Belgium: Barbarians and Poets

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from Belgium

Black Yellow Red. On Diversity
In 2001, Umberto Eco, the Italian writer, described Brussels’ role as follows: “Brussels should become a capital of European culture and a ‘foyer culturel’, a centre for the confrontation of diversities.” Fifteen years later, Brussels has a strong claim to the title of the most cosmopolitan capital of Europe, not just due to its position as home to the major seats of government of the European Union, but also because it is a genuinely multicultural city. According to the 2015 World Migration Report, Brussels is home to the world’s second most diverse population - with more than six out of ten Brussels residents born outside Belgium.

William Ludwig Lutgens - Papua New Belgium (2016)

The word “diversity” stays locked in reports and numbers until you step into a random bar in Brussels, where customers are chatting away in a dozen different languages. You feel what it means if you visit the melting-pot of restaurants that offer Congolese curried goat or an Algerian couscous, a plate of Spanish tapas, Greek mezze or Mediterranean antipasti, Japanese unagi or handmade Chinese noodles. “The foods we eat and the stories we tell each other bind our nations”, says art historian Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum and former director of the National Gallery.1 According to him, the national identity of a deeply diverse country is built “as much by its governments and frontiers as by its poets, painters, prophets and storytellers.” Along with beer and chocolate.

Ludo Frateur - La personne (2015)

Marleen Lamote - Moments to Come Across (2016)


A multifaceted identity
The 151 small-format art works included in the Belgian edition of Imago Mundi, reflect the vitality and diversity of visual art in Belgium today. In an increasingly globalised context, works of art are blueprints of the intercultural and the transnational dimension. 74 men participated, along with 64 women. The language regions are represented with 81 French-speaking, 56 Dutch-speaking and one German-speaking artist. 74 of them were born in Belgium, 29 somewhere else and 35 artists were born in Belgium, but have their roots elsewhere.

Jessica Collet - OZ (2016)

Anne Van Boxelaere - Untitled (2016)


One artist in that last group is Charif Benhelima. This internationally renowned artist created a new work in the shape of a map for Imago Mundi. Being a Belgian artist with an Arabian-Sephardic past, his photographic work focuses mainly on the search for identity. In his Polaroid, the white image on the white background crystallises his experience of foreignness and his critical dialogue with this dislocation.

Sixto Lopez-Reine - Pensées Nocturnes (2016)

Christophe Lemmens - Coming Home (2016)

Another artist displaying his work is the young Louis Lokota. In his collage, a pixelated veil conceals a pair of inquisitive, staring eyes. “The left eye belongs to a young woman, the right eye to an old woman”, Louis Lokota explains. “I am interested in the gaze of two distant generations.
Both women are African. I identify myself with my Belgian nationality – I was born in Wallonia and I live in the Flanders – but I always go back to my African roots in my work.”

Edwin Deen - Tic Tac Rocks (ed. 8/20) (2016)

Nina Laura Lalinne - Royal (2016)

Today, in the arts, nationality is less about geography than ever before. Cristina Losuma Vonuza, an art student born in Angola, named her work La Belgique en couleur. Seddik Hanane gave his artwork the title La Belgique à la culture multiple. Many young artists in Brussels explore Belgian icons in their art, like Manneken Pis, Jacques Brel and the national tricolour. These artists often experience multiple identities: they feel close to the culture of their homeland, but also like to be associated with the culture of the country where they live and grew up.

Shanglie Zhou - Brick in brick out (2016

Charif Benhelima - Memorial #86 (2016)


“La Belgique à la culture multiple”
Moments to Come Across by Marleen Lamote tells a completely different story. At first sight, the photo painting appears enigmatic, hermetically self-contained, and untimely in a strange way. Two individuals pass by. They could meet, but they don’t. Something could happen, but it doesn’t. Surrealist narrative strategies that treat the realms of dream and the unconscious create a visual explosion. There is a subtle melancholic force coming out of the almost encounter of the two individuals. It is as if the soft blue colour caught us in an endless loop of existential experience.

Luc Fierens - Violetta (2015)

Lien Hüwels - Collage with used fabrics (2016)

The work of Moldavian-born artist Maria-Magdalena Zolotuhin takes you into a maze of lines, spots, patterns and dots. She scratched, coloured and reshaped the canvas, burning plastic on it like the Italian painter and sculptor Alberto Burri (1915-1995). The work is called Bon voyage, as if she wanted to take us on a journey into her past. Maria Blondeel also reshaped the canvas, but in a definite and poetic way.
In Tone Slide 96 G24 04 from her series 365 Coincidences, she adapted the format of the canvas, a bit wider than the original format. The number of the day, 134, corresponds to the day of Luciano Benetton’s birthday.

Joke Raes - Untitled (2016)

Maria Blondeel - Tone Slide 96 G24 04 (Nr. 134/366 1/24) (2016)


Diversity also pops up in the topics of some artworks. For example, in the diptych by Shana De Neve. As part of the series Divas, she took photographs at Miss Transvestite Belgium. During a night full of glitter, high heels, feathers and glamour, she looked backstage for interesting encounters and captured them on photographic paper. Her motto as a photographer is “Photograph the world as it is. Nothing is more interesting than reality.”

Sergio Garcia Romero - Montagne derrière la vitre (2016)

Philippe Van Wolputte - X (2016)


Charles Auckière, director of the art school Institut Sainte- Marie in Saint-Gilles, Brussels, lives and works with the diversity of the nearby city. “Diversity in our art school is very present on three levels: age, social status and economic background. In some classes, there are students aged from 17 to 24. The older students had left and returned. Our students come from everywhere, even from Ostende. Some live in financially precarious circumstances, others have no problems at all. This is a real enrichment both for teachers and students. We have Spanish students, Arabian, Latin American... everyone is part of a minority. The only majority you will find here is that we all belong to the same school. No single group dominates another. That favours equality and respect.”

Logan Mayné - Fuck the System (2016)

Alexandre Gevart - Territorialism (2016)

Together, the paintings, sculptures, installations, photographies and drawings from the 138 artists provide a snapshot into the fascinating contemporary œuvre by presenting the new work of Belgian-based artists, big and small, old and young, experienced or green. If you have to give a label to Belgian identity, diversity would be it.

Marianne Van Boxelaere
Art Curator

Horst Einfinger - Steps to the light (2016)

Credits: Story

Art Direction, Photography and Production
Fabrica
Project Management
La Biennale di Malindi Ltd
Curator
Marianne Van Boxelaere
Project Coordination
Sandro Mabellini
Organization
Barbara Liverotti
Giorgia De Luca
Editorial Coordination
Enrico Bossan
Texts
Luciano Benetton
Marianne Van Boxelaere
Raphaël Sachsenberg
Editing and Translation
Emma Cole
Simona Caldera
Giorgia De Luca
Valentina Granzotto
Pietro Valdatta
Art Direction
Bianca Otilia Ghiuzan
Artworks Photography
Marco Zanin
Artists Photography
Marianne Van Boxelaere
Production
Marco Pavan
Cover
Tysje Severens - Sam Ting Wong
I Thanks to
Fondazione Sarenco
Oksana Ignatush
Charif Benhelima
Raphaël Sachsenberg
Mats Pylyser (Beeldexpressie)
Isabelle Devriendt (HISK)
Greet Vlegels
Marie Vandenbosch (Studio Start)
Charles Auckière
Sebastien Marandon
Philippe Seynaeve
Oriano Mabellini
Sandro Mabellini

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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