A Moving Image Biennale in Mechelen
August 29–November 8, 2015
Press preview: August 27, 2015
Curator: Nicola Setari
“We asked him many questions concerning all these things, to which he answered very willingly; we made no inquiries after monsters, than which nothing is more common; for everywhere one may hear of ravenous dogs and wolves, and cruel men-eaters, but it is not so easy to find states that are well and wisely governed.”
–Thomas More, Utopia
Why do monsters continue to populate visual cultures and discourses? Is it because, as verbal icons and visual signifiers, they act as shortcuts to access and express fears and anxieties? Or is it because they are needed to conjure omens of what will come, to serve as warnings and destabilizers of rationalistic and secular mind frames?
Martyrs, for their part, make the headlines almost as regularly. They appear on the front pages, reminding everyone that there are lives that so thoroughly embrace their beliefs that they are willing to become self-sacrificing signs. Can the nature of their resolution, caught as it is in cultural and existential knots, be unraveled? And why is it that victims can be forgotten, while martyrs are meant to be remembered?
Most importantly, the distinction between martyrs and monsters blurs as they get sucked into the information maelstroms and tornados produced by the media. Can art and its predicaments unwind the vortex?
CONTOUR 7, Janus-like, will be twofold: one side musing over narratives in different media involving monsters and martyrs; the other learning from the utopias that include fools, starting from Thomas More’s.
Thomas More wrote the bulk of Utopia during a stay in Mechelen in 1515, almost 500 years ago. Nowadays regarded as a religious and political martyr, in his own day More was seen as a monster by the reformers he persecuted. Mechelen, once a major capital of the Renaissance, is not only the home of the Flemish boogie monster, de Nekker, it also became in the 20th century a dystopic site of Modernity, as the Nazis chose it to organize the deportation of Jews and Romas from Belgium to Poland.
These perhaps not so paradoxical reversals and overlaps provide the backdrop to CONTOUR 7 and to the new and existing artistic projects that will compose it.
Contour is a moving image biennale organized in the Belgian city of Mechelen since 2003. The biennale is organized by the non-profit organization Contour Mechelen. Every edition has questioned and expanded the notion of the moving image within the field of contemporary art.
The Board of Contour Mechelen has appointed Nicola Setari as curator of CONTOUR 7, the 2015 edition of the biennale. Setari is an independent curator and researcher, is professor of visual anthropology at the New Academy for Fine Arts in Milan and was an agent of dOCUMENTA (13). Curator and writer Chus Martìnez (Art Institute, Basel); iconologist and philosopher W. J. T. Mitchell (University of Chicago); and art historian and curator Hilde Van Gelder (University of Leuven) have accepted Setari’s invitation to be advisors for CONTOUR 7.