The urban landscape of Brussels is a spectacle of contrasts and paradoxes: “a body convulsed by hysteria” as described by Gery Leloutre. How can we inhabit the chaos resulting from the transformations that occurred in the post-war period and that made a lasting imprint on collective consciousness? With the films Mall of Europe by the artist Emma van der Put—that revisits the 1958 Brussels World's Fair—and Altogether by Herman Asselberghs, this fourth and last chapter of the programme aims to give a contemporary outline of the heritage left by modernist utopias, and explores how the impasse of modernity can now be inhabited. This evening moderated by Gery Leloutre aims to open up a dialogue on the possible ways in which we can live in urban spaces, and touches upon the notion of “demodernizing” the public space.
The event was supplemented by the online screening of Our City by Maria Tarantino available on our platform during the week of the event.
Screening of Altogether, a film by Herman Asselberghs, 2008, 17min
“The future is dark which is, on the whole, the best thing the future can be, I think.” With this observation as a starting-point, Altogether fully acknowledges the ideological impasse of the post 68-era. The symbolic presence of flags and historical buildings, and of maintaining (national) capitals as such has become arguable; projected into the (near) future, they appear in a most uncertain light, and the cinematographic language underlines this: fragmented and associative, shot in black and white, the video shows sketchy images of urban scenery, some of them shot with a moving cell-phone camera on a car ride through Brussels. But what we actually see is a shadowy abstraction of a city which gives the impression of a negative space whose virtual character is no longer theorised using a voice-over, but can be found in the image itself. There is no speech, only sound. Approaching its climax, the film advances towards the collapse of the visible, leaving the viewer “locked in” inside the current situation: fully aware of the (uncertain) future to come, wondering whether he or she will be capable of exerting any influence on it.
Screening of Mall of Europe, a film by Emma van der Put, 2018, 26min
Mall of Europe is a reflection on the current Brussels Expo area, where in the past several World Fairs were held. Build as a stage for representing the “state of the world”, Expo ’58 was displaying ideal ways of living and hopes for a prosperous future made possible by technology. Now echoes of these ideas can be found in the still inhabited modernist “Model Neighborhood”. Current plans for the modernization of the Brussels Expo area, which are ought to be completed in 2021, will add a new chapter to the thinking about an ideal society.
ONLINE screening of Our City, a film by Maria Tarantino, 2014, 83min
This is Brussels, the capital of Europe, a city of concrete cages wrapped in glass, planned by businessmen and politicians, set in motion by construction workers, and animated by office people. But there, in the narrow spaces just beyond the reach of bureaucracy, lies the Brussels that still breathes. You can hear its multicultural heart beating and see the traces of all the other cities, the ones each person carries within him/herself. All of us together add up to create the complex body and dissonant identity of Our City.
Herman Asselberghs (°1962) is a Brussels-based visual artist, filmmaker and mediacritic whose work focuses on the questioning of complex relationship and border areas between sound and image, world and media, poetry and politics. He occasionally publishes on film and visual culture and teaches at the film department of Hogeschool Sint-Lukas Brussel. In 2006, he founded the Brussels-based production and distribution platform Auguste Orts together with Sven Augustijnen, Manon de Boer and Anouk De Clercq.
Gery Leloutre (°1979) is an architect (Horta Institute for Architecture, Brussels, 2002), urban planner (KULeuven, 2006) in Brussels, and active in the design office Karbon' that he co-created in 2008. As a leading professor at the ULB Faculty of Architecture, he’s combining an architectural practice with an in-depth theoretical reflexion about the city. He completed a doctoral thesis, jointly with the ULB and the IUAV in Venice, on the modus operandi of city building in Brussels in the middle of the 20th century. He continues to reflect on Brussels and urban planning, sharing his insights in an integrated way through a combination of teaching, conducting research and article writing, and practice.
Maria Tarantino (°1972) studied philosophy in Scotland and Italy before settling down in Belgium, where she gradually moves from philosophy to journalism. In Brussels she works for the press, radio and television for several years. It's her program for the VRT about young documentary-makers from all over the world (The World of Tarantino) that inspires her to quit journalism for cinema. In 2009, Maria Tarantino sets up the production house WILDUNDOMESTICATED and begins the adventure of the feature-length documentary Our City, which has been completed five years later.
Emma van der Put’s (°1988) videos create fleeting impressions of reality and frictions between movement and frozen moments. Without any apparent narrative structures, her recent work has focused on public spaces, and the confrontation between what was an optimistic, modernist conception of the future, and the contemporary reality of Brussels, where she has worked since 2014. She studied at AKV St. Joost, ‘s-Hertogenbosch (2006-2010) and was a participant at De Ateliers in Amsterdam (2010-2012). She was an artist in residence at Lokaal 01, Antwerp (2014) and at WIELS, Brussels (2014). Recent shows and screenings include: Mu.ZEE, Ostend (2020); Atelierhaus Klingental, Basel (2019); A Tale of a Tub, Rotterdam (2018) and Antwerp Art Weekend (2017).