Beyond Borders

Timefold, 2015, by Petroc Sesti

The meaning of ‘borders’

In this exhibition 37 European and Arabic artists are presenting their own view on the concept of ‘borders‘. They all raise questions about the meaning and consequences of borders. Usually the inhabitants of a country have no influence at all on the decisions made by politicians about borders and migration. But it’s these people who suffer the most from the consequences of the decisions. We don’t have to look very far to find examples: people dying on the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe, Mexican children being kept in prison on the border with the USA or the many conflicts in Gaza.

The artists are showing us different types of borders. There are natural borders created by mountains, rivers or the desert. A lot of the current borders of countries worldwide are originated by simply following these natural borders. But there are also a lot of artificial borders, splitting regions into different countries. This redrawing of border lines by politicians is always combined with conflicts and war.

The curators wanted to create a dialogue between the different artists, but I didn’t always see the connection between them. Sometimes the link between the artwork and the theme seems a bit far-fetched. I am very glad to have discovered new artists and there were a few strong pieces of art that I will remember. Personally I find that the work of famous artists like Anish Kapoor and Jan Fabre is unnecessary in this exhibition. The other art is strong enough to stand on its own. Keep reading to see my favorite artworks.

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The Light of Spirit

Olga de Amaral at La Patinoire Royale / Valérie Bach Brussels

Olga de Amaral

Although Olga de Amaral is a world-famous artist, she is not yet known to the general public in Europe. Aged 86, this Colombian artist has been making art for more than 60 years. People call her a ‘textile artist‘ or a ‘fiber artist‘ but she’s more than that. She started off by making traditional tapestries.  In the 60’s she gained fame by exposing her fiber pieces in a group show at the MOMA in New York. Before then, the rooms of the MOMA were only intended to show paintings or sculptures. At that time textile art wasn’t appreciated as it is today. De Amaral played an important role in showing people that textiles can be a form of art rather than just a craft.

La Patinoire Royale – Galerie Valérie Bach is currently hosting the first Belgian retrospective of Olga de Amaral, displaying no less than 40 artworks as well as a video called ‘The House of My Imagination’.

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Djamel Merbah – Couleurs d’argile

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Djamel Merbah

Hello! Once again, there is a lot of art to see in Brussels this time of the year. My ‘things to visit’-list is growing almost every day. Besides the main exhibitions at Bozar, Wiels and other big museums, I also want to pay attention to artwork from less known artists. That’s why it seemed worth the effort to check out the work of Djamel Merbah at Espace Magh.

Djamel Merbah was born in Algeria in 1949 and came to Belgium in the 70’s. He graduated at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Art in Brussels and Liège and did several exhibitions in Algeria and Europe. So let’s see what his work is about! (Please note that the paintings where only numbered, so I can’t give you any titles.)

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My resolutions for 2016

Happy New Year! What would you like to change or achieve this year? I was never a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but this year I do feel the need to think about what goals I would like to achieve. My boyfriend’s grandfather once told me that it’s important to have a goal in your life. I never forgot this sentence and the older I get, the more I think that he’s right!

I’m pretty sure that 2016 will be an exciting year for me. Tomorrow I’m starting a new job and in a few months we are moving to a different part of town. Of course we are not leaving Brussels 😉 . We need to do some renovations so I’m curious how that is going to work out. For now, we already started reading books about interior design to have an idea how we want it. A little dreaming never hurt anyone… These are my resolutions for 2016:

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I want to see as much art exhibitions as possible, even if I am too busy with work or other things.

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Top 3 current expositions in Brussels

As you know, Brussels has a lot to offer when it comes to modern and contemporary art. The New York Times even wrote that Brussels is the new Berlin because it attracts a lot of international artists. You can find the full article here. In the past months I visited several exhibitions and art galleries. I didn’t have time to see everything on my list, but these are the 3 exhibitions I think you shouldn’t miss:

1. I BELGI. BARBARI E POETI

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If there is one thing we Belgians can be proud of, it’s that we have a lot of artists that made it in the international art world. From the modern masters like Permeke, Magritte, Broodthaers, Spilliaert or Alechinsky, to the new generation like Koen Vanmechelen, Berlinde De Bruyckere or even Hell’o Monsters. The exhibition focuses on the barbaric, unique, crazy, poetic, playful and unusual work of these Belgian artists. Think about dancing skeletons, a tattooed Jesus or a face made of little plastic soldiers. I love it! See more pictures and video’s here. You can visit the expo until 24 January 2016 in the Vanderborght building in Brussels.

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I Belgi – Barbari e poeti

Last weekend I visited an exhibition about Belgian art in the Vanderborght building in Brussels, called I BELGI – BARBARI E POETI. What? It’s Italian for ‘The Belgians, Barbarians and Poets’. I love the concept of this expo! It’s about  the barbaric, unique, crazy, poetic, playful and unusual work of Belgian artists. The title is in Italian because in Rome, Caesar once said that Belgian warriors are the most barbaric and fearless of them all. The expo shows old famous artworks, like Permeke, Magritte, Spilliaert, Broodthaers, as well as the new generation, like Koen Vanmechelen, Berlinde De Bruyckere and even Hell’o Monsters. It was the first time I visited the Vanderborght building, and I was pleasantly surprised. I wonder what will happen to the building, since the government is planning to sell it. These are a few of my favorite artworks:

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Funeral Fish, 2015 by Pascal Bernier.

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Getting married in Brussels: henna ritual

Hello everyone! Do you know what I like most about living in Brussels? That I get to meet lots of people from different cultures with different traditions. A friend of mine was getting married and since she told me it was going to be a mixed Moroccan-European wedding, I wanted to know all about the Moroccan wedding traditions 🙂 . She invited me to witness the henna ritual and gave me permission to take pictures!

The henna ritual is an importent element of a Muslim wedding, not only in Morocco but also in Turkey, Pakistan and so on. A few days before the wedding, a professional henna artist applies the henna on the bride’s hands and feet. Depending on the region where the bride’s family comes from, there are different patterns and styles to choose from. In the pictures and video you will see a Tanger inspired version.

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Expo Koen Theys & Gülsün Karamustafa

The Brussels museums are slowly reopening their doors, so I can finally tell you about an exhibition worth visiting: MYSTIC TRANSPORT @ the Centrale For Contemporary Art. In the context of the Europalia Arts Festival, whose focus is on Turkey, the Centrale invited the Brussels artist Koen Theys & the Turkish artist Gülsün Karamustafa. The result is an interesting mix of cultures. I would say that the expo is about how to live as an individual in a society with different cultures, that is constantly changing.

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Corner pieces, Koen Theys. There are many of these green ‘humps’ in the exhibition space. They have like little heads that are watching us. It makes me thinks of some kind of bacteria that can infect us all if we are not careful 🙂 .

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What to do in Brussels when all the museums are closed?

As you all know, there is not much to do in the city this weekend due to the terror threat level 4. Almost all public places are closed and there are no metros, so I have no other choice than to stay home. Hopefully it will pass very soon so we can go back to a normal life again…

I found the perfect pastime for this Sunday: a documentary that is called How Art Made The World, made in 2005 by BBC. I borrowed the dvd in Muntpunt (also closed this weekend). There are 5 dvd’s, good for 270 minutes of entertainment 🙂 . I only watched 2 of them so far, but I’m ready to install myself on the couch with a cup of tea and some chocolate. Let’s see a little fragment so that I can convince you it’s worth watching. 

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A must-see documentary

“People are the salt of the earth.”

This quote is from the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. I saw a documentary about him a few months ago, called The Salth of the Earth.  Before I say anything, maybe you should watch the trailer first.

I find it difficult to describe how I felt watching this film. The word that comes in my head is sublime.  I’m very careful about using that word, because it should only be used for very special and rare experiences. For me, it means that something is so extraordinary that it makes you feel blown away and emotionally destabilized. I dare to say that Salgados photography comes very close to the sublime for me

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