Category Archives: projects

Exhibition at Argos Brussels – 12 May – 15 July 2018


Opening Saturday 12.05.2018 – 18:00 – 21:00

In the work of Bie Michels, based in Belgium, and the French Marie Voignier, the focus is on observing and registering the ‘other’. In their videos, photographs and sculptures, both artists openly question their own position with regard to their subject. Juggling with narrative structures, Michels and Voignier subvert the dominant Western perspective and the myth of the unequivocal story.

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For three years, Michels has been working with local craftsmen, artists and organisations in Antananarivo (Madagascar). The three-channel video installation ‘La couleur de la brique’ (2017) and a monumental brick sculpture explore the links between earth and humans, object and body, handicraft and tradition (the installation is made in collaboration with jobseekers who are currenty following mansonry training at VDAB, the public employment service of Flanders). With the installation ‘Ingahy Kama’ (2018), she fictionalizes a pioneering missionary who introduced bricks in Antananarivo. From there, Michels develops a complex anthropological narrative about economic and religious values in a (post)colonial context.

In three video installations Marie Voignier, too, analyses her position with regard to the subjects she films. ‘Hearing the Shape of a Drum’ (2011) documents the media circus that surrounded an incest court case in Austria (the Josef Fritzl case). For the press, the accused remained ‘invisible’, which forced scores of journalists to film each other. In ‘L’Hypothèse du Mokélé M’Bembé’ (2011), we cross the jungle of southeast Cameroon in search of an unknown, mythical animal. This metaphor echoes local longings in the context of contemporary Africa. For ‘Tourisme International’ (2014), Voignier travelled to North Korea. How does a dictatorial regime present itself to tourists? What kind of mise en scène does it stage? Once more, the result is a tremendous tension between the various layers of interpretation that are presented to the public.

Sun 13.5.2018 – Sun 15.7.2018
  • Argos
    Werfstraat 13 rue du Chantier
    1000 Brussels
    +32 2 229 00 03
    Opening hours:
    Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 to 18:00
    NEW: Open late night until 21:00 every first Wednesday of the month.

Exhibition in Is’Art Gallery Antananarivo Madagascar October 2017


Exhibition of my film ‘La couleur de la brique’
Text and making process, see below

with work of Malagasy artists whom I asked to make work about the object brick in his historical, cultural or social context

Construction and opening of the exhibition

‘The Colour of Bricks’, a film and art project in Madagascar

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‘The Colour of Bricks’ is a participative and intercultural art project. I’m working on it already for 3 years now, and that’s still in process. Content-wise, the project is  supported by Petra Van Brabandt from the research group Art& Narrativity at St. Lucas School of Arts Antwerp.

It is an anthropological art act, including its ethical/aesthetic dimensions in a postcolonial context, starting from the brick culture in Antananarivo (Madagascar). The brick as both object and point of departure for understanding the cultural context, in interaction with local workers, artists, an anthropologist. A total installation featuring my film installation and answers (art works) by the participating Madagascan artists.

Workshop with bricks at ‘La Digue’ in Antananarivo (MG), July 2016.
I thought interaction with artists would be a good start to help me how to look. The workshop took place at the site of the brick production. The objective was to arrive – through improvisations and physical interactions – at personal meanings and stories, and reflections on the brick and on (class) society. This sometimes resulted in estranging movements and symbolic contemplations.

Filming at Brick site at ‘La Digue’ in Antananarivo (MG), July 2016.
The beautiful brick site seems a fictional world with unidentifiable settlements and strange architectural forms. Through an interpreter, I had down-to-earth conversations with the brick workers about their craft, economy and land distribution.

Works of invited artists to participate to the project. They will formulate an answer to my images.

More text: Bricks in Madagascar

Bricks in Madagascar

A research project coached by Petra Van Brabandt (Sint Lukas Antwerp) for which I will film and talk with people in Madagascar in july 2016, in collaboration with CRAAM (centre de ressources des arts actuels de Madagascar)

Aesthetics versus politics of the image in the ‘anthropological art act’ and its ethical issues.
My interest in stone (brick or natural stone) is the direct result of my previous projects, in which I examined the relationship between man and thing. When philosophising about things, starting from their personal thoughts and culture, often the ‘stone’ was introduced as a thing that cannot be considered an object in any obvious way.

In Madagascar, the ancient process of making bricks (+/- 5000 years old) is still omnipresent. The stirring in the clay ground, forming in the mould, drying in the sun, baking on the spot in stupa-like structures and the construction of the little houses which are made directly from the ground, of course in the same colour, is a process that can be seen everywhere, both in the middle of the city and in the highlands. Everywhere, the straight line from soil to house is very strikingly present.
This small portable brick is very interesting as a starting point for my research. It’s an object that becomes part of a building and therefore part of an environment. Exactly fitting into the human hand, it is the bearer of human scale and intimacy and it has a profound impact on the shape and texture of buildings and decorations that are made with it. A poetic object that reflects a society and its social structures.

With this anthropological question of the brick in Madagascar, it is important not to lapse into the ‘desire for primitivism’, since that way, other cultures become a fetish object.
With ‘Bricks in Madagascar’, I want to explore the limits, possibilities and problems of the ‘anthropological art act’.

My goal is to shape my art project as an experimental ethnography. How do I translate the social given into a work of art; and are my (ethical) relations with the people part of the art act?  The above considerations are even more acute given the postcolonial context, but the latter also brings a second problem into focus, namely the relationship between the aesthetic and the political dimensions of the image in the anthropological art act.

So I will take on the dialogue and immerse myself in local situations and let events/actors co-determine the choices I will make, to eventually achieve a multimedia art installation. Film fragments (images and conversations), objects, drawings and texts will form a reconstruction or evocation of these events.
Through a structural minimalism I seek another realism than that of objective documentary or narrative film. By replacing truth by manipulation and probability, there arises uncertainty about reality, location, time, but I will try that the image touches a deeper philosophical dimension that remains open to interpretation.

Contributions of local artists that touch the project will be possible. To become an interaction, I will organize a meeting and two workshops in CRAAM in which will be reflected on the object in general, and more specific on the brick. The first workshop will be based on the performance ‘End to End’ that I developed with the artist group ‘Performing Objects’ in Shanghai and in work sessions of before and later. The second workshop, that I developed especially for this project, will take place at the site of the fabrication of the bricks in Antananarivo. Sociological, philosophical, ecological questions of the brick in Madagascar will play a role. The participants will pile up bricks or place them on the soil, demarcating space and interacting with the space and the conditions around, and so making a temporary construction. This workshop was tested with some artists of Performing Objects.

16 Mai 2016, Baksteen workshop – Test in Lezze,
a restored drying shed of the former brick factory van Peeters – Van Mechelen in Boom:

with met Kristof Van Gestel, Dimitri Vangrunderbeek, Nico Van Dijck en Danny Vercauteren