Sculpture Network 14th International Forum
This year, the 14th International Forum organized by Sculpture Network will take place from September 29th to October 1st in the cities of Antwerp and Brussels: three days of conferences, encounters and visits orchestrated by art critic and exhibition curator Anne Berk. This year, the theme is Sculpting Nature: LandArt, EcoArt and BioArt. The idea of the forum is to promote and encourage the interaction and the dialogue between artists, exhibition curators, art critics, art collectors and gallery owners. The program was designed to allow the participation of personalities with a diversity of profiles: Geert Verbeke, director of the Verbeke Foundation, Clive Adams, founder and director of the Center for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, German artist Nils-Udo as well as American artist Alan Sonfist, to name just a few.
In the mid 1960s, some artists, mostly American, left galleries and museums to work in deserts or in industrial neighborhoods, considering nature as a material as well as a canvas for their work. Their approach, which was first perceived as a broader form of social protest, led to questioning the way we look at art as well as nature. 1
As Gilles Tiberghien explains in Land Art (Dominique Carré éditeur, Paris, 1993), the different forms of artistic intervention in nature are not always LandArt. Unfortunately, this term has become an all encompassing concept, used whenever natural materials are used. This is why it is important to differentiate the concepts of LandArt, Eco Art and BioArt.
Friday September 30th will therefore be mostly dedicated to the evolution of these three artistic trends thanks to the intervention of artists such as Nils-Udo (LandArt — Germany), Alan Sonfist (EcoArt — USA) and Koen Vanmechelen (BioArt — Belgium); Clive Adams, founder and director of the CCANSW, and art critic Sue Spaid (USA).
The interest and the relationship artists have for and with the environment and environmental issues are more and more growing. Hence the urgency, according to Anne Berk, to approach these issues right now, during the forum. As she explains, artists can, thanks to their intuition, highlight our relationship with nature and contribute to a collective awareness of environmental issues.
Alan Sonfist’s work, for example, is closely linked to ecology and environmental issues. In 1965, he suggested re-planting an indigenous forest on a piece of land located at the corner of Houston Street and La Guardia Place (Greenwich Village, New York). Time Landscape, the title of this particular work, was his first ecologic landscape, made exclusively of native plants which existed before the arrival of Europeans on Manhattan: a sort of space/time capsule in perpetual evolution, which stands as a reminder of where we come from and where we are heading.
BioArt, however, is taking into consideration another aspect of nature: that of genetic manipulation and biodiversity. Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen, who will lead a conference on Friday, September 30th with Alan Sonfist, works primarily with animals. Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP) is one of his most famous projects and has been ongoing for 25 years. Its goal is to create the “Cosmopolitan Chicken”, a breed of chicken created from all breeds of chicken. Koen Vanmechelen views his work as a reflection of our contemporary society. It represents the multicultural diversity of human societies.
A whole day dedicated to conferences, and so much more. On Thursday September 29, the forum’s opening day, it will be possible to visit the Middelheim Museum: an open sky museum which hosts an ever growing collection.
The forum goes on the following day in Brussels with an art tour, starting at the Vanhaerents Art Collection, a major private collection which includes works from the 1970s to today. It is installed in a 40,000 square foot industrial building turned into an exhibition space by Robbrecht & Daem architects in 2006. This visit will be followed by a stop at the Boghossian Foundation located at the Villa Empain: inaugurated in 2016, this art deco villa is now a cultural center offering exhibits, concerts and conferences. To close the day, a visit of the private collection of Mickey Boël, son of collectors and co-author of L’artiste contemporain et la nature (Hazan, 2007), who invited artists such Andy Goldsworthy and David Nash to create site specific artworks for his garden.
During our encounter with Anne Berk, she mentioned a few artists to keep an eye on, recommended exhibitions and shared books which had a major impact on her career as an art critic and curator.
Artists: Clare Morgan, who creates ephemeral installations with taxidermied animals. Her work often relates to the vulnerability of life.
Heringa/Van Kalsbeek creates synthetic resin sculptures that defy gravity. The temporality of movement seems on hold. heringavankalsbeek.nl
Exhibition: Theo Janssen and Zoro Feigl at the Verbeke Foundation (Antwerp) until October 30th. Theo Janssen uses plastic tubes to create Animalis Vulgaris which are animated by the wind. These two artists’ installations are often in movement.
Book: Sue Spaid, Ecovention, one the first overall view of EcoArt. (you can read online at greenmuseum.org) and Monika Vagner, Das Material der Kunst, C.H. Beck Verlag, München 2001. An overview of art depending on used materials, including soil, fire, water, meat, plants, resin, waste, etc. Instead of representing the environment, artists use raw materials provided by it.
Sculpting Nature: LandArt, EcoArt and BioArts
Antwerp and Brussels, Belgium
September 29 — October 1st, 2016
1 Conference by Gilles A. Tiberghien at the Crédac (Ivry sur Seine), October 2nd, 2012 : Le Land Art