Extra City

Cross-examinations #3: These and Other Works. Explaining Belgian Art to a Foreigner

23 Nov - 30 Dec 2012

Poster of Cross-examinations #3: These and Other Works. Explaining Belgian art to a Foreigner
Leon Spilliaert, De Dood van Leopold II, 1910.
With contributions by: Roland Van den Berghe, Liudvikas Buklys, Jacques Charlier, Jef Cornelis, Thomas Crombez, Wim Cuyvers, Daniel Dewaele, Liesbeth Doms & Sarah Hendrickx & Chloé Dierckx, Filip Francis, Lara Mennes, Willem Oorebeek, Karl Philips, Marc Schepers, Henri Storck, Sarah Vanagt, Wilfried Vandenhove, Stefan Wouters a.o.

Curated by Mihnea Mircan

Opening 23 November at Extra City Kunsthal, These and Other Works brings together the results of conversations had over the last months with remarkable Belgian artists and art historians, conversations centred around the question of social and political engagement in Belgian art. The works and interventions presented weave an alternative story of political positions and social imagination, militant rhetoric and a melancholic poetics of activism.

Chronologically, the exhibition begins with the death of a monarch – a drawing by Leon Spilliaert (1910), perfectly poised between cosmic irony and mystical abandon, validating neither interpretive option and frustrating any attempt to write art-historical continuity between this image and the rest of the painter’s oeuvre. Symbolism deflates into deadpan practicality, as the scenography intersects the Belgian tricolour as blanket and the Congolese flag as backdrop, and geometrically separates the dead king and a mourning subject. At the other end of the timeline one can find three young artists - Liesbeth Doms, Sarah Hendrickx and Chloé Dierckx - presenting an ongoing investigation of highly ambiguous paragraphs in the Codex of the Antwerp Police Department, filling the strategic gaps in the document by interpreting the paragraphs with diagrams and drawings.

Between these two chronological coordinates, These and Other Works is concerned with social and political engagement in Belgian art, and aware that the definition prefaced by its title can only be partial. An interest in works that re-negotiate the conditions for their social impact, that set the stage for symbolic intervention in the political sphere, can be understood as an eccentric concern – foreign to notions such as visual immersion or subversion, the question of a national identity composed of mismatched halves, the convulsions of history or any of the tropes, self-deprecating or self-aggrandizing, that drive the master narrative of Belgian art. Alien-ness and unfinished elucidation are thematized here via the figure of the foreigner, whose effort to make sense of a cultural landscape is marked by the foreigner’s own preconceptions, fixations and anxieties. This project endeavours to weave a dialogue between those who shape the territory and those who chart it, looking at the center and the margin, at exemplary artistic positions and interrupted storylines.

Tags: Liudvikas Buklys, Jacques Charlier, Jef Cornelis, Willem Oorebeek