Arts & Culture co-Editor
This event takes place in STUK from the 21st of February to the 3rd of March 2019. Artefact takes different themes each year and this year the theme currently is ‘Parallel Crossing’. This theme features many contemporary artists around the world and highlights movement, process, places and migration. As human beings we are constantly in motion. The idea of Parallel Crossing is a meeting point. The exhibitions are free and can be accessed throughout the whole duration of the event.
Falha (Failure) by Renata Lucas
In this installation, that takes up vast amounts of space, the visitor at first glance see that it’s just boards and planks, with a few elevated into triangles. But, what they should know is that they are able to make changes to it. Each board offers handles that can be pulled by two people. It is all up to the visitors which planks they want to elevate. As everybody has their own creativity, and with a bit of teamwork, the view and configuration of this installation change comes into view with time. It’s almost like a playground, but a dangerous one since the planks are quite heavy. The artist, Renata Lucas wants her work to be a critical interpretation of how built environments determine our actions, behaviour and social relationships. It is amazing indeed how the ever-changing wooden panels in this installation reflect building and rebuilding, constructing and deconstructing boundaries, of which result in different social dynamics.
As time pass by, depending on the visitors initiative and creativity, most of the panels are up and create an almost forest-like buildings of planks, which almost make walking around the hall impossible. Some visitors see this and decide to pull some down. Some visitors see how to monotone all the triangles and decided to make more shape, albeit unstable ones. It is indeed not hard to receive the message of the artist in this work.
Exploded View (Commuters) by Jim Campbell
Other than interactive art installation like Falha, this exhibition features some short films and moving images. Indeed, you can’t talk about movement without seeing something moving. In Exploded View at first glance you would think it’s two-dimensional, like a movie through a projector, but if you approach or pass through it, it’s actually LED lights in a three-dimensional space. 1,152 LED lights to be precise. The only two-dimensional thing is flickering lights in the one side of the three-dimensional space, in other words, you can only view it from the front if you want to make use of what of these tiny lights are trying to say. As recognition takes place, the lights are forming shapes of people walking through. It is actually the commuters of Grand Central Station, New York. These lights wouldn’t give you that idea if you pause it, in other words stopping the movement of the commuters. Without movemnet they become just abstract incomprehensible lights. The artist points out that the movement in this work is the most fundamental thing, as it helps the viewer shape images in their mind. Surely what is art without the movement that it makes.
Points of Departure by Alia Syed
What is a movement without mentioning how human society is made; which is migration or the movement of its people?
British artist and filmmaker Alia Syed in her work emphasize how her hometown Glasgow is “a product of continuous influx of diverse aspects of human experiences and histories” yet there is “almost total lack of” representation of Glasgow’s Asian citizens in the 1960s and 1970s within BBC archives. As this is the most appalling, as this is her hometown where she grew up. She recreates the representation by filming through the archive, with the backdrop sound of her father reciting a poem in Urdu Ghazal. In this film, she intentionally made all the scenes without human presence, except at the very end which is “the only footage I (Alia Syed) found of a non-white child” of the period.
Seeds of Change by Maria Thereza Alves
To end these highlights, the exhibition doesn’t just featuring art but also information about the past, through history and also science.
Brazillian artist Maria Thereza Alves researched the sites of ballast - which is earth, stones, sand and whatever else was economically expedient used to stabilise merchant sailing ships according to the weight of the cargo. When the ballast unloaded, it carried with it the seeds which are native to the area where it had been picked up. Through Seeds of Change arises the discourses, such as the native of the seeds, the socio-political histories of a place that determine the framework of belonging. As influential ports in the past such as Bristol and Liverpool in the UK are slave trading ports, in the research appears that the slave trade resulted in a great deal of ballasts crossing to Europe. For example Anagallis arvensis var. Caerule that originated from Northern Africa. Over time the ballasts changed the very landscape. Seeds of Change is an ongoing project of investigating ballast flora. As the creation of ballast gardens within the project, the artist hopes the visitors “would be pleasantly surprised by how many of the plants are actually very much part of their everyday lives” and how human activity (which is the trades including the slave trades) shaped the very landscape they are now.
The Seeds of Change project has taken up in many places including Marseille, Liverpool, Bristol and Dunkirk. A ballast garden will be made in Vaartkom this Spring/Summer 2019 which would study the relating history of Port of Antwerp.