From hardy Belgian women setting up of a feminist cafe in Schaerbeek to the launch of an urban lifestyle platform by the national broadcaster RTBF, we’re rounding off the year with a 25-strong selection of notable Belgian personalities who have left their mark on 2017. Following on from Parts 1 and 2, here are our final 7 for Part 3.
Photographer Eva Donckers (c).
Tom Galle for weaponising consumer culture
2017 was a very special year where I found the time to develop my own voice and work on my projects. Having started out with net art, it became clearer to me throughout the year that it made more sense for me to create social-media oriented work. My work criticises social media in a way, but at the same time it’s the main channel through which I distribute my work. You can’t make work dealing with the over-indulgence present in social media, if you don’t over-indulge yourself. There’s also a very personal critique on the corporate world, stemming from my work in advertising. In a way, everything I do is a reflection of my everyday reality. Although my works are designed to go viral, the reaction to this year’s Corp Gear project – which translates famous logos into weapons – was completely unexpected. We managed to create something that speaks to everyone and received a lot of recognition. My goal is to be at this intersection of the art world and the general public, as there’s no point in being over-intellectual. And since the majority of my work is built on “meme language”, it’s meant to reach a large number of people. But not only did we get media attention, but collectors actually wanted to buy the pieces too, which means that it looks like we might actually be heading into the “real” art world. Indeed, next year I’ll have my first proper gallery show. Thanks to its success, I’m also receiving more commercial gigs now. Brands that understand my narrative are increasingly approaching me for advertising work or social media campaign collaborations. In the end, it seems as though moving to New York four years ago was the right decision, after all.
Le Poisson Sans Bicyclette for furthering the feminist cause
We opened Le Poisson Sans Bicyclette this September, in Schaerbeek’s Maison des Femmes community centre. The space offers drinks, tapas, and a few vegetarian dishes – all based on local, sustainable products sourced from female producers – whilst also hosting a movie club, open stages, screenings of women’s sports and tastings of products created by women. At its core, our project is run by a group of women according – we’re around 20 women, all based in Brussels and hailing from all types of backgrounds – to the principles of shared governance. The space is open to everyone, and our events regularly address issues such as the deconstruction of power systems. With the launch of the café, 2017 was naturally an important year for us, with the initiative receiving widespread support, which only reinforced its necessity in today’s society. Indeed, our idea of feminism is inclusive, solidary, pro-choice, and decolonial. We’re festive militants who believe that positive initiatives and spending time with others are essential in creating change.Le Poisson Sans Bicyclette is a feminist café in Brussels that was founded by Charlotte Chantelle (33) and Amandine Chatelain (30), and which opened its doors to the public this year. Find Le Poisson Sans Bicyclette on Facebook
Marine Serre for winning the 2017 LVMH prize for fashion
In a fashion world that quickly jumps from one collection to the next, I find it important to take my time. That’s essentially why I made the conscious decision not to present a collection in September, although everyone expected me to. Two months are too short to do it justice. Everything went so quickly for me this year: my Master’s collection I did at La Cambre was bought out in February, straight after the school show. Then, I went to work for Balenciaga, and didn’t even think about creating my own brand until a few months later when I unexpectedly won the LVMH prize. Everyone’s been telling me how much of a turning point it’ll be, but I want to keep my feet on the ground. In a way, the only thing that’s really changed is the amount of recognition I get. In school, I wanted to be noticed and for people to look at what I do but now, I’m forced to tune out others or risk wasting too much valuable time. In hindsight, I’m forever grateful for my time at La Cambre and Brussels in general as, coming from Marseille, I really related to the city’s apocalyptic vibe. It’s a tough city, but its people remain accessible.French-born Marine Serre (25), a La Cambre graduate, won the LVMH prize this year, one of the most prestigious awards in the global fashion world. marineserre.com
Beursschouwburg’s The Future is Feminist team
“The future is female” is a slogan that was first popularised by 70s-era lesbian separatists, and later appropriated by popular feminism. But it’s not fitting anymore, so it’s been adapted to “the future is feminist.” We adopted it as the title for our programme focusing on feminism today, aiming to make sense of confusion surrounding interpretations and opinions within feminism. We investigate intersectionality, and research the layers embraced by that banner. We look to the female body at its most objectified – how it’s represented in media, its complexities and pleasures – and rethink the binary construct of man and woman, making room for post-binary and queer feminism. To be honest, activism has always been part of Beursschouwburg’s DNA – think of the Hotel Central occupation in 1995, when Beursschouwburg, together with several other socio-artistic organisations decided to squat the building in hopes of safeguarding the spirit of the area – so what we did with The Future is Feminist is very much a continuation of that ethos. And so, during a ten-day period, we hosted performances, screenings, talks and concerts all linked to the issue of feminism. All in all, it’s been a great year, but there are still plenty of things that need to be improved in our sector, from equal pay for artists to more female directors in Brussels’ art institutions.The Future is Feminist is Beursschouwburg’s current curatorial direction, headed up by Dries Douibi (27), Helena Kritis (36) and Tom Bonte (40). beursschouwburg.be
Paul Magnette for going local
Following a much-publicised spat with the European Commission over the CETA treaty, 2017 showed no sign of a respite for the former president of the Walloon parliament, who saw his Socialist party suffer an unexpected political coup – initiated by former coalition partners CDH – just before the summer recess that resulted in him having to give up his ministerial post. Undeterred, after much soul-searching and as a direct result of the necessity to reduce politicians’ propensity for multiple mandates, he chose the local route, retreating to his hometown of Charleroi, where he once again assumed the role of mayor to the former industrial bastion. Make no mistake though, something tells us this isn’t the last we’ll hear from the brilliant politician.Paul Magnette (47) is the mayor of Charleroi. Follow Paul Magnette on Twitter.
Anne Sarah N’Kuna for handling the morning shift on Tarmac
Launched by national broadcaster RTBF right before the summer of this year, Tarmac billed itself as a urban lifestyle platform, making no qualms of surfing on the current hip hop wave overpowering Belgium, and Brussels most specifically. Above and beyond its ubiquitous editor-in-chief Akro, the new media distinguished itself very early on by calling up a new school of talent to host some of its own productions. Leading the pack was Anne Sarah, who diligently mans the early-morning show, Izi Morning, through a combination of off-key naiveté and well-placed wit. Despite a few bumps along the road, not least the departure of her initial partner in crime rapper Sami Tha Ripou, the upstart TV host’s capacity to hold her own promises a bright future ahead.
M HKA for its exhibition A Temporary Futures Institute
2017 was significant because of the experimental exhibition we organised together my co-curator Dr. Maya Van Leemput, A Temporary Futures Institute. We wanted to attract the art world’s attention to the fact that futures studies is an existing academic and non-academic field with its own networks and traditions, so we invited professional futurists to exhibit alongside a selection of contemporary artist. The exhibition coincided with the reopening of M HKA following extensive renovations of its ground by Axel Verwoordt. I’d say that the show’s most radical feature, visually as well as conceptually, was probably the exuberantly colourful yet subtly narrative Te fanau’a una’una nā te Tumu: The Sentinels, a series of wall- paintings artist Alexander Lee, from French Polynesia, made directly on our walls. He worked on it for three months, and never has M HKA been less of a white cube than in the summer of 2017! It was a sad day for all of us when it had to be painted over.
Clearing for opening its new Brussels space
It’s been quite a year for Clearing, the gallery with operations in both New York and Brussels, which swapped its elegant townhouse in the city’s uptown neighbourhood – historically the playground of moneyed galleries and their clients – for a rawer, less polished space in a former shutter factory a stone’s throw from WIELS. The kind of move that holds the potential of reinforcing an entire area’s cultural value, the new space also contributes towards opening up a realm of new possibilities for the pioneering gallery, not least in its ability to now welcome larger-scale, maybe even more ambitious exhibitions by its strong stable of artists. And, as if to make an even stronger point, it kicked off the current contemporary art season with a mesmerizing, cross-disciplinary exhibition by rising New York artist Sebastian Black, which featured everything from his signature paintings to a video in which he blindfolded members of the gallery’s staff and got them to affix random text stickers on his own works, an act. Ticking all the right boxes.