The Brussels Centrale for Contemporary Art welcomes
BXL Universel, a subjective and sentimental story about our capital – a place where sense and nonsense, opposing sensitivities, collide in humour and contrary points of view; a place of dialogue between folkloristic traditions and contemporary creativity.
BXL Universel exhibits the spirit of Brussels captured in archive documents, films, photographs and original creations by artists who live and work in our capital.
, BXL Universel
will be closing the Centrale
anniversary year. It is the first of a trilogy that celebrates Brussels by zooming in on its inhabitants, its artists and its singularity. Two other exhibitions will follow, on the topics of multiculturalism and the utopic city, in 2019 and in 2022 respectively.
The 1958 Brussels World Fair
Starting-point for this exhibition: 1958, the year of Expo ‘58
, the big construction projects, Brusselization and, of course, the Atomium
, the universal symbol that everyone embraced, not in the least the Austrian artist Franz Gsellmann,
who put the Atomium at the heart of his Weltmaschine (machine of the world)
. Close by this peculiar structure, the iconic poster by Lucien De Roeck
and several other documents share a first room. They depict a time when the "Bruxellois" dreamt of travelling and freedom. In the adjoining room: Manneken-Pis revisited by Thomas Lerooy
, which recalls the macabre universe by James Ensor
On continuing our tour, we discover music by Brel
, the puppet theatre of Toone
and that of ‘The Marriage of Mademoiselle Beulemens’, Elvis Pompilio
’s hats and drawings by Kroll
. On the other side, a photograph with Marcel Broodthaers
striking a pose with a camel in front of the entrance to the Palais des Beaux-Arts. We then wander past the fritkot of the place Sainte-Catherine, as painted by Gillis Houben
, we hear buddies Fred Jannin
and Stefan Liberski
exchange Brussels’ invectives and we pass La Tour de Brol
by Frédéric Etienne
All these artifacts are scattered to the four winds by Christoph Fink
's Vortex of Bliss,
an imposing cylindrical giant whose head – the line of time in the history of mankind - dissolves into movement and noise before making room for contemporary creations. The photographs by Vincen Beeckman
show Brussels as a historic melting pot. The pictures by Marie-Françoise Plissart
reveal our capital’s buildings and architecture. The impressive piano of Charlemagne Palestine
is adorned with second-hand stuffed animals, Palestine’s muses, divinities and gods. The Story Generator
by Ana Torfs
catalogues 500 years of Brussels history captured in 500 fiches – the evocation of an economic and political power acquired to the disadvantage of other territories and poor people.
South African artist Kendell Geers
warns us against the alienation that objects, images and situations can generate with an unprecedented array of mummified, red- and white-striped objects. It’s unclear whether they censor, protect or warn us against a danger. Ann Veronica Janssens
turns Brussels into an immersive and poetic experience, in her real-time film from the roof of the Centrale
. To conclude this journey, there’s "the language of flowers and silent things
", as Baudelaire
calls it: an installation about the plants of Brussels, where artist Lise Duclaux invites visitors to adopt one of the plants.
In this way, this subjective story ends. This portrait of our collective memory of Brussels; made up of connections and confrontations, of a tradition that has since become art, often art to laugh at, sometimes art to denounce, yet always with this message to not take oneself too seriously. That’s a bit what Brussels
is, a strip of land between reality and joyful fiction where a city draws its outlines on a fabric of tasty anecdotes, often many times rehashed, sometimes entangled in a difficulty to reinvent itself to the point of becoming a caricature.
Centrale for Contemporary Art
44 place Sainte-Catherine
Until 26 March 2017
Wednesdays - Sundays, from 10:30h to 18:00h