It was a forced reboot, a new beginning
Pilar is a brand new art-space in Brussels, described as an open, artistic laboratory. They are located at the VUB, so part of their mission is to create a space for cross-fertilization between art and science. Unique about the venue is that they specifically focus on generations Y and Z, 'a pillar of support for and by young people'. Expect the finest concerts, exhibitions and much more. Nina Vandenbempt and Susobrino were two of the lucky residents who spent time in this place, to work on specific projects and to grow as artists. Nina is known for her comics focusing on mental health issues on Vice. The colourful characters she paints look like they've escaped out of a fever dream, the themes of her work always hit home. Susobrino is a musician who got praised by the likes of Lefto for his authentic sound, using field recordings and found instruments. We sat down to talk about their time at Pilar, how they experienced the lockdown and future projects.
Interview by Wannes Dewit
Photos shot by Pommelien Koolen
How did you experience your residencies?
Susobrino: I only moved in very recently, so I had to take some time to settle down and decorate the place. I find it very important to feel comfortable in the place where I have to work. The place is littered with little things, a lot of found instruments and percussion things. I covered the wall in front of my desk with plastic leaves and put a mirror in the shape of a window in the middle, to have some kind of view. I also have a chess game lying around somewhere.
I had to take some time to settle down and decorate the place
Nina: My residency started last year in May and I’ve been here until June 2020. Sadly I haven’t been able to be at Pilar a big part of the time. I had quite a rough Summer and I had to be hospitalized. During this period I stayed at the mental health clinic during the week and came here for the weekends. During the lockdown, we couldn’t leave the clinic so I was stuck there. There was a small forest on the domain, where I spent a lot of time on a clearing surrounded by bushes with purple flowers.
I spent a lot of time on a clearing surrounded by bushes with purple flowers
Nina, did you notice an evolution in your work during your residency?
Nina: Yes, I really did. I made some big shifts this year, even though I couldn’t always be at Pilar. I studied illustration, so I was always stuck with this idea of 'I have to be an illustrator'. I certainly realized this year that I like to do tons of things and that it’s stupid to stick to only one. I’m currently turning my car into a sculpture about transformation for instance, or I am making a costume with a glowing crown for a performance. I try to work in function of the subject and not to start from a certain discipline or material.
You often work with mental health issues in your work, did you start to treat these subjects differently after your time at the mental health clinic?
Nina: Therapy just made a lot of the emotions I have more clear and transparent. I understand where they come from now, so it’s easier for me to work with them. I also started to incorporate my personal therapy routine in my working process. Most things I make are mainly to help myself, and hopefully also others.
Most things I make are mainly to help myself, and hopefully also others
How did you experience the lockdown?
Suso: It was going to be a very busy period for me, but it turned out quite differently. I have to say that I was also relieved because of this, suddenly I got the time to find myself again, to reinvent Susobrino. I was already playing the same live set for almost two years now, which became quite boring. I was working on new music but I never got the time to really flesh it out because I always got distracted by the concerts I was playing.
It was a forced reboot, a new beginning
Adding to this was the incident of my hard drive crashing. It was horrible, I lost a considerable amount of work. I’ve tried to recover my data for a long long time but never succeeded. That forced me to let go of my past work and start over. It was a forced reboot, a new beginning.
PILAR ASAP is a semi-annual, multidisciplinary festival with a narrative programme. Attuned to the pulse of society, we merge different artistic and scientific disciplines. At PILAR ASAP you can experience a challenging, varied offer: from exhibition, debate and workshops to concert evenings. Central to it is the work of (young) artists that you should discover as soon as possible.
Do you have suggestions for the next edition themed 'Echo' in March 2021? Send it over!