The Porous City
The Porous City
The exhibition has ended.
During Triennial Bruges 2021: TraumA, in addition to the installations in the city centre of Bruges, a group exhibition will also be organized to further explore the ambivalent theme: between dream and nightmare, under the skin or underground, from analogue to digital alienation. A selection of around 40 sculptures, photographs, drawings, paintings, and videos links the ‘unnerving’ nature of the rooms within the Burghers’ Lodge with dissonant voices, storylines, and wondrous worlds. The artists portray their view of the world, mankind, and architecture, which sometimes appears to be fragmented or distorted, but at other times also idyllic or heavenly.
Triennial Bruges 2021: TraumA proposes a microscopic view of the environment and its residents, an under-the-skin analysis, and an interweaving with the hidden part of the urban fabric. The unspoken or the unnerving comes to the fore in the context of its architecture, urbanization, gardens, or parks. The exhibition The Porous City adds another dimension: the indoor spaces of a building where the work of diverse artists is divided into thematic groups. Here, Triennial Bruges extends the scope of its research from the urban outdoors to the private nature of a former home. In this environment, the research is intensified and narrowed down: in this laboratory, art forms create a dialogue, while others clash or seek conflict.
From the ‘Grand Nada’ to the ‘Vanity of Vanities’, visitors are confused, from cellar to spire, by colorful ribbons, delicate flowers, or strings of oil paint. Hard marble, wooden splinters, and strange polyester shapes shun today’s individual and social challenges. Besides the different threats, there is naturally also room for idyll and wonder. The fact the work is local, from Belgian workshops or a private collection, makes the presentation meaningful, stirring, and reassuring.
With work from Bilal Bahir, Semâ Bekirović, Rakel Bergman Fröberg, Willem Boel, Dries Boutsen, Jana Cordenier, Thierry De Cordier, Sarah De Vos, Lisse Declercq, Danny Devos, Joëlle Dubois, Kendell Geers, Daan Gielis, Geert Goiris, John Isaacs, Athar Jaber, Thomas Lerooy, Emilio López-Menchero, Enrique Marty, Cécile Massart, Hermann Nitsch, Ronald Ophuis, Štefan Papčo, Jasper Rigole, Sarah&Charles, Gregor Schneider, Mircea Suciu, Adrien Tirtiaux, Narcisse Tordoir, Ana Torfs, Gavin Turk, Ingel Vaikla, Caroline Van den Eynden, Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, Filip Vervaet, Julie Villard & Simon Brossard, Friederike von Rauch
The exhibition has ended
“Roosenberg is a place, space, a building, a film. Roosenberg is Amanda, Godelieve, Rosa and Trees. Roosenberg is a letter that tells of an encounter with four elderly nuns in a fascinating modernist monastery in Belgium, before the building was vacated. It is the story of space at the beginning of the end.” – Ingel Vaikla
In Roosenberg, the film by Estonian artist Ingel Vaikla (Tallinn – Brussels, 1992), the daily life of the Benedictine nuns in Roosenberg Abbey in Waasmunster is recorded. Amanda, Godelieve, Rosa and Trees are the last residents of the modernist monastery that was built in 1975 by the Dutch architect and monk Dom Hans van der Laan. Ingel Vaikla stayed at the abbey for four months, appropriating the rhythm of the sisters. It is the repetitive rituals, the singing of psalms together, the eating of meals, that determine their cyclical existence. By portraying contrasts created by the changing light in the course of the day, and by making sounds of murmuring and shuffling, she tries to make the sensory experience of the building perceptible. The film lasts about 30 minutes and the sisters have disappeared, but it is also the memory of them that keeps every place meaningful. The building, characterized by aesthetic simplicity and harmonious coherence between light and space, and between inside and outside, has since been given a new purpose.
In this space, different realities, with their own laws, seem to move side by side. You tumble from one body into another, in such a way that life and death, order and chaos, the theatrical and the intimate, humour and beauty meet.
“Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.” is a quote from the Roman poet Virgil. It can be translated in different ways, literally “If I cannot turn away the superior forces, I will make the river Acheron move” and more generally, “If I cannot bend heaven, I will make the forces of hell move”. Sigmund Freud, neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis in the early 20th century, placed this quote on the title page of his book Die Traumdeutung, as a motto for disrupting the unspoken, underground structure of our daily lives. Real processes of change are only possible with outbursts, the creation of chaos, the disturbance of order. Athar Jaber (°1982, Rome, Italy – Antwerp) lets the spectator play with the puzzle pieces here, sliding letters in marble, just above the canal that moves under the Poortersloge…
Štefan Papčo (°1983, Bratislava – Ghent) is an artist whose imagination seems to occupy reality. His passion for mountaineering and the landscape can be felt in his sculptures, such as this portrait of a famous Slovak mountaineer, carved in wood. Climbing mountains has something of a utopian dream, a disinterested practice in complete freedom, on the way to heights, to the vertical gesture. Since 2010, moreover, a number of Citizens have effectively been found in the mountains, left to the natural elements after breakneck feats to get them there.
The two figures by Enrique Marty (°1969 – Salamanca, Spain) seem frivolous or light-hearted, but they are not at all. They are three-dimensional portraits that stand naked in space, stubborn and clumsy, with their legs spread and a knife in their hands. They are based on acquaintances of the artist and appear as tattooed dolls in polyester. They connect the ‘comédie humaine’ with dark thoughts and feelings, with physical traces and scars that are normally well hidden under garments. Art is Dangerous, so it seems, also with Stefaan or Chechu, who are just not pictured life-size as ‘Soft Cockneys
In his work, Thomas Lerooy (°1981, Roeselare – Brussels) constantly plays with motifs and themes, forms, materials, and colours. With Embrace he shows a statue that seems to miss its target. Two bronze figures seem to merge in a twisted pose, like fallible creatures, seemingly aware of the brevity of mortal life. The sculpture betrays an uncanny understanding of the weight of human life, a weight that is as insurmountable in the face of vice as it is slyly comical in the face of mortality. An imagination of its own, perhaps even an ominous one.
The British multidisciplinary artist John Isaacs (°1968, Lancaster, United Kingdom) looks in his layered oeuvre under the mirror of our ultramodern reality. He brings fears, anxieties, and traumas to the surface: a universe full of stress and tension, populated by hysterical human bodies. An anthology of what is hidden and what is going wrong, a dystopian creation of which humanity itself is the maker. In the two-dimensional work, We hide from ourselves the way we hide from each other, he incorporates a ‘Snellen Oogkaart’ (quick eye chart) with psychological reflections that arise through our eyes or look. In the sculpture Pool of Narcissus weeping we see a melting or torn open organic form: the human body is reduced to a consumable product in decay.
Gavin Turk (°1967, Guildford, London, United Kingdom) usually works in painted bronze and here shows a figure hidden in a dirty sleeping bag: Nomad. The crumpled and dented nuances in the sculpture make it tangible and recognisable. And where we would pass it by carelessly on the street, in this exhibition context it has been upgraded to a work of art. It is a tender ode to the unknown homeless person, wrapped in his cocoon, who represents the other side of the cult of personality.
In this room, wondrous worlds come together in colourful depictions and seductive figures. Female power is present in the interventions of artists of different ages, who self-consciously move between domination, idealisation and ‘girly empowerment’.
Sarah De Vos (°1985, Brussels – Leuven) creates, triggered by her surroundings, images that, in addition to their aesthetic qualities, also provoke critical reflections on our contemporary use of images.
with images. She consistently works in series: on wooden panels where a transparent epoxy layer seals off the layers of paint, on backs of glass in the so-called églomisé technique or on canvases with oil paint where traces remain consciously visible. Her series explores aspects of perception as they appear on social media, in video graphics, and in emoji culture. With #everythingnow, a seductive image balances convenience and immediate self-censorship. A girl seems to want to get her short skirt right, while a pink-red pixelated heart in the centre of the panel demands attention.
In Optical Pumping, Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven (°1951, Antwerp) selected a number of pages from Regal, a 1953 Parisian nude magazine. She transformed the pages into a digital mix of dream fantasies, confusion, presence, and psychosis. She split the composite images into layers and had them printed on two Plexiglas plates. A mirror placed behind the semi-transparent plate reflects the duplicated image and the hand-painted surfaces on the back of the plate. Reflection, insight and double vision transform the self-correcting visual information into meaningful disorder and non-linear pictorial relaxation.
In her imploring portraits, Lisse Declercq (°1993, Lüdenscheid, Germany – Kasterlee) plays on the boundary between idealisation and realism. Her three new oil paintings are reminiscent of images from promotional campaigns and mainstream media and explicitly refer to that sensual language of seduction that social media profiles have in common with advertising. She allows her painted characters, often personal friends, to be viewed, while they are usually focused on their own activities, which are sometimes banal, sometimes ritualistic.
Joëlle Dubois (°1990, Ghent) also surfs between seriousness and irony. She investigates the impact of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and how images are quickly and easily liked, shared, and retweeted. As a silent observer, she casts a humorous, non-judgmental glance at the contemporary scenes influenced by those social networks. In Temperance and Dusk, two girls lie sprawled and bored on a bed, surrounded by screens, an extinguished candle, and fallen petals, in search of moderation. A melancholic haze, as well as a direct honesty, hangs over both paintings: what was I going to say?
Violent scenes, war testimonies and nightmares are the leitmotiv in this last room of the exhibition. The works brought together are not necessarily documentary in nature, but in their aesthetic form, they raise questions to discuss difficult subjects and take up moral positions.
Kendell Geers (°1968, Johannesburg, South Africa – Brussels) is a versatile artist who moves between installations, graphics, videos and performances. In his oeuvre, the shadow side of life gets a prominent place, precisely because the perfidious, the evil or the negative is inherently connected to life. It seems as if, with these three works, he also wants to ward off the wrong and the destructive, the evil, or at least try to make it bearable. He uses the police baton as a symbol three times, and each time in a different form with different materials. They are monuments, grim objects that refer simultaneously to violence and power, to abuse and dysfunctionality.
The work of Daan Gielis (°1988, Beringen – Antwerp) explores conflicts and contradictions in emotional communicative and social systems that make the world the way it is. Happiness or sadness, frustration or desire, are triggers to move, to mutually nurture, and to build a visual whole. “Because the world is so untrue / daer om gha ic in den ru”, is the caption to The Misanthrope (1568) by Pieter Breugel the Elder, and forms a ‘leitmotif’ in this mobile installation. It is not an unequivocal answer to injustice, anger or mourning, but a subtle suggestion that lets the visitor think about what it means to change the world without falling into utopia or melancholy.
Bilal Bahir (°1988 Baghdad, Iraq – Dorinne) is interested in the diversity of cultures in a broad chronological perspective in his artistic research. Through his collages and drawings, he unfolds his reflections with the help of images of lived or dreamt events. He draws on printed paper, book pages, and letters, materials that carry a history. He asks himself questions about human existence, which is undergoing cultural, economic and political changes under the constant threat of war. What is the place of the individual in these conflicts? What are the changes that turn the world upside down and affect man in the very essence of his existence?
The drawings and woodcuts by Rakel Bergman Fröberg (°1994 – Göteborg) explore the crossovers between destruction and resurrection. The demons from her nightmares and dreams come to life raw and vulnerable. They seem like numinous experiences that lift us out of the insignificant, the puny. In Nattbok (night book, night journal), they are psychedelic testimonies of the human being who is portrayed at once tender and unutterably grand.
Blood and organs are some of the ingredients that Hermann Nitsch (°. 1938, Vienna, Austria) brings together in his Aktionsmalerei. He often throws rusty brown or red paint directly onto the canvas, sometimes crawling over it with his hands and feet or letting it splash and drip. His work evokes disgust, because of its resemblance to fresh or clotted blood, but also refers to breaking a taboo. Through his sometimes shocking actions and performances, he actively wants to push boundaries in order to conquer freedom: the Orgien Mysterien Theater. Here, he has people perform naked or wrapped in cloths and uses dead animals in his rituals, liberated from civil conventions.
The metal construction by Danny Devos (°1959, Vilvoorde – Antwerp) contains an electric motor that drives a knife on one arm and shakes it back and forth in the reproduction Man with the golden helmet, which was once wrongly considered an iconic work by Rembrandt (1606 – 1669). The man portrayed appears drawn, his sullen gaze is downcast and the work of art itself is said to have been attacked by art hooligans, with knives, fire and acid, many times over. It is one of the many stories and histories that drive Danny Devos as a performer, sound artist and artistic researcher of violence and murder. He links it to the character Norman Bates who depicts the true story of serial killer Ed Gein in the film Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980).
Mircea Suciu (°1978, Baia Mare, Romania – Cluj) works with various materials and combines them with monoprint techniques, as in Iron Curtain. The themes he chooses are mainly socio-political and psychological, especially linked to the way in which an individual appropriates the behavior of the masses during demonstrations and thereby loses his identity. Romania’s communist past remains an important starting point, such as the tensions between the westerners and the supporters of the communist model. In addition, the work offers a broader critique of global politics and especially of the way in which society manipulates and camouflages events.
Emilio López-Menchero (°1960, Mol – Forest) approaches nuclear energy and the dangerous waste associated with it from a personal and almost psychotherapeutic angle. He grew up in Mol in the shadow of the study centre for nuclear energy. His father worked there as a nuclear physicist when the institute was set up. In his new installation PROMETHEUS/Eurochemic (Mol, Antwerp Kempen, 2021), he explores the hidden sides of his childhood through his father’s archive, notebooks and files or painted childhood memories. From this personal perspective, he formulates poetic analyses of geopolitical and ideological aspects connected with nuclear research and nuclear energy in our country.
Ronald Ophuis (°1968, Hengelo – Amsterdam), scrapes the paint off his canvases so hard that the surfaces feel like painful raw skin. His portrait of Varlam Shalamov (1907-1982) thematises the terrible camp experiences of this Russian writer, as described in his masterly novel Kolyma Tales. Ophuis resembles a contemporary history painter or a visual war journalist. His Teatro La Tregua (Theatre The Respite) refers to the book by Primo Levi (1919 – 1987), who describes how, as an Auschwitz survivor, he travels through a distraught Europe. Together with a group of displaced prisoners, he moves back home, sometimes giving lectures along the way. In this painting, performance comes to life in which the clown, as a mediator between resilience and tragedy, is given the leading role.