Far too often we seek out individual genius, laud their unique creations, forgetting the long line of artistic ancestors who helped create what is too narrowly attributed to the individual. It is tempting to spend time unravelling art like a tapestry and identifying the many threads of inspiration, of heritage, of influence. More interesting is to see a living dialogue that creates something even more unique – joint creation in the now where ego is pushed back for something beyond the one. We can be more than the sum of our parts.
Something Beautiful, the festival of art and poetry in LaVallée in Molenbeek, from 20 October to 29 October, is not only in itself a joint creation of thirty artists, performers, and poets but offers some very special joint creation exercises. One is between Mimi Kunz, an artist-poet painting in India ink, and Miriam Rose Gronwald, a Berlin-based weaver, dancer, and performance artist. Another is between Marion Guillard, the video artist, and the multi-disciplinary artist Marion Henry.
Not finding a joint residency to work together, Mimi and Miriam engaged in a new type of choreography – with Mimi sending Miriam dozens of her delicate India ink paintings of people in black, sometimes simplified to the essence of a single brushstroke. Miriam composed with these elements – stitching together couples, crowds, and empty spaces to create a stage set choreography. She threaded connections and shapes into the compositions, creating a new whole, a new story, a new meaning. The sewing machine’s rhythmic stitch pierces and joins the paintings, creating an immediate permanency of connection. Every line is important. Each thought and movement defines the moment – the stop and go of the machine is like the start and flow of Mimi’s brush.
In the first artwork, a couple stands on the right, close so that they merge into one. On the left, six individuals appear together but are spaced out, not quite a group. Alone while together. The couple look at the distant six, and they are all repeatedly threaded together, not into a spiral or vortex, but into circles, perhaps a hint at the many cycles of life or a statement of the fabric of society. It could also be an eye looking at us, saying that we, too, are part of this tapestry of life.
In the second, Miriam again stitches together one of Mimi’s couples and a crowd, the couple in joyful encounter, and the group looks lost, uncertain where to go, disconnected. Miriam’s lines reach out to the crowd but don’t connect; the vertical threads hang down, but no hands reach up to take them. The horizontal lines droop and dangle, ignored. Only the couple is part of the circle of society. But it is not a bleak painting: the joy of the encounter at the bottom gives hope that the others, too, could engage and become part of the fabric of society.
There is no loneliness in the third composition. There is a relaxed couple and crowd – this time with kids. It could be a walk on the beach, a park, a town square. Miriam also stitches in a space for silence on the left, available to us when we need it. Perhaps accidental, but nevertheless interesting, the paint warps the paper without distorting the artwork. Instead, it is an accidental creation where light glows from the forms. Wellbeing radiating in a community.
These are but three of the compositions, with a first choreography by Miriam in her sewn works. At Something Beautiful, Mimi will install the artworks into a wider composition – yet to be created. Come and see what new meaning that choreography brings you, and watch living people extend the dance into the living space. All those there are invited in and become part of the extended canvas of this local fabric of society. The artists will also do some live co-creation on the closing Sunday (29 October), with Miriam dancing and Mimi capturing the movements and moments in India ink.
In the second collaboration, Marion Guillard projects images extracting the architectural essence of leaves onto Marion Henry’s ceramic screen, becoming moving abstract shapes. The artist-spectator is gone. All there is the response to nature and its beauty, becoming, for a moment, everything. I have no pictures of this, so come to Something Beautiful.
I have, however, extracted elements from another of her exhibits – where a bit of her everyday inhabits a floating piece of paper, which becomes a window into another world, a portal to fall through to an elsewhere. Imagine a world where portals float around, tempting you to walk through them into another moment’s reality. An artist’s generous offering.
Marion will also show a 16mm film of a swimming pool transformed into its negative, with the iconic blue-with-intersecting-white-lines becoming a study in pink and black. The images are, in turn, projected on a block of beehive wax, tinging the images warm yellow, with the abstract patterns inhabiting life’s material surface.
Equally interesting is Marion Henry’s intriguing rope ladder.
Usually, ladders are symbols of safety, but while the ropes are in a rescue colour (See me, Find me, Reach-for-me orange), the ends near us are scary meat hooks, and the horizontal steps are made of fragile ceramic with not-so-fragile thorns. This is hardly a safety ladder but a warning. Marion’s work, inspired by the Italian Stalker Collective, is anchored in exploring abandoned, hybrid spaces. The temptation is to enter such lost spaces “organised” by an accidental collaboration of human ruins and non-human life to understand the voids, listen and explore them, interact, and catalyse a creative flow.
Marion is drawn to the new romanticism of this “post-apocalyptic nature” and how our human presence changes its natural course. I imagine her walking with a rope ladder in her backpack, tempted to hurl it onto abandoned house skeletons and climb up. Yet the fragile ceramic steps warn her off, so she walks, listens, explores, and, through her footsteps, weaves a new choreography with the site, creating a new relationship, a momentary cultural heritage that may just last. Walking through Brussels will never be the same again. The abandoned voids are replete with potential meaning.