 2015.
3. Ferretti F., “Anarchism, geography and social art”, in C. Kosuch (ed.) Anarchist Avant-Garde, Amsterdam, Brill, 2019, 235-259, https://brill.com/view/book/edcoll/9789004410428/BP000013.xml, p15
5. Reclus É, ‘L’Art et le peuple’ (1904), in: F. Ferretti, “Anarchism, geography and social art”, in C. Kosuch (ed.) Anarchist Avant-Garde, Amsterdam, Brill, 2019, 235-259, https://brill.com/view/book/edcoll/9789004410428/BP000013.xml, p13
6. Reclus É., ‘Du Sentiment de la nature dans les sociétés modernes’ (1866), in: F. Ferretti, “Anarchism, geography and social art”, in C. Kosuch (ed.) Anarchist Avant-Garde, Amsterdam, Brill, 2019, 235-259, https://brill.com/view/book/edcoll/9789004410428/BP000013.xml, p13
8. Borges J.L., On Exactitude in Science, Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley
9. Vermeir & Heiremans, ‘Volatile properties: A Modest Proposal revisited’, Finance and Society 2023, 9(3): p75-90.
01/10/2023: WALK #01 – Brussels city centre
The geographer who didn’t like maps
We question walking as an experiential educational and artistic method as practised by the anarchist and geographer Elisée Reclus, as well as his attempts at appropriating maps as a tool of social geography instead of power and surveillance.
The walk starts from exhibition space n0dine where we highlight a number of documents we collected on Reclus, the Université Nouvelle and the Institut des Hautes Etudes. These institutions were founded by progressive thinkers and dissident professors after Reclus’ invitation to teach geography at the Université Libre was cancelled for fear of his anarchist sympathies.
We then look for the nearest river, the Zenne which, after many proposals and plans, was finally vaulted, and for which working-class neighbourhoods had to give way to stately avenues from 1865 onwards. We then walk past surprising places where historical characters lived or worked, including artists, writers, lawyers, geographers, politicians,…who played a decisive role in the creation and development of the Université Nouvelle. In the process they’ve put a social-emancipatory role of geography, art and education on the map.
Sunday 1 October 2023, 14-18h
Starting point: n0dine, Lakensestraat 105
Guest walker: Emily Rosamond
08/10/2023: WALK #02_Saint-Gilles
A source for value distribution? From a cooperative for drinking water to an Rationalist Orphanage
We ask whether alternative forms of ownership could contribute to a more equal distribution of social value. We first explore the hidden sources of Saint-Gilles. Brussels city monopolised drinking water from 1858. As a result of a legal dispute, nine peripheral municipalities created a cooperative in 1891 to distribute the water coming from the municipality of Spontin. A few monuments remind us of this event.
This walk explores the method of direct observation and critical forms of pedagogy as well, where we meet some protagonists that were involved in both the creation of the Université Nouvelle, as in the founding of the Cooperative of the Rationalist Orphanage in 1893. This orphanage was run as an experimental school from 1900 by the feminist Isabelle Gatti de Gamond. She used the experimental maps of Reclus and walking as a method was applied there. The original building still stands near today’s Duden Park and Forest Park.
From 1875, the existing urbanist map was wiped out, along with some brand-new workers’ quarters. Workers were relocated there due to the vaulting of the Zenne in the city centre, but they had to make way for a park lined with villas, promoted for its fresh air workers could breathe there.
Sunday 8 October, 14-18h
Starting point: Parvis de Sint-Gilles-Metro entrance on Parvis
Guest walker: David Aubin
15/10/2023: WALK #03_ Ixelles
Little rivers together make big streams, the world as a work of art
This walk focuses on the role of art in society. We walk to the source of the vaulted Maelbeek, near La Cambre Abbey, where Henry Van de Velde founded his Nationale Hoogere School voor Sierkunst in 1926. He started his career influenced by anarchist writings such as Proudhon’s book Du principe de l’art et de sa destination sociale (1865).
The question of the role of art was as alive then as it is today. An international meeting point were this question was addressed was the Université Nouvelle in Brussels, where Elisée Reclus, as well as neo-impressionist artists like Théo Van Rysselberghe, writers like Emile Verhaeren, and also Van de Velde taught.
Questions around the autonomy of the artist, the political instrumentalisation of artistic practice, the question of whether new forms of expression in art could be the starting point for a renewal of society were all on the agenda. One of the basic ideas of anarchism, the importance of individual freedom in relation to solidarity was expressed by the neo-impressionists’ divisionism, which was based on science. In the pointillist technique, each point retains its colour and individuality, but to the eye they merge harmoniously.
For Elisée Reclus, the true work of art was the world itself, and in his vision of social geography and radical education, with its focus on physical labour and a direct relationship with the environment, these neo-impressionist artists were social reformers whom he engaged for the giant globes and relief maps he wanted to realise in order to reduce the gap between the world and its representations.
Elisée Reclus lived close by the lakes of Ixelles, and we just have to cross over to the Abdijstraat where there are still some studios of some of these artists, grouped as Les XX(1883-1893) and later as La Libre Esthétique (1894-1914). The group, of which Anna Boch was the only female artist, played an important role in avant-garde art in Europe.
The magazine L’Art Moderne, which promoted the social art of these artists, took a position against the l’art pour l’art movement. Political agitation, good taste and intellect came together to educate the worker, both in the free adult education of the Institut des Hautes Etudes, the Extension Universitaire, the Section d’Art of the Brussels Workers’ Party in Horta’s Maison du Peuple/Volkshuis, and in the Maison d’Art of the socialist aesthete and jurist Edmond Picard.
Sunday 15 October, 14-18h
Starting point: Ten Bosch Park, meeting spot at the park entrance on the left side of the India Embassy, Vleurgatsesteenweg 217, Ixelles (closest tram 8 or 93 Abbaye, Avenue Louise)
Guest walkers: Tatiana Debroux, Margot Elmer
David Aubin is professor of political science at the School of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve. He teaches courses on public policy analysis and evaluation. He is also conducting research on the comparative analysis of environmental policy, and the use of expertise and knowledge in the policy process.
Tatiana Debroux is a geographer and Doctor of Science at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). Her research focuses mainly on the spatialities of the artistic world, but she is also working on literary representations of Brussels and the development of a historical mapping tool. Since 2020, she has been editor-in-chief of the journal Brussels Studies.
Margot Elmer graduated in History at ULB Brussels and in Advanced Master in Management at Solvay Brussels School. Elmer is currently PhD researcher in History at the European University Institute in Firenze, where she is finishing her thesis on the Université Nouvelle de Bruxelles (1894-1919).
Emily Rosamond is a visual artist and senior lecturer at Visual Cultures in Goldsmiths University London. In 2021 she joined the editorial team of the Finance and Society Journal. Her research explores unexpected connections between theories of financialisation, literary character, contemporary art, performance and algorithmic governmentality. She is currently preparing the publication of ‘Reputation Warfare’, her book on value creation in digital environments through public image and reputation.
7 WALKS (resolution), 2021
Part of the research project 7 Walks
Vermeir & Heiremans in collaboration with David Aubin, Steyn Bergs, Maria Francesca De Tullio, Françoise Jurion, Luke Mason, Anne Pirard, William Scott Raby, Christoph Rausch, Marie-Christine Schils, Julie Van Elslande, Jens Van Lathem and Tobias Van Royen.
7 Walks is a transversal project that aims to contextualize local practices of ownership in a broader social, legal and political reading. With walking as its performative methodology, 7 Walks consists of site-specific instalments that connect the ecology of the arts with a natural commons – water.
7 Walks (resolution) performed 10 public walks in the ‘therapeutic landscape’ around the thermal city of Spa. This instalment of the project allowed the artists, guests and participants to link questions of value with those of governance. The walks were informed and complemented by a documentary exhibition at the Musée de la Ville d’eaux, a Cabinet de lecture with archival documents and maps that offered an historical and socio-economic context for the walks.
The city of Spa became renowned for its ferruginous springs as early as the 16th century. Their medicinal waters not only attracted many visitors, they were also exported internationally. Gradually the city became the so-called ‘Café de l’Europe’. Visited by kings and czars, political refugees, artists and philosophers, it was a peaceful haven where a wide range of philosophies, social questions and artistic visions could be discussed. The ‘bobelins’, as the locals used to call these international visitors, walked through the surrounding forests, along landscaped paths on their way to the springs. They came to see and be seen, for diplomacy or espionage, and even for the arts. The local painter Antoine Fontaine depicted these illustrious visitors in his Livre d’Or (1894), a 9 metres wide group portrait spanning four centuries of visitors such as tsar Peter the Great, Voltaire, Joseph II, Descartes, Victor Hugo, Wellington, Farnese…
7 Walks (resolution) draws inspiration from the intangible legacy of historical walkers and invites its participants to explore a balance between private property of and access to resources that we hold in common as a society. Spa offers the project the unique opportunity for a series of itinerant reflections on water and art.
The project responds to current and recently intensified debates about the necessity and position of art in today’s society. Like water, art can be considered a basic necessity of life, a proposal that many international resolutions have promoted. The project questions how basic human rights enter into dialogue with individual private property rights and exclusive use rights.
From the 18th century, in addition to drinking water, walks in the woods surrounding Spa became part of the spa treatment that the town offered its visitors. Many trails are named after its international visitors, some of whom had strong views on property relations. 7 Walks (resolution) focuses on two of them, who are particularly emblematic and opposed in their contrasting conception of property, art dealer Ernest Gambart and political philosopher Pierre Joseph Proudhon. These two protagonists are historical cases that can trigger discussions on contemporary issues of monopolization and mutualisation.
The Cabinet de lecture that was set up in close collaboration with the museum, documents Gambart’s and Proudhon’s presence in Spa, as well as the use of the water sources and the development of a thermal city. 10 public walks, including a series of workshops, activated the documentary presentation. Vermeir & Heiremans were joined by guest walkers David Aubin, Steyn Bergs, Maria Francesca De Tullio, Françoise Jurion, Anne Pirard, Scott William Raby, Christoph Rausch, Marie-Christine Schils, Julie Van Elslande, Jens Van Lathem and Tobias Van Royen.
Local participants also engaged in the discussions. They came to the foreground with their own narratives, archive materials and experiences and in a way became co-creators of the walks rather than mere participants.
10-19 September 2021
Walk#01_THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF ART
Promenade de 7 Heures – thermal baths – Hôtel d’Irlande – Pavillon Léopold II
Friday 10 September 2021
7 Walks (resolution) draws inspiration from the legacy of four centuries of water exploitation. This walk through the city center introduced a number of its central sources and former visitors. They all have walked the city promenades and enjoyed drinking the ferruginous water. Its built environment, monuments and even the street names link the city to its ‘intangible heritage’, the ideas of philosophers, politicians and artists who lived and walked these places. These historic residents of Spa had quite different ideas on the social function of art and on the governance of common resources. Apart from Tsar Peter the Great we come across painters Louis Gallait who worked with Ernest Gambart, but also Gustave Courbet, about whom philosopher Pierre Joseph Proudhon wrote extensively in his book The Principle of Art and its Social Destination (1865). Courbet was exemplary of the social purpose the philosopher reserved for the arts.
Walk#02_A CYCLE OF NATURAL AND ARTISTIC VALUES
Fagne de Malchamps – Promenade des Artistes – Source des Artistes
Saturday 11 September 2021
Spa became renowned for its medicinal water as early as the 16th century. The city embodies a history of four centuries of exploitation of springs which deliver ferruginous water with curative properties and, later, table water. This walk took us to the origins of the water, the Fagne de Malchamps. The morphology of the Fagne (‘peatland’) creates conditions for generous rainfall that is absorbed by the soil. It is the start of a long journey before the water resurfaces in one of the sources that surround the city. Walking towards the Fagne via Promenade des Artistes, we reach the Source des Artistes and one of the water capture points of Spa Monopole. As this promenade is conceived as a 19th century artificial landscape, it needs special care for its specific form to be preserved as part of the city’s heritage. Stepping in the footsteps of those who came before invited a reflection on the ecology of art and the water.
Walk#03_GAMBART’S MONOPOLY ON ARTISTS
Source Géronstère – Promenade Meyerbeer – Chateau d’Alsa
Sunday 12 September 2021
One of the most illustrious 19th century residents of the city of Spa was the art dealer Ernest Gambart. Before settling in Spa, Gambart’s London business unquestionably pioneered the commercial gallery system as is still in use today. He amassed his fortune by monopolising access to ‘his’ artists. After selling his business Gambart came to live in the Château d’Alsa in Spa where he nurtured his public image of a generous maecenas, inviting artists to come and take the waters at Spa. His art collection in his villa was considered one of the best of Europe at the time, the perfect setting to which to invite kings, queens, diplomats,… who then attended parties in the landscaped gardens of the estate.
Walk#04_CHATEAU D’ALSA, THE “VILLA SOLEIL DES ARTISTES”
Villa Hoctaisart – Promenade De Walque
Monday 13 September 2021
The art dealer Ernest Gambart came to live in the Château d’Alsa in Spa, a villa with several outhouses, that was situated in a lavish garden. Château d’Alsa was a real museum. It functioned as the luxurious backdrop against which he entertained a social elite who attended his weekly summer parties and receptions. He generously invited artists, musicians, singers and actors to stay in his villa and organised musical soirees to establish himself as maecenas and show his disinterested love for the arts. His villa in Spa quickly became renowned and was described in the press as the ‘villa soleil des artistes’. After his death the estate was cut up in multiple properties, some of which became ruins (villa Hoctaisart), other were refurbished and became a guest house (New Castle) or apartments (Chateau d’Alsa).
Walk#05_BRANDING THE WATER
Promenade d’Orléans – Source Sauvenière – Pouhon des Artistes
Tuesday 14 September 2021
The Source Sauvenière is one of the oldest sources in Spa. It was already mentioned in 1559 in the treatise of Gilbert Lymborh, describing the medicinal qualities of its waters. The Duchess of Orléans drank its water and regained her health which added to the fame of the Spa waters. By the middle of the 18th century, the city had acquired an enormous prestige which attracted ever more foreign aristocrats and wealthy visitors. Spa residents scornfully described them as ‘Bobelins’ (idiots), but in reality, these ‘Bobelins’ became the backbone of a local economy that was characterised by the tensions between the hospitality and the export business. The question of the authentication of Spa water was always a main concern. ‘Spa’, the name of the city, became a famous brand name, only to be used by those entrepreneurs that had an exploitation licence of the city.
Walk#06_A NATURAL OR ARTISTIC LANDSCAPE?
Source Pia – Source Géronstère – Promenade Meyerbeer – Source Barisart
Wednesday 15 September 2021
Walking in the forest to one of the sources south of the city only became fashionable in the course of the 19th century. The English landscape garden was the main inspiration for the walking trails which the mayor Servais developed in 1862: Promenade des Artistes, Promenade d’Orléans and Promenade Meyerbeer. Named after the German-born composer Giacomo Meyerbeer, this walking trail took us from Source Barisart all the way up to Source Géronstère. Although it looks like a natural landscape, we discovered numerous elements that were actually designed and built as visual references to the operas of Meyerbeer. Sculpted from nature the Promenade Meyerbeer raises questions that reveal the opposing interests that play out in the preservation of nature as art, or art as nature.
Walk#07_CAPTURING WATER FROM THE ARTISTS’ SOURCE
Promenade des Artistes – Pouhon Delcor – Promenade Cherville
Thursday 16 September 2021
The city of Spa and its forests inspired many artists in the 19th century. The Promenade des Artistes was dedicated to them. The trail was inaugurated in 1849. It follows the valley of the Picherotte, a small stream that runs down from the wooded hills. At the beginning of the trail we find one of the many capture points of Spa Monopole, the company that has been bottling and exporting the communal mineral waters since 1921. A discussion on common property and use rights of the waters extended here to the right to immaterial goods and services, like the arts.
Walk#08_A CONSPIRACY OF EQUALS IN SPA?
Promenade Deschanel – Balmoral – Promenade Arago
Friday 17 September 2021
Mid 19th century Belgium was hospitable to many French political refugees. Among them we find Emile Deschanel, Etienne Arago, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Victor Hugo, Jules Hetzel, Henri Rochefort, Edgar Quinet and others. They found a friend in journalist Felix Delhasse who hosted many of them in Spa. Delhasse was part of the secret society La Charbonnerie and was a disciple of its founder Filippo Buonarotti. Buonorotti’s text ‘The History of the Conspiracy of Equals’ related the failed coup of Grachus Babeuf in 1796. Babeuf rejected the notion that equality before the law itself was sufficient to define societal equality, and thus placed a strong emphasis on the abolition of private property and on equal access to food. We walked the promenades dedicated to Arago, Deschanel and Hetzel and ended our walk in Rue Delhasse.
Walk#09_A MONUMENT TO THE CREATORS OF WALKS
Source Broxhou – Chemin Reikem – Promenade Berkely
Saturday 18 September 2021
In the 18th century, next to drinking measured amounts of water from specific sources, walking became part of the cures that were offered in Spa. Most of these walks originated in meadows close to the city center, where the ‘bobelins’ assembled at certain hours of the day. From the 18th century foreign visitors, like Berkely, contributed to the walking practices in Spa by laying out and financing the creation of walking paths in the northern hills overlooking Spa. In the 19th century many walks were created in the southern forests. In the Parc de 7 heures a monument is dedicated to the ‘Creators of Walks’. Our walk took us via Chemin Reickem to the Source Broxhou, one of the so-called lost sources in the woods surrounding Spa. We continued to the cemetery of Spa, where we found the monument for mayor Servais who created promenades in the southern hills. We returned via a promenade dedicated to Berkely, the designer of the first walking trail in Spa.
Walk#10_PIRACY AND COMPETITION
Source Prince de Condé – Sources Wellington, Tonnelet and Marie Henriette
Sunday 19 September 2021
During four centuries there was a fierce competition to gain a monopoly on the exploitation of the sources of Spa. Our walk took us to the Source Prince de Condé. Digging a hole in his basement, the owner of the building siphoned off water from the source Peter the Great. From there we walked to the abandoned source Wellington, an early competitor of the Compagnie Fermière des eaux de Spa, Spa Monopole’s predecessor. In 1921 that company gained exclusive exploitation rights of the city, as well as the licence to run the thermal baths and the exclusive right to us the name of the city to brand its bottled water. A short distance from Wellington we pass by Source Tonnelet and Source Marie-Henriette, sources that provide the mineral water for the thermal baths, former and current.
CABINET DE LECTURE
Musée de la Ville d’eaux
28 August – 14 November 2021
The walking programme was complemented by a Cabinet de lecture at the Musée de la Ville d’eaux, an exhibition of documents, artefacts and maps sourced from the museum and the Albin Body archive. The exhibition owes its inspiration and name to the 19th century cabinets de lecture in Spa that were run by the local bookseller-publisher Bruch-Marechal. These were furnished with forbidden books mainly by French publisher Jules Hetzel. In that way censured books by Victor Hugo, Proudhon and many others were available to select groups of readers.
The Cabinet de lecture consisted of four vitrines each with a selection of original documents, related to mutualising or monopolizing practices regarding the governance of the arts and water. A selection of copied books and leaflets were also available for public consultation, as well as a video slideshow on the life and work of Ernest Gambart. Next to a selection of historical maps that visualised the documents in the vitrines, Vermeir & Heiremans integrated a large-scale print out of the city of Spa and its environment sourced from Openstreetmap. On this print the 10 walks were drawn.
One of the most illustrious 19th century residents of the city of Spa was the art dealer Ernest Gambart. Before settling in Spa, Gambart’s London business unquestionably pioneered the commercial gallery system as is still in use today. A slideshow video and documents elaborate on Gambart’s creation of a market for living artists, his inventive and monopolising use of artists contracts, copyrights and exhibition rights, his new lifestyle as a Maecenas in Spa and his fight against piracy of artistic copyright. Read more….
Mid-19th century Belgium was hospitable to many French political refugees. They found a friend in journalist Felix Delhasse, a citizen of Spa, who hosted many of them in the thermal city. Proudhon, a refugee from the French justice system in Brussels, was also present in Spa. While he appreciated the forest, the city of Spa represented for him a kind of hell where the rich spent the money “which does not belong to them”, an idea found also in his principal work, What is Property? Proudhon’s mutualism did not advocate the abolition of property, instead he wanted to abolish the privilege that he believed property grants to its owners. Spa was the setting for a strong movement towards democracy and human rights. Documents from the Congress of Polleur relate to the creation of a Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789, including the right to property. Read more….
Four centuries of water management form the basis for a series of ambulant reflections on water and art. The initial exploitation of the water sources had a medicinal purpose. Spa was the first to export its sparkling water to nearby regions and then across the whole of Europe, thereby proliferating the growing reputation of its cures. Its healing qualities were promoted in numerous publications since the 16th century, bringing the European nobility to Spa to ‘take the waters’. In the 19th century the city of Spa tried to give the exploitation of the sources in concession. In 1921 a monopoly on the exploitation of the municipal springs was granted to Spa Monopole: the contract between the city and the company stipulated the exploitation of the thermal baths and the water sources, and the right to use the name of the city as a brand: Spa. Read more….
Maps with detailed information on Spa and its environment were produced since the 16th century. Those maps helped to brand the waters as an asset, as they were printed in ‘guide books’, that were published by physicians, writing both on the health properties of the water and about Spa as a tourist destination. Map making also served the company Spa Monopole, branding their water products on Spa tourist maps. Other maps outlined ‘enclosures’, the protection zones around the sources that restrict the activities of other users of the water sources and the forests. Recent maps were produced that mark area’s with Unesco status, showing the different uses of the land and property ownership. Next to these historical maps a newly printed Open Street Map marked ten itineraries for the project. Read more….
7 WALKS (resolution)
Vermeir & Heiremans in collaboration with David Aubin, Steyn Bergs, Maria Francesca De Tullio, Françoise Jurion, Anne Pirard, Scott William Raby, Christoph Rausch, Marie-Christine Schils, Julie Van Elslande, Jens Van Lathem and Tobias Van Royen.
Photography Michael De Lausnay, David Houbrechts
Co-production Musée de la Ville d’eaux (Spa), Jubilee (Brussels) and Westminster University (London). Supported by the Flemish Community and by the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (Un Futur pour la Culture).
Pursuing a research initiated for the occupation of the Belgian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennial, Vincent Meessen’s work on Oral Site examines the origin and transnational destiny of the official Belgian motto “Eendracht maakt macht/L’union fait la force”. Upon discovering that its monolingual French version, “L’union fait la force” (unity is strength), had been erased for political reasons from the frontispiece of the Venice Pavilion, Meessen became interested into revealing its multiple, hybrid and popular variations.
At first a proverb excerpted from an Aesop’s fable, it has been adopted much later by several countries. Before becoming the Belgian motto during the 1830 revolution, it appears in Haïti, the first black independent republic to free itself from Europe’s colonial shackles (1804), where it can be seen on the national flag as a caption to the country’s official Coat of Arms. But in the popular ways of speaking, the French version that lies on the flag became creolised. Meessen listed about seventeen different versions that co-exist nowadays in the Antilles and in the Overseas territory where Creoles are languages in their own right and where the Creole politics are “a permanent exercise in hijacking the transcendence that is implied in it: the French source.” (Edouard Glissant).
They are not literal translations but often original sayings and proverbs that come from the cultures of origin, Congo, Benin… or, sometimes, are more recent free interpretations. Each of these Creole versions has been turned first into a sculpture, realised with a 3-D printer and reproducing the bas-relief banner of the Belgian Pavilion. The motto in French thus leaves place to seventeen Creole mottos in this series titled Sire, je suis de l’ôtre pays.
At the invitation of Oral Site, Meessen proposes a prolongation to this work: the presentation of fourteen versions, their reading by Sergine André, a Haïtian speaker based in Brussels, and their translation in English, French and Dutch.
These Creole variations invite to a poetic meditation on the emergence of forms that are at once plural, minors and resolutely opaque, even to the French speaker. The title Diglossia points to a term that replaces that of the bilingualism and that, in socio-linguistic, politicises back power relations between two languages put into contact on a common territory.
The sentences of the motto are composed in Belgika, an open source typography developed with the typographer Pierre Huyghebaert. Distributed for free, this numeric font is conceived to stay always alterable by its users. At the exact opposite of all fonts whose aim is to produce a stable and normalised standard, the Belgika is a typography of the diverse: open, multiple, forever nomadic and ungovernable.
Credits for the Oral Site prolongation
Commissioned by: Myriam Van Imschoot for Oral Site / Sarma vzw
Voice: Sergine André
Sound engineer: Laszlo Umbreit
Production follow-up: Sophie Boiron
Typography: Pierre Huyghebaert
Editing: Julien Bruneau
Translation proverbs: Jesse van Winden (Dutch), Maya Dalinsky (English)
Thanks to Jean-Claude Boyer, Hector Poullet, Raphaël Confiant, Kristien Van den Brande
A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box)
Solo exhibition by Vermeir & Heiremans
Pump House Gallery, London 03/10 – 16/12/2018
Curated by Ned McConnell
A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box) is a project that investigates how current approaches to financialisation could be redirected towards a more equitable model by considering the financialisation of public art collections, museum real estate and symbolic capital.
In collaboration with financial sector workers, lawyers and academic researchers, a financial model is being developed that would benefit not only investors and art institutions, but also the artists and art workers. This would create an ecology where value generated by artistic practices is distributed more sustainably amongst all stakeholders.
Seeking to mobilise the main financial asset of Pump House Gallery – the building itself, the financialisation of the gallery real estate was considered as a case study. How could Pump House Gallery become true to its original design as a ‘pump house’, leveraging all rising values, both monetary and cultural, that surround it and become a power house for the benefit of the whole art community?
The exhibition centres on the financial model, held on a USB stick that is itself enclosed within a 3D-printed metal lattice structure, The Black Box. In an accompanying video, lawyer Luke Mason recites the clauses of a contract being developed for the prospectus of the financial model. As described in the contract, in order to access the proposal, the artwork within which it is sealed must first be purchased by an art institution, and subsequently destroyed, to access the financial model.
A promotional video introduces the model and the benefits and opportunities it offers to a variety of stakeholders. The main video piece, equally titled A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box), introduces the artists duo Vermeir & Heiremans and Luke Mason debating the financial model and its possible impact.
Throughout the galleries included in the exhibition are also archival materials about the creation and realisation of Battersea Park and the Pump House Gallery building, that present a site-specific narrative of a change in the uses of land, from common land for grazing and agriculture to urban land uses, triggering real estate and land speculation in Battersea in the Victorian era.
Battersea’s transformation today seems as sudden and dramatic as its urbanisation in Victorian times. The area has seen a vast increase in investment in recent years, as it is being branded as a new cultural quarter and opportunity area. A Modest Proposal seeks to harness the surplus values thus generated and develop a sustainable cycle of value.
This raises further questions as to who should receive the return on investment: should it be channelled directly into art institutions and art workers, or re-directed back into a public purse, for use determined by democratic processes?
These pressing questions were addressed during A Modest Proposal (Symposium) at the Royal College of Art in London (27 October 2018), for which Vermeir & Heiremans invited a number of speakers working in the fields of financial geography, art and law. The contributions by Annelore Hofman, Victoria Ivanova, Caroline Knowles, Luke Mason, Louis Moreno, Andrea Phillips, Emily Rosamond were edited and compiled as essays in the publication A Modest Proposal. This edited publication also features the script of Vermeir & Heiremans’ video installation A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box) and a series of archival documents on the creation and realisation of Battersea Park, which the artists brought together for the exhibition at Pump House Gallery (located within the park).
A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box) invites us to consider the dynamics between art and the economy, and the value of culture in between.
Production: Jubilee vzw
With the support of:
The Flemish Community
Art et Recherche asbl
Pump House Gallery
Enable Leisure and Culture
Art Council England
Cockayne-Grants for the Arts
The London Community Foundation
Reviews and reflections:
Zeynep Kubat, ‘Kop of munt: financiële verbeelding in de kunst‘, in: Rekto:Verso, August 29 2019 (in Dutch)
Dirk De Wit, ‘Naar een wederkerig werken in de kunst‘, in: Boekman Stichting, 2020 (in Dutch)
Selection overview of press, reviews and reflections on Vermeir & Heiremans practice (2009-2020)
Blue is the chromatic, historical and discursive filter through which a performance by African-American poet Kain unfolds. The famed precursor of hip-hop in the late ’60s delivers his “spoken word” as the Belgian percussionist Lander Gyselinck improvises to the flow of his utterances. Throughout the performance various museum objects — funeral figurines, automaton, astrolabe, mappa mundi, textiles —are juxtaposed to Kain’s own props. They invoke affective retrospections on exile and belonging, slave routes and colonial trade.
“So far, all that has given color to existence still lacks a history“
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science
Ultramarine, referring to a deep blue pigment but also to overseas regions, is a visual poem constructed from locally chosen historical objects. The project has been commissioned by the Printemps de septembre (Toulouse, France) and will be premiered in September, 2018 in this city historically connected both to ‘pastel’ blue pigment and to the ‘Gay Science’ of the troubadours. As Blues Klair, it is touring Canada with two solo shows: Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University), Montreal, 2018, and The Power Plant, Toronto, 2019-2020.
Disrupting the Eurocentric written logic of historiography as well as that of museum classifications, Ultramarine sets a constellation of objects moving and enable them to expose their intertwined histories. The immersive experience of colour, a living, textured, spectral and polymorphic substance is here rendered inseparable from its political component and from cinema as magical practice. The film is conceived as a kind of “narrated exhibition” featuring Kain The Poet – the afro-american poet and performer, part of the Black Arts Movement (BAM) at the end of the sixties and creator of the mythic 1970 album Blue Guerilla. He colors history through spoken word, alluding to his own exile blues in Amsterdam. The music is improvised by drummer Lander Gyselinck.
Ultramarine is composed like a spectrum: it unfolds and intertwines fragments of meaning. This narrative form creates the possibility of connecting Kain’s poetic to a larger frame of investigation: museum objects and artworks stored in various Toulouse museums and in collections of the Occitan region. These objects, connected with the double sense of ‘ultramarine’ (both a color and a colonial reference) are put in dialogue with stage props and reproductions of art works that surround Kain in his Amsterdam exile since the 1980s.
Like the shifting layers of blue in the film’s 35 mm cinematic image, as well as the surround soundscape, the exhibition display – a modular textile display designed in collaboration with textile designer Diane Steverlynck and scenographer Emilie Lecouturier – offers an immersive experience to the visitor.
HD Video, 42′, 35mm, sound & colour, 2018
Directed & produced by Vincent Meessen
Jesus Wept (The Journey of K)
Abridged version, written and performed by Kain The Poet
Music improvised by Lander Gyselinck
With guest appearances by:
Serge Nicolo & Germain Berdie
Executive producer: Inneke Van Waeyenberghe
Director of photography: Vincent Pinckaers
Sound recording: Laszlo Umbreit, Rémi Gérard, Frédéric Alstadt
Image editing: Inneke Van Waeyenberghe
Sound editing: Laszlo Umbreit
Sound mixing: Rémi Gérard
Color grading: Miléna Trivier
Textile Installation: Diane Steverlynck in collaboration with Émilie Lecouturier
First camera assistant: Artur Castro Freire
Second camera assistant: Lucy Mallet-Jemmings
Subtitles: Erik Lambert
Typefaces: Titra, Belgika
Produced by Jubilee, in collaboration with:
Le Printemps de septembre, Toulouse
Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal
The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto
With the support from:
Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds (VAF)
Nouveau Musée National de Monaco
Dialogue Award at the European Media Art Forum (EMAF), Osnabrück 2019
The jury called Ultramarine a “powerful and complex constellation of different positions, references and contexts that unfold in a variety of ways – as performance, music, poetry, text, museum and archive. Vincent Meessen explores the interweaving of social and aesthetic interests, transcending the boundaries of various artistic practices. The work combines history and culture to give a voice to the visible and the invisible”.
Ammodo Tiger Short Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019
“Rarely has the relevance of film to performance been so clear. The role of cinema here stunningly enforces the rhythm, vision, and urgency of the poet’s delivery. The film is precisely structured in a way that allows us to see the images the poet conjures, to sonorise the beat at which he speaks and to feel what is so radical in his utterance. The jury was utterly convinced.”
Members of the jury: Nguyen Trinh Thi, John Canciani, Lawrence Abu Hamdan
presentations to date:
Blues Klair, solo exhibition by Vincent Meessen at The Power Plant, Toronto (2019-2020)
The Image and Its Image, a series of screenings curated by George Clark for the annual NFKS Film Festival, Kabelvåg (Norway, 2019)
FID 2019, 30th International Film Festival Marseille (2019)
An evening of Award-Winning Films from EMAF 2019, Kunsthalle Osnabrück (Germany, 2019)
Unfolding the Past, International Competition Videoex Festival, Zurich (2019)
European Media Art Festival (EMAF) No. 32, Osnabrück (Germany, 2019)
Courtisane Festival 2019, Ghent (2019)
IFFR – International Film Festival Rotterdam (2019)
Blues Klair, solo exhibition at Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal (2018)
12th Shanghai Biennale, curated by Cuauhtémoc Medina (2018)
Read more on Ultramarine at Printemps de septembre (21/09 – 21/10/2018) here
Read more on the exhibition Blues Klair at Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (17/11/2018 – 23/02/2019) here
Read more on the exhibition Blues Klair at The Power Plant (21/09/2019 – 05/01/2020) here
A solo exhibition by Vincent Meessen
Brussels-based artist Vincent Meessen (Baltimore, United States, 1971) has been developing work at the crossroads of visual art and research for fifteen years now. By reinvigorating long-forgotten signs, images and accounts, his works offer a poetic and polemic turn to History the way it is written. Using various media, ranging from the moving image to print, sound and archival documents, Meessen puts history to the test of the present.
At the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, Meessen represented Belgium with Personne et les autres (No-one and the others). With twelve guest artists from four continents, the exhibition critically harnessed just as many narratives, encounters, and forms that opposed the rigid matrix of colonial modernity – physically or mentally, in imagination, in revolution, or in reciprocity.
Omar en mai (‘Omar in May’) bears a direct relationship with the critically acclaimed Belgian Pavilion. Indeed, it boasts a film version of One.Two.Three, the audiovisual work presented in Venice and recently acquired by the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP). It focuses on the role of Congolese students in the adventure of the Situationist International during the mid-sixties, both in Paris and in Brussels. In May ’68, one of them composed a protest song in Kikongo, one of the Congolese languages. Found in the archives of the Belgian situationist Raoul Vaneigem, this previously unknown composition has been revisited, through Meessen and its author, Joseph Mbelolo ya Mpiku in Kinshasa. Set to music by young local women in the legendary rumba club Un Deux Trois, the composition renewed the possible signification of social struggle while a popular uprising was violently repressed during the film shooting.
Resurfacing buried memories, other works in the exhibition problematise the reification of May ’68. Rather than a reiteration of a mythology confined to the Latin Quarter of Paris, other major uprisings that took place in Dakar and Kinshasa are at play here. In both cases, Vincent Meessen is interested in the unique itineraries of young African intellectuals who directly or indirectly crossed the Situationist International – that “specter that haunts the world” and which left a mark equally radical as indelible on the world of ideas and forms.
A photograph of a young Senegalese student reading the latest issue of the Situationist magazine accompanies the visitor to Dakar. One of the works especially conceived for this exhibition is CinemaOmarx, the first stage of Juste un Mouvement, a ‘film in the making’. This formula is Jean-Luc Godard’s, and unpacks La Chinoise. In this 1967 film the same young student, Omar Blondin Diop, played himself, a Maoist revolutionary. Meessen takes Godard’s fiction to witness and asks whether this scenario didn’t become reality in Dakar, in 1971. That year, members of the group of the ‘Arsonists’ (Incendiaires), were sentenced for an attempt to attack the presidential convoy of the Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor and his childhood friend, the French president Georges Pompidou.
Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris 28/03 – 28/05/2018
Curated by Catherine David
4th floor – Galerie 0 – Espace Prospectif – Centre Pompidou, Paris
Opening: 27/03/2018, 18h
Book presentation with panel discussion: 11/05/2018
More info here
Produced by Jubilee
With the support of: Argos, a/r (art et recherche), La Cambre arts visuels, CNAP image/mouvement, Région Bretagne, Spectre, Vlaamse Gemeenschap, Wallonie Bruxelles International
On the occasion of the exhibition, Vincent Meessen has edited the publication The Other Country/L’Autre Pays, published Sternberg Press (Berlin) and WIELS, contemporary art centre (Brussels), in collaboration with Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne (Paris) and with the support of art & recherche asbl and Jubilee.
CINEMA SCREENING, CONVERSATION, BOOK LAUNCH
Omar in Memoriam
Round table discussion with Catherine David (deputy director of Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris), Dialo Blondin Diop and Vincent Meessen.
May 11, 2018, 17:30. Forum 1, Centre Pompidou. Free admission
The Selfie-Junkie, The Fool, The Animal, The Glossary, The Angry, The Collector Of Proverbs, and so on
Solo exhibition by Eleni Kamma
Académie royale des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, Brussels 16/03-30/03, 18-20/04/2018
Presentation of work in progress within the research project Casting Call, an investigation into Europe featuring a parade of cultural allegories through the locations that shape its present identity: Athens, Maastricht, and notably its de facto capital, Brussels.
Referring both to local art history and to a rapidly pervading social media culture, the allegorical personifications that form the parading core of Kamma’s research are given their first public appearance here. As allegories are metaphorical structures where the singular meets the universal, parades are social occasions where the subjective individual meets the unifying collective.
The spontaneity that characterizes the freedom of these festive, almost pan-emotional events is enveloped by an organizing element of theatricality, of staging. A parade is a moving collection of units temporarily connected in an infinite loop: as a moebius ring both inside and outside of a group, and inside and outside of a larger social context. When people step inside a parade and contexts collide, the potential of the parade as a locus for exchange become all the more apparent.
The exhibition’s title, The Selfie-Junkie, The Fool, The Animal, The Glossary, The Angry, The Collector Of Proverbs, and so on describes a selection of the allegories that Kamma has developed at this point in her research. The allegories’ attributes are featured as well: props to show who they are, but also to be what they are.
These characters of the parade reflect upon the history of parrhesiastic theatre and look forward, towards a future agonistic public space: a space for interaction, confrontation and exchange. Each of them is an assemblage with geographically embedded references and gestures that embody comical traditions and mirror the European diversity. They use different languages, symbols and gestures to parrhesiastic ends: how to enter in dialogue with the other? Together, they form, at the same time, an urban scenography in movement, and a poetical allegory on Europe. They only have one obstacle: they do not speak the same language.
The Selfie-Junkie, The Fool, The Animal, The Glossary, The Angry, The Collector Of Proverbs, And so on is a first step from Kamma’s research supported by a/r (Art/Recherche, Brussels) towards a film she is working on with Jubilee. Working title: CASTING CALL (for a Triumph of Parrhesia Parade)
With the support of: a/r (Art/Recherche asbl) and Jubilee, platform for artistic research and production
Vilgiskoddeoayvinyarvi: Wolf Lake on the Mountains
We follow Viktor Koslovsky, a scientist still working at the otherwise abandoned Kola Super-Deep Borehole, a geological research station “at the border of everything” in north-west Russia. He tells of the history of this former cold-war project and of his current research which he describes as “listening to the past in order to hear the future”.
The Kola Super-Deep Borehole (KSD) is the deepest man-made hole on earth – more than 12 km deep. It was a Soviet geology research project started during the Cold War. In addition to gathering data about the geology of the earth’s crust it formed part of Project Globus, a network of seismic listening stations which was to act as an early-warning system for natural disasters as well as for monitoring enemy nuclear tests. After the fall of the Soviet Union the project was slowly wound up and the site was abandoned in 2008.
The rock strata that are visible in the core samples extracted from the borehole are seemingly inert to humans but on another time-scale they are very much alive. They tell the story of the formation of the earth and of ultra-slow processes that are still taking place within the earth’s crust. Thinking at this geological timescale puts human endeavour and progress into perspective, the Kola Super Deep becomes merely a pin-prick into the body of the earth.
Still, the image of drilling so deep into the earth inflamed the imagination of evangelical Christians with an image of Hell. The sounds of screams emanating from the inferno circulated on the internet purporting to have been recorded by the Russian scientists – probably a montage of horror-film soundtracks. The layers of rock penetrated by the drill resound with Dante’s decent into the Inferno with Virgil as his guide – where each layer or circle of Hell is reserved for different kinds of sinners, each with their own story. In which circle of Hell can the conspiracy theorists be found? Which is reserved for the climate change deniers?
At the KSD site, next to Wolf Lake, we meet Viktor, a geologist who worked on the project until it was shut down. Ever since, Viktor has stayed on-site as much as possible, carrying on the work started by Dr. Huberman, the founder of the project. He recounts the history of the KSD, relating it to other cold-war science projects, about the geology and history of the area, and of his experiences living there alone. He guides us around the ruined site, introducing his living quarters, his small laboratory and of course the borehole itself. He explains his work, listening to vibrations deep within the earth, linking geology with Sami shamanism and divination.
The Vilgiskoddeoayvinyarvi: Wolf Lake on the Mountains project began during a residency of the art and research project Dark Ecology in Norway and Russia in 2015. In June 2016, during the third edition of Dark Ecology it was presented as a site-specific audio walk in Russian and English, where the audience visited the KSD site itself with my piece acting as an audio guide. The footage to be used in the final film, along with extra sound recordings, was shot during the final production process in Russia. The images were shot in HD with a DSLR. The audio techniques are diverse, including binaural and surround (ambisonic) recordings. A three channel audio visual installation of it was shown at the 2017 Sonic Acts festival in Amsterdam. In 2018, a new version of it was presented at Artefact 2018 in Leuven, with drawings, charts, and historical photographic material alongside the video images and sounds. A single screen film (25 min.) will be shown around the world.
Production: Justin Bennett and Jubilee
Commissioned by Dark Ecology and Sonic Acts
Supported by STUK and Mondrian Fund
Presentations to date:
Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin festival of moving image; Paris (2019)
Science of Sound, group exhibition at at Dordtyart, Dordrecht (2018)
Geological Imagination, duo exhibition with Cecilia Jonsson at Terminal B, Kirkenes (NO, 2018)
SOUNDS LIKE SILENCE, talk/ screening during the release party of O, Wonder! #2 at Compagnie Theater, Amsterdam (2018)
Artefact Festival 2018, This Rare Earth – Stories From Below, audiovisual installation at Artefact Festival in STUK, Leuven (2018)
SALT ART: Selected from Dark Ecology, Sauna Session and screening at SALT Árdna, Oslo (2018)
Inversia Festival, Murmansk (RU, 2018)
The Noise of Being, a group exhibition at Arti et Amicitiae for Sonic Acts Festival, Amsterdam (2017)
A like-named site-specific audio work, which preceded the film, was presented during Dark Ecology, the third edition of the art, research and commissioning project in the border zone between Norway and Russia (2016)
An exhibition by Vincent Meessen
Following exhibitions at at KIOSK (Ghent, 2013) and Kunsthalle Basel (2015), during the Summer of 2017 Vincent Meessen showed the third version of his duo exhibition Patterns for (Re)cognition with Tshela Tendu at BOZAR. In this exhibition-in-exhibition, the artist looks at a gap in the modern art historiography of Belgium and the Congo. Acting as artist in duo with guest collaborators (Muriel Gerhart, Pierre Huyghebaert, Kris Kimpe, and Aurélie Nyirabikali Lierman), he creates a para-curatorial context with modular structures, 16mm films, 19th century objects and a sound installation. Together these serve to reassess the singularity of the abstract watercolours of Tshela Tendu (aka Djilatendo, Congo, circa 1880-1950) within an expanded modernist heritage. Although this Congolese painter exhibited in Brussels, Paris, Rome and Geneva in the early 1930s, his work was subsequently forgotten. Focusing on the abstract work of Tshela Tendu, this exhibition contributes to the critical interest Tshela Tendu’s work deserves.
Besides this series of exhibitions, the publication Patterns for (Re)cognition has been published (2017) by Snoeck Publishers and BOZAR Books. Edited by Vincent Meessen, the publication contains a catalogue raisonné of the abstract works of Tendu as known today, and dialogues with artist/curator Toma Muteba Luntumbue, publisher Guy Jungblut, curator Elena Filipovic, ethnohistorian Jan Vansina, and art historian Yasmine Van Pee. The book was presented featuring a round table discussion on 8 September 2017, with Morad Montazami discussing the themes broached in the exhibition and publication together with Vincent Meessen, Toma Muteba Luntumbue, Yasmine Van Pee, researcher-curator Bambi Ceuppens, and art historian Kathrin Langenohl.
Parrhesia: courage / breath / speech
Multi-media installation by Eleni Kamma
In Parrhesia: courage / breath / speech (2014-2015) Eleni Kamma takes the notion of the Greek word ‘parrhesia’ (frankness of speech or candid speech) as a point of departure, and relates it to two recent events in the Eastern Mediterranean.
One was the protest against plans to turn the Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul into a shopping mall and residential area. A video shows interviews with young protesters at the Gezi Park speaking about the notion of engagement, citizen participation and humour as a strategy of resistance. A series of photos from the same location zooms in on the use of certain objects as means of protest, such as watermelons, kitchenware, lemons, whistles, dust masks, signs, barriers, etc. It illustrates the visual culture and outlook of the peaceful protestors and shows how they manage to remain optimistic in light of the looming forces of oppression.
The second event is former Greek culture minister Panos Panayiotopoulos’ opening speech of the EU-conference Financing Creativity in Athens in 2014 about Greece’s cultural policy in the coming decades, which outlined an increasingly neo-liberal view of culture as being something that should be privatised. One can hear the minister formulate the proposed future role of culture in exclusively economical terms, a vision that is indicative of how the Greek state is increasingly abandoning its support for contemporary culture. Stunningly, not a single artist was invited as a speaker to the conference.
Given this situation, a group called the Mavili Collective (which is involved in producing nomadic, autonomous collective cultural zones in disused urban spaces in Athens) called for artists from different fields of practice to attend the conference. Having been excluded from a dialogue about cultural policies, the artists present at the conference publicly expressed their disdain regarding the proposed role of culture and made a mockery out of the proceedings.
The response of the Minister is revealing. It is shown as a video of a black screen showing only the English subtitles for the Greek soundtrack. The Minister’s response to the artists’ use of irony, sarcasm, and laughter was met with an utter lack of humour, intelligence and imagination, reinforcing the stereotype of the political status quo as being completely staid. Utterly confused by the artists’ reactions he was unable to come to a conclusion and witnessed how populism was counteracted, and finally smothered by idealism.
The videos are incorporated into a theatre-like setting that includes props relating to the practice of protest in public space and highlighting the performative aspect of public, free speech. Ultimately, Kamma probes the deployment of free speech in different contexts, reminding us of the essential role it plays in democratic processes.
Text written by Katerina Gregos
Duration: 08′ 52″
Extract taken from an incident that took place in Athens in February 2014, during the opening speech of the Greek Minister of Culture for the EU presidency conference Financing Creativity. We hear the minister’s voice interacting with the audience. The dispute is over bravery of public speech and the notion of the stage. This action was initiated by Mavilli Collective.
More information: Mavili Collective Website
Duration: 08′ 06″
Camera: Ilgın Deniz Akseloğlu & Ferhat Tokmak
Video consisting of interviews with protesters on the use of humor, everyday objects/tools and physical experience during the occupy Gezi.
Elif Ünal , 22 years old, intern journalist and student
Barış Mumyakmaz, 30 years old, journalist
Samet Kesen, 26 years old, event manager
Ilgın Deniz Akseloğlu, 26 years old, translator & editor
Gani Ömür Çekem, 23 years old, student, LGBT
Uygar Çehreli, 30 years old, musician and salesman
Alize Garip, 27 years old, events organizer
The work was produced with the support of the Mondriaan Fund, the Netherlands, and co-produced by the 5th Thessaloniki Biennale.