Marie-Noelle Dailly and Benoit Dusart from Incise aid in honing down the heap of diverse portfolios in this year’s Young Belgian Art Prize. Before the international jury deliberates the winner, Marie and Benoit analyse the ‘intellectually stimulating’ workings as a jury member. They talk politically discursive art and the undoing of a ‘neo-conceptual legacy’; touching upon what it means having Belgian and non Belgian residents alike included in the YBAP.
Generally speaking, what would you say characterizes this year’s shortlist?
Diversified and demanding, there is great quality in the propositions.
Can you talk to us about the selection process? What do you look for particularly in an artist’s portfolio ?
Ideally, we keep a completely open mind. This is difficult, especially since we already know the work of some of the artists. What we seek is a balance between discourse and the material proposal, and relevance of the issues the artist touches upon. The selection work is very demanding and intellectually stimulating. It requires both a lot of open-mindedness and concentration. One has to try to leave out the question of taste and understand the particularities of the work process. Beyond a descent into art history, political issues or social history, we must identify potentialities, be they plastic and/or conceptual, in the artist’s proposal. Evaluating based on documentation is not easy, especially as these are sometimes light in terms of images and text. The exchanges between the members of the jury are exciting because nobody leaves anything to chance. This is a very positive engagement.
If anything, what would you have liked to see more of?
Certain artists (not selected) adopted a political stance, paradoxically, that the world is unchangeable. They question things without having proved them. From our point of view, an artist with social and political pretensions should try to distort our representations and destabilize the way we think. The work must free itself from the dominant discourses and modes of explanation already used. We must not fall into easy terminology, or the hackneyed metaphor. Fortunately, there have been beautiful surprises among the exhibited artists. Particularly, the work of Emmanuel Van der Auwera comes to mind for demonstrating critical and aesthetic rigor.
What, to you, is the role played by the YBAP, both inside Belgium’s borders and beyond?
The YBAP is the best institutional recognition an artist can get in Belgium. This does not guarantee access to or even success in the art market (because these are two different things). That said, the quality of the international jury, and the importance of Bozar, offer legitimacy to the selected works, well beyond Belgian borders. Openness to foreign artists is a good thing for us: they enliven the art scene by contributing to the vitality of cities like Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp.
Looking at the shortlist, can you pinpoint any major shifts or changes in the way Belgian contemporary art is evolving?
There is no revolution, but perhaps more freedom vis-à-vis the neo-conceptual legacy. This is better assimilated by young artists and, at the same time, more easily put away. Painting has not disappeared. In addition, “Belgian art” does not exist as such. On the contrary, the idea that it is open and uninhibited is one of its strong feats.The Young Belgian Art Prize finalists are exhibited at BOZAR until September 13th, 2015. bozar.be Feature Image: Emmanuel Van der Auwera. ‘Exhibition View.’ Copyright Philippe De Gobert