Nathalie Vanheule on her group show En Flamme

With “En Flamme” – an exhibition that explores the possibilities of the theme decay, destruction, construction and passion – closing this Sunday at Firma in Vilvoorde, we sit down with the show’s curator Nathalie Vanheule (1980, Poperinge) to discuss sharing, exchanging and how individualism and narcissism are out.

Can you talk to us about the exhibition? What were its starting points?

‘En Flamme’ is themed around decay, destruction, construction and passion. After a late night drive to Firma from Paris on the 12th of November, there was a discussion about the possibility of an exhibition in the space. Then the idea of a group show came to mind. As an artist, the desire to share things with others is only logical. In my opinion, it makes projects more profound and interesting. An exhibition is also a full event in itself. The artists come into contact with each other to exchange ideas. Beauty, intelligence and sensitivity become sharper and grief becomes smaller. The theme highlights the changes that we felt that night on the 12th of November, a dark night before an even darker one during the attacks in Paris. The exhibition is about destruction, construction and passion, but also about sharing and the search for connection in reaction to the chaos and changes we feel around us.

How a sculpture becomes a video- Joris Van de Moortel-2016

How does the exhibition’s name help to evoke its content?

“En Flamme’ is the literal translation of ‘In Flames’. Fire has the ability to destroy as well as to construct. Furthermore, ‘Standing in fire’ also means passion. And these are exactly the concepts the artists drew their inspiration from. All of them share a great love for the arts. Individualism and narcissism are out; sharing is the new big thing. Through cooperation  construction, decline, reconstruction, energy and passion are ignited. Passion makes art. Passion brings us together.

How would you describe the majority of the works on show? In a more general sense, how would you describe the artist’s work, his approach and aesthetic?

En Flamme is a group exhibition in the new art space Firma in Vilvoorde, where artists are invited from Paris, Berlin, Antwerp, Ghent and Kortrijk to work together. Definitions are redefined. Perfection is out. We are looking for harmony and community spirit. This desire for change and reform is clearly reflected in the works of the selected artists.

Hannelore Van Dijck

In terms of approach, how did you go about producing the show? How involved were the artist? How closely did you work with him/her? Can you talk to us about the selection process?

The artists for En Flamme are inflamed in their art. We are over the individuality and ego nowadays. Joachim Coucke (curator for DASH) and Christof Zwiener (curator of group shows in Berlin) combine the job of artist and curator, like me. They are great artists and have great taste. It is very natural to share your energy as an artist with others, and give them a platform. It is magical that all those great contemporary artists pop up with off spaces and group shows. We can be someone if we grow with each other.

As a curator, how important is your relationship with the exhibited artist?

We have to enjoy exhibiting together, it’s the most crucial aspect of a collaboration. Once I jokingly told the artists that I wanted them to dance and have fun at the exhibition’s afterparty, and if they didn’t, I would never curate them anymore. They danced.

From research to scenography, can you discuss the various different people involved in the show?

The artists use different media and space in the exhibition. They all use different aspects of the building. Christof Zwiener placed his sculpture on the floor, Joachim Coucke makes use of the enormous windows, Bianca Bondi uses the ceiling. Stefan and I placed our works on the wall, and used part of the floor for our installation. Joris Van de Moortel employs the ground, but finds connection with the wall in his sculpture that is also a projection of a video of his performances. The entire set up proves a fluency, and visitors clearly notice how synchronised the artists worked with each other.

rehearsals- STEFAN PETERS- full HD video with sound-6min-2015

As a curator, how do you select the artists whom you’d like to exhibit? Would you say your shows all have somewhat of a common denominator to them?

I lock myself in my workspace for a couple of days without technology and reflect in silence about the theme. It’s basically the same method I use while creating a piece of art. I visualise the artworks in my head over and over, and when I have the dream line-up, I contact them. I only listen to my heart in my choices to select or build an exhibition. It is very personal and emotional. All my exhibitions have a kind of a rebellion and difficulty hidden inside, with themes people don’t want to be confronted with at first sight.

En Flamme
Until 20th May
Firma, Vilvoorde