Art lovers will already know that Ghent has a world-class arts scene and this year is no exception. Just an hour from Brussels, easily accessible by car and train, the 4th edition of the Sorry, Not Sorry Festival takes place from 20-22 May in the De Porre park and all over the city.
De Porre neighbourhood park is an award-winning zone in the Moscou-Vogelhoek-Flora district and finds itself at the epicentre of the free, family-friendly action. The site of a former textiles factory, De Porre’s blend of preserved industrial heritage, spaces seeking new uses, orchard, and wadi ponds all make it the perfect place to perceive art and urban development in new ways.
The programme starts at 4pm on Friday 20 May, offering an exciting all-weekend urban market, as well as art trails, debates, book talks and an incredible variety of workshops, from graffiti (of course), to poetry to embroidery to digital NFTs. Want to customise your sneakers? There’s a masterclass for that. Then tie up your laces and take a guided stroll around the neighbourhood’s street art, installations and bespoke performances. However, if you want to walk at your own pace and make your own course, the map shows all the street art spots.
Among the many installations you will find the “Inject Love: Make Every Beat Count” project. A proposition from visual artists Kim Brusselmans & Hanse Cora, its core is “you ain’t living till you’re loving!”. However, love is not meant only in the romantic or amorous sense. Brusselmans and Cora evoke the appreciation that everyone can muster for everything that stimulates the senses. Feeling is the art. Love and connection are central. Through their work, the artists deliberately raise questions and invite the public to have a conversation about how the world of love forms part of our everyday lives.
Another intriguing guest is the “No Babes” group, a collective that questions taboos in all kinds of creative ways and wants to give a voice to those kept small by current ideals in society, as well as to promote the mental health of young people. They have recently set up Belgium’s first inclusive modelling agency, called No Babes Agency. With a large number of models, they will join forces with Ghent designers during the festival to create a strong, diverse catwalk. They will also organize talk shows, where No Babes models will openly share their stories, interact with the audience, and have a photoshoot exhibition.
Another must-see is Kristof Van Heeschvelde, whose work focuses on homo sapiens behaviours, as described by Yuval Noah Harari in his book ‘Sapiens’. Using a collage technique, Kristof places seemingly unrelated or opposed elements together. These composite realities form razor-sharp observations of human being and action, balanced by the humour and naive colour palette Kristof employs. He paints on large canvases, which he hangs free in space. In this way, the works become detached from their medium and their dimensions extend beyond the frame of the canvas. The work transforms into an installation which the viewer can walk around.
Of course, these are just a few of the artists and displays you will find at the festival, for the rest, you’ll have to take a trip to Ghent this weekend. And, while you’re there, don’t forget to explore the rest of the city too. Breaking down the walls between ‘fine art’ and ‘street art’, you could catch some Old Masters in the Fine Arts Museum, before seeking out top New Masters like ROA and his distinctive monochrome wildlife pieces on show.
Another worthwhile visit is the street where young artists hone their skills. Car-free Werregarenstraatje has even been nicknamed Graffiti Street because authorities turn a blind eye to street artists who alter the urban landscape radically from week to week.
And can you spot the legacy works from previous street art festivals all over the city, such as 2020’s Van Eyck-themed extravanganza?
This weekend, Ghent’s streets are turning into a canvas for top national and international names in street art. The only question remains, sorry (not sorry), what are you waiting for?