The project Personne et Les Autres, conceived by the Belgian artist Vincent Meessen, together with the international curator Katerina Gregos, will represent Belgium at the 56th Venice Biennale.
The exhibition takes the history of the Belgian Pavilion and the international context of the Biennale (both derived from the colonial exhibitions and world expositions) as points of departure. The title of the exhibition, Personne et Les Autres, is borrowed from a lost play by André Frankin, the Belgian Letterist and Situationist. The exhibition aims to challenge the Eurocentric idea of modernity by examining a shared avant-garde heritage and artistic, intellectual cross-pollination between Europe and Africa, while also challenging traditional notions of national representation at the Venice Biennale.
Belgium’s colonial history and its strategic role in Situationist International are a crucial backdrop in understanding 20th-century political and artistic avant-gardes. In exploring this aspect of Situationism and Euro-African relationships, Personne et les Autres uncovers hidden episodes of art history, music, cultural memory and activism.
The presentation at the Belgian Pavilion will probe the colonial history and legacy of Belgium and present practices that reveal unknown micro-histories and inter-relationships in the avant- gardes in Africa and Europe. One of the key issues that the exhibition will highlight is the range of different and often hybrid forms, cultural and intellectual, that were produced as a result of colonial encounters.
The exhibition focuses not on the colonial history of Congo and Belgium, but on colonial modernity and its ongoing relation to artistic and intellectual radicalism. Exploring both adverse and positive cultural outcomes of colonial history, the exhibition reveals artistic and intellectual dialogues between Europe and Africa under colonization, during African liberation movements and especially in the aftermath of post- colonial independence.
Central to the concept of the presentation at the Belgian Pavilion is the work of Vincent Meessen and his long-term research into the question of colonial modernity. Nonetheless the artist’s project moves away from the traditional format of a solo show and opens up the Pavilion to include multiple positions and voices. He and the curator Katerina Gregos have developed a thematic group exhibition and invited a dozen international artists to participate, including artists from the Americas, Africa, and Asia as well as Europe, whose work has probed the issue of colonial modernity. Participating artists, include: Mathieu K. Abonnenc, Sammy Baloji, James Beckett, Elisabetta Benassi, Patrick Bernier & Olive Martin, Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhoj, Maryam Jafri, Vincent Meessen and Adam Pendleton, among others.
- Olive & Patrick, L'Echiquete (Checkered Chess), 2012, pieces and chessboard, Photo by Olive Martin
- Vincent Meessen, Location Photograph for 'Un-Deux-Trois', Kinshasa, 2-14; Courtesy of the artist and Normal