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