This summer, BOZAR is hosting Somewhere In Between, a cutting-edge exhibition which celebrates the vast array of art practices in Europe and tells the stories of anyone who’s someone in the diverse world of European contemporary art. In collaboration with several artistic constellations, from Belgium and further afield, it showcases the artistic dialogue taking place in the continent today. In an exhibition consisting of 104 artworks, 74 artists and 25 curators, it can be difficult to root out the best of the best. So to make navigating through their expansive exhibition easier, we’ve hand-picked five reasons why you simply cannot miss this.
Rather than being bound by space or time, Somewhere in Between: Contemporary art scenes in Europe is shaped by the relations between artists across the continent as a meditation on Europeanness and its widespread artistic network. Starting in the 70s, this already-existent phenomenon allowed artists to work outside the usual boundaries set by geographical restrictions and institutional constraints, the result being the creation of new types of alliances between nationalities and cities, from Brussels to Riga, Prague to Athens, Kraków to Lisbon, Tbilisi to Rotterdam. With this came the support for an international platform for artists by non-profit organisations, set up and driven by artists, curators and committed cultural players, which wasn’t influenced by market value, big names or selling out.
However, these capitalistic values have recently started to seep through into the international visual art’s world, pressuring these independent supporters to take economic and political interests into account. BOZAR’s exhibition critically analyses this evolution, as well as its own role as a central institute in the European art world within this shift in balance. It also works with a handful of independent artistic constellations to analyse and understand the various elements which both influence and are influenced by this network.
The first artistic player, Etablissement d’en face, literally “en face” or across the street from BOZAR, considers the economic strains on independent art supportives. At the time when the art industry began to rely more heavily on economic motives and financial support from private and public bodies, Greek collective LIFE SPORT introduced an original and innovative way to remain independent. This exhibition showcases the collective’s work and allows outsiders an insight into its operation, which now generates its own income through its “sweatpants shop”. The concept is a paradox in itself, as tracksuit bottoms are seen by some as the symbol of the jobless youth, by others as the emancipators of the successful. In this context, however, it represents victory.
The second Brussels-based collaborator, Komplot, asked several curators from its network to present a selection of artists, whose works reflect on the social and natural context in which they operate. For their series Disorder, the independent art space is collaborating with the Montecristo Project, a curatorial exhibition space on a deserted island along the Sardinian coasts. Relating to the overriding theme of analysing today’s European artistic hotbeds, the development of their network and the conversations between these artists, Disorder seeks to understand not only the friendships and relationships this creates but also analyses the underlying insularity and isolation that sometimes comes with it.
Lastly, Ixelle’s La Loge presents a series of publications for the Somewhere In Between exhibition. LOOK is a direct reflection on its own format, practice and attitude. Its first release specifically highlights BOZAR’s concept in understanding its institutional ethics and the elements which play a role in the organisation of an art supportive. In printed format, this project allows the work to be more dynamic than it would be in the static, physical workspace of La Loge, allowing the context to be explored further afield.
From Ghent, KASK, its Kunstenbibliotheek and Curatorial Studies’ postgraduate students are taking on the challenge of investigating the up-and-coming contemporary art scenes on the continent. Dividing themselves into groups, they systematically analyse Europe’s art industry, either from a geographical approach or by focusing on genres and movements. The research is bound by archive footage, interviews, questionnaires, studio visits and results in a dynamic and decentralised view of the cultural business in Europe, confirming that borders are merely a creation of our deeply rooted institutionalisation and that they don’t obstruct the network from reaching all corners of the continent. Through installations – for which some of them have invited artists – they present the results of their wide-ranged, pertinent research at the BOZAR exhibition.
Lastly, Orient proves that the existing network connects independent art institutes across borders. Taking BOZAR’s initial ideas abroad, it also provides the opportunity for several artists to showcase their work in new geographical contexts. In collaboration with Polish contemporary art centre’s Kim? Contemporary Art Center in Riga and Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art in Kraków, Orient is directed by Michal Novotný, whose curatorial research focusses on the concept of group exhibition as a relation between the individual artwork and the whole agglomerate.
Orient attempts to give access to the bloc to connect to the Western European art scene – the title itself is a self-ironic projection of the region’s identity, reflecting upon the inferiority complex it possibly has in relation to “the West”. The exhibition’s meditation on the selfhood of Eastern Europe concludes that it’s the unsettled region’s failure to understand and therefore suppress its own identity that consequentially is the glue that holds all the nations together. Orient questions whether the internal struggle with identity that becomes patriotism and their non-conformist attitudes towards democracies leading to the creation of far-right movements couldn’t meet each other halfway to become a virtue and not a vice. In a five-part subjective journey which tells the story of the region since the 80s, this exhibition hopes to inform and eventually inspire the “wayward children of Europe”. It doesn’t aim for equality, but for inclusion instead.Somewhere in Between: Contemporary art scenes in Europe runs until Sunday 19th August. bozar.be