Contour Biennale 9
Waning Crescent Moon Phase
18 – 20 October 2019
‘The Waning Crescent Moon Phase’ is the last of the three public moments of ‘Coltan as Cotton’, the Contour Biennale 9. The main theme of this closing phase is the near future, but just like the moon cycle, it is understood as an ongoing transformation into present and past. Artists were commissioned to research and work on their projects for the duration of one year, which has resulted in several world premieres, presentations and performances. These works will be presented to offer insight into alliances of social or political accountability in relation to the colonial period and contemporary structural racism. Along with this, ecological and societal degrowth and aspirations for hope and propositional thinking have always been important aims. During the closing phase, the biennial will draw conclusions concerning its desire to instigate some relevant discussions for the social, ecological and political realities of the city of Mechelen, its region, and the organisation that hosts the biennial itself.
PARTICIPATING ARTISTS ‘WANING CRESCENT MOON PHASE’
Bie Michels, Call It Anything, COYOTE, Greyzone Zebra, Hikaru Fujii, Jelena Jureša, Laura Nsengiyumva, Melvin Gibbs, Natascha Sadr Haghighian and Ashkan Sepahvand, On Trade Off (Alexis Destoop, Georges Senga, Maarten Vanden Eynde), Raphaël Grisey and Bouba Touré, Robin Vanbesien, Saddie Choua, The Writers Bench.
NEW WORKS COMMISSIONED BY CONTOUR BIENNALE 9
For the project ‘Memory of Congo, in Congo and in Mechelen’, Bie Michels has confronted two histories with each other: a public monument located in Mechelen and her own personal history. In an attempt to let the past encounter the present and see further into the future of the postcolonial situation in both the Congo and Mechelen, she collaborated with a group of Belgian citizens with Congolese roots living in and around Mechelen on a proposal for a new inscription on the local sculpture by Lode Eyckermans that pays homage to 31 Belgian “pioneers who died for civilization in Congo”. The film ‘(Pas) Mon Pays, Part I and II’, is an integral part of the project, along with the installation ‘The Copy’.
Jelena Jureša’s premiere ‘Ubundu’, is a film poem inspired by the writings of W.G. Sebald and his comments on the “ugliness of Belgium” as a result of emerging amnesia and the participation of all Belgians in the exploitation of Congolese resources. Her film ‘Aphasia’ is a work about racism and intolerance that deals with the crimes committed during colonial times, the Holocaust and the atrocities in Bosnia during the Yugoslavian wars. Her work is not a call for punishment or outrage about committed crimes, but rather a call to break the collective silence and to actually look at the blind spots that seem to have become a fundamental part of our European identity.
For his new film ‘the wasp and the weather’, Robin Vanbesien has collaborated with contemporary poets and artists as well as the original authors of the poems that were published by Rzoezie, a former youth centre in Mechelen. Vanbesien asked them to read the poems while thinking about how far their words preserved the activist history of the time in which they were written (1990-2000), and to reflect upon their resonance in today’s social and political weather.
Natascha Sadr Haghighian and Ashkan Sepahvand present ‘Carbon Theater. A Planetary Drama Around Life and Non-Life. Act III: Dark Loops’. This Act III of their study Carbon Theater is ongoing since 2016, investigating the discrepancies between sensing and knowing. Each iteration of Carbon Theater unfolds from a found site and challenges the anthropocentric narratives that inform current discussions on climate change. The sound installation and listening session of Act III draws upon the site of the Fort van Walem, located between Antwerp and Mechelen, revealing its military history and its present as a nature reserve and refuge for creatures such as bats and dragonflies.
‘Sowing Somankidi Coura, a Generative Archive’ is a long-term research endeavour by Raphaël Grisey and Bouba Touré. It focuses on the permaculture and archives of Somankidi Coura, a self-organized agricultural cooperative along the Senegal River. The cooperative was founded by a group of former African migrant workers and activists in France in 1977, after the Sahel drought of 1973. Through a practice of filmmaking, archiving, publication, workshop and theatre, ‘Sowing Somankidi Coura’ engages in the articulation of liberation narratives, collective care and peasant alliances towards a denaturalisation and decolonization of development politics.
For the ongoing artistic research project On-Trade-Off and commissioned by Contour biennale 9, Georges Senga has produced a new photo series called ‘The Void / Le Vide’. The work is developed in and around abandoned mining sites and factories belonging to Gecamines, the biggest mining company in Katanga that is currently nearly bankrupt. What void is left behind after their decline in the 1980s? What void do the artisanal miners leave behind after digging tunnels with their homemade pickaxes, which ironically look like the Tesla logo? The central themes in Senga’s work are issues linked to the idea of “memory” – the memory of who we are, what we have and where we come from.
After the disaster at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident that plunged Japan into an unprecedented social, political and ecological crisis, Hikaru Fujii began his project ’Les nucléaires et les choses’. Within it, he opens the discussion up for everybody, as the subject remains one of the most important issues in current Japanese society. His lecture performance shows excerpts of his new film, about a round table discussion at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The discussion was based on a recent visit by the artist and members of the collective Call It Anything to the museum in Futaba in the zone affected by the disaster.
Visual artist, documentary filmmaker and writer Saddie Choua talks in her installation ‘Lamb Chops Should Not Be Overcooked’ about the psychophysical trauma caused by racism. The installation starts from the herb book of the Mechelen-born botanist and doctor Rembert Dodoens. Choua develops a new herbal book for Contour with special attention to trauma caused by racism and right-wing politics. Her book and installation is the result of the research that Choua conducted in the context of the Contour Biennale 9 in Mechelen.
‘Along the Coast’ is an installation by the collective Call it Anything about a visit to north-east Japan, 9 years after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear incident of 2011. The aim is to provide a record of the group’s trip, without erasing the particularities of the stories that often emerged in fits or narrative pauses. The installation is based on various documents that were gathered during the “Fukushima Walk” – photographs or series of photographs, clips from films, audio recordings – and texts written for the occasion. It is a medium that accentuates the detours, complicates the paths of approach and slows the traffic between the different worlds.
Following Samira Saleh and Shabaka Hutchings, the world renowned bassist and creative visionary Melvin Gibbs will be the last guest on ‘The Wish List’. Overturning the externally drawn boundaries between musical and other artistic forms in his work, Gibbs will perform and also present a lecture entitled ’Recombination: Modes of Creativity in the Age of the Meme.’