Looking through the window
Looking through the window
19 February – 21 March 2021
Jezusstraat 3-5-7, 2000 Antwerpen
In the middle of Antwerp's shopping district, three renowned visual artists come together to present new work in three vacant storefronts. In a period of strict lockdown measures, where the future of many cultural institutions and exhibition spaces is at stake, art and culture find their way back to the public through the occupation of new and unconventional spaces.
For four weeks, the group exhibition "Looking through the window" by Winnie Claessens, Elleke Frijters, and Octave Vandeweghe takes place in the display windows of the Blok V building, part of the former Belgacom site. Designed by architect Rud Vael in 1975 in a distinctive brutalist style, the building was once a telegraph office. The location is therefore fitting for an exhibition taking place in an era of limited physical contact. The setup of "Looking through the window" plays with the concept of advertising and commerce, allowing viewers, passersby, and shoppers to discover the artists' works in a new and safe way.
Winnie Claessens' multi-channel installation "Final Frontier" (2021) transports the viewer to the far reaches of cosmic space. A scale model of a satellite references the launch of the unmanned Voyager I and Voyager II spacecraft in 1977, which aimed to gain new insights about our solar system. The romantic thinking of the 1970s led to the production of the "Voyager Golden Record," a phonograph record included with the two probes, containing sounds and images intended to represent the diversity of life and culture on Earth. Claessens' installation also includes a video on four screens, in which the spacecraft exhibits its personality and seems to communicate with the viewer. "Final Frontier" builds upon the utopian—and perhaps naive—imagination that often underlies space exploration endeavors. It revolves around humanity's hope to make contact with extraterrestrial life and be part of an Intergalactic Union.
Elleke Frijters drew inspiration from Rud Vael's brutalist style of vitrine design for her new sculpture "Hope for better" (2021). Attention to artificially created details is the starting point for Frijters' artistic practice. She photographs various elements with which people decorate, embellish, and organize their living environment, such as architectural elements, tiles, furniture, or lighting. The tangle of patterns and geometric lines in the windows and the iron security curtain of the retail space in the Blok V building evoke, for Frijters, the notion of a fence behind which something precious and vulnerable is located. A connection is made with a chapel, where one looks inside through the bars of a fence. Her sculpture explores this notion through formal elements reminiscent of a chapel candlestick. Additionally, Frijters presents a second, previously unseen sculpture, "All-seeing" (2020). The sculpture is inspired by the omnipresence of surveillance cameras and plays with the architectural elements of the security curtain: viewers peering through the curtain will, through this sculpture, feel as if they are being observed themselves.
In the third display window, Octave Vandeweghe presents "The extraction of the stone of madness" (2021), a new installation depicting human blood clots through hematite, also known as bloodstone due to its deep red color. Vandeweghe often explores the relationship between objects and everyday life, with an eye on the poetic potential that arises from this relationship. "The extraction of the stone of madness" connects the bloodstone with the concept of trepanation: a surgical operation in which a hole is drilled into the skull to supposedly drive out evil spirits. Trepanation is known as one of the oldest surgical procedures and has been practiced throughout the centuries to alleviate madness. The bloodstone carries a similar reputation.
Curated by Winnie Claessens & Octave Vandeweghe
Text by Arash Shahali
Photos by Arne Jennard & Younnes Faltakh