Bye bye paper membership cards
Amid the clanging cacophony of cranes and towering container ships, the vastness of an old industrial harbor in Bruges will soon flourish into a lush creative oasis, hosting the first ever edition of the multidisciplinary in-situ arts festival KONVOOI, the most recent creative venture of Het Entrepot. With windmills dotting the late-summer skyline, a synergy of art, music, theatre and performance aims to shed new light on Bruges’ industrial landscape. In preparation for the festival, we caught up with five artist collectives who were given carte blanche to curate the festival and build an innovative art-route along the harbor. Meet Kolijn Jagersma, studio mxmxm, PLAN B, f.o.t.a. and Astrid Collective, the creative talents behind Het Entrepot’s wonderfest KONVOOI.
Interviews by Silvija Daniunaite
Photo shot by Lisa Elean
I try to give people an opportunity to shape their own experience,
challenging them to step out of their comfort zone
How would you describe your own work as an artist?
I’m interested in the way audiences can play an integral role in installations. The idea of consuming art as a passive act seems old-fashioned to me. Most of the time when you consume art you already know what your experience is going to be like. You buy a ticket for a theatre play, reserve a seat, you know what time the show starts and ends, when the lights go out, when you need to clap. Same for a museum – you go inside, there’s a reception, you get a map, you walk the route, you end at the giftshop and discuss how pricey all the merchandise is. Almost everything is planned out beforehand. Why restrict ourselves to this boring repetition? I try to give people an opportunity to shape their own experience, challenging them to step out of their comfort zone. This way, consumption of art becomes a personal story, instead of a retelling of a story you’ve heard a thousand times before. In my work I try to give people a set of rules, or ingredients, and within those rules they can experiment freely. This forces the audience to actively engage with the work and turns them from passive spectators into active participants, thinking about the choices they make along the way.
What is your role in KONVOOI and what are you bringing to the festival?
In my work for KONVOOI festival, people will walk a route, which they can design themselves.The route is called ‘Your Choice’. Walking the route, the audience will make radical decisions. Do I go left or right? Do I choose for audio or visual stimulation? For example, participants will encounter two rooms and may only choose to enter one of them. My route will be open 2,5 hours each day. I hope people taking part in the route will have a fun experience that also makes them think more critically about the way art is usually presented. In general, I would really like it if people asked questions about the how and the why of what they see during the festival. Aside from this, I am also partly responsible for the programming of the festival. I’ll be bringing some international artists, mainly from Rotterdam, who focus on music, site specific art works, performance art and theatre.
Photo shot by Pauline Colleu
Jason Slabbynck (photo) x Benjamien Lycke
Our work is an attempt to give people a new language, new ideas and new perspectives
What is it that you aspire to achieve with your work?
JS & BL: The most important thing for us is that we want to bring a readable story – one that people can see, understand and relate to. Our work is a poetic reflection on themes we think are important to focus on. They stem from our own interest, but we hope we can bring that interest to other people, too. So often, artists think of one form, one crystallization of how their piece is going to look like. Ours is an attempt to create a different experience and to open a dialogue between people. To give people a new language, new ideas and new perspectives.
What are you bringing to KONVOOI and what inspired your project?
JS: In my creative process, the context is always present. KONVOOI is held at a harbor, a place which doesn’t have a lot of texture in itself. It’s far out and we’re quite disconnected from this space, but it’s very important – all the goods we need for survival we get through the harbor. We started thinking of ways to bring this place forth. Same with Europe. It’s a massive, complex structure which people find very far out, but we can’t forget about all the benefits we get from it. There is one element which physically embodies these themes: the euro-pallet. We thought it was the perfect element for building a structure, which brings an ode to both the harbor and to Europe. This led us to the Arc of Triomphe. We’re going to make a scale model of the Arc from blue-colored pallets, as a reference to Europe, but also as a way to bring some color and some texture to the harbor itself.
BL: When I started thinking about what the essence of Europe is musically, I immediately came to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The reference is so obvious, you tend to overlook it. The part we’re using is the anthem of Europe. The Arc will have four entry points, and there will always be four performers playing the reworked symphony. On the first day, it’s going to be performed with four trombones. On the second, there will be players with electronic instruments, a sort of detachment of sound production. On the last day, there’s going to be a recording – people standing with speakers in their hands, just as if they were performing. All this, to show the process of automatization, which is also part of this harbor, in the sense that it is no longer the humans actually doing the labor, but computers and machines instead.
Photo shot by Elies van Renterghem
Ewoud Vermote x Leontien Allemeersch
We challenge artists to create an artwork that is inspired by and interacting with context
PLAN B places emphasis on location-inspired work, often in public space. What’s the idea behind this approach?
Often, contemporary art practices look too much to the already-known systems and approaches to produce, support and showcase art and artists. With PLAN B, and other organizations and initiatives, we want to propose an alternative. In Bekegem, the small village where our first project – the arts festival – was organized, we got the freedom to experiment with alternative creation and presentation practices in a location-specific context. As we were working in a small village, with inhabitants that aren’t very acquainted with the contemporary art world, it was very important not to just ‘take over’ the space by cutting-and-pasting art in it. Instead, we challenged artists to create something new from their own practice, an artwork that is inspired by and interacting with this context. This way, the artist and the audience can connect to art in a different way than they would do in a museum. It gives oxygen, room for reflection, allows to see things differently. Although we moved out of Bekegem, this philosophy stays at the core of our artistic vision.
What is PLAN B bringing to KONVOOI and what inspired this project?
We will build a small tribune that will get a permanent space in the harbor, proposing another perspective to look at the landscape. It reflects that PLAN B stands for: using what’s already there, investigating the questions that a specific location asks you and shifting perspectives. It’s about taking a step back, illustrating the time and space of a place within which we find ourselves at a very specific moment, in between all the other things happening at the festival. For this work, we will collaborate with the Brussels-based artist Nikolas Lestaeghe, who will activate the landscape within that perspective. The idea is to make a series out of this, a bunch of tribunes on various locations, each time with a different artist to interact with the place.
Photo shot by Tiny Geeroms
Joris Kerremans x Laurens Mariën
A combination of conceptual ideas are transformed into a physical structure, which becomes a facilitator for other artists
At its core, what is f.o.t.a.’s work all about?
It’s a combination of conceptual ideas that are transformed into a physical architectural structure. This structure becomes a work of art on its own. After this process, we invite other artists to show their work within the structure, so the structure becomes a facilitator for others. That way, the work has different functions than just being aesthetic. Our mission is to make work that goes further than ourselves. We always try to put other artists before ourselves, as they are the most valuable human beings on this planet. But the audience is important, too. We aren’t making work for an elite group of intellectual people. On the surface, our work is easy to understand. All people can understand the form or the basic visual aspect of it, but if you want, you can delve deeper into the story, where you can discover a whole world of content that comes to life out of many layers. The work is there for all audiences, as “the audience” is the most needed entity on this planet.
What’s f.o.t.a.’s vision for KONVOOI?
For KONVOOI, we wanted to make a series of sports events where we could integrate art and sport. A lot of people value sports, but don’t see the value of art. By making a work in the language people already understand, we can trick them into participating in an artwork. While I was working on the series, I came across the work of Ilke Gers. She was already doing what we wanted to do, so in collaboration with Ilke, we decided to have three parts during KONVOOI. On Friday, there will be a performance called ‘Shadow tennis’. It’s a tennis match without a ball. Two performers, a referee and a commentator are playing tennis and the audience gets instructed on whom they should cheer for. Ilke designed the fields smartly. It starts with a tennis court, but as she puts new lines on the floor each day, the field gradually transforms. The second day is all about participation. During our slowest bike ride, people have to go as slow as possible over the finish line without putting their feet on the ground. On the last day, there will be football games with three gates instead of two. There will be a tribune, a smoke machine, lights, music, football shirts, and more. Cheaters are welcome.
Photo shot by Valerie De Backer
Carpe Diem; we need to be impulsive, otherwise it won’t be us
What best describes the essence of Astrid Collectief?
Carpe Diem. We’re living in the now. Everything we do is spontaneous and impulsive. Our friendship is important, too. It gives us so much energy to create and do things together. When somebody comes up with an idea, everyone jumps in, and gradually, it changes and develops into something new. Everybody is capable of doing different things, and so together we’re very strong. We have so many perspectives on one subject, it’s a continuous boost to our creativity. Astrid is one person with 15+ brains.
What are you bringing to KONVOOI?
Most of the curators set a specific plan of what they wanted to do, but we need to be impulsive, otherwise it won’t be us. How we’ll fill up the space is going to reveal itself at the moment we get to the festival grounds. We have a little plan, but it will most probably completely change when we get there. The only thing we have is a digging crane and two containers. And a pear tree. Our idea is to build an arts festival inside an arts festival. We want to build a fort, with a lot of different artists and artistic mediums inside, like virtual reality, music, performance, theatre, and so on. A fort built out of many small, spontaneous actions. There will be other young artists inside the fort, whom we’re collaborating with, but who aren’t announced on the KONVOOI list. You have to enter the fort to discover what’s inside. Imagine a busy tourist street where everybody is talking to you and everything is happening at the same time, complete madness and confusion. We want people to be amused and to leave with a lot of unanswered question marks.
KONVOOI Arts Festival
30 Aug. – 1 Sept.
Het Entrepot, Bruges
Free for all