A study project to stimulate ideas about art in the city, Being Urban has just come out in book form, a compilation of initiatives to integrate art works in public areas. Overview in the company of 2 publication managers.
The book’s presentation takes place in the open air in the Place des Martyrs, such a symbolic place for art classicism in the capital. The setting sun puts the spotlight on this unknown cemetery in the centre of Brussels, a perfect metaphor for these works that have been here for centuries and seem so obvious to us. However, the enthronement of a new art work in an urban area is often subject to a long, laborious process involving calls for bids, residents’ questions and political prevarication.
A few months ago, a project sprung up in a Brussels arts centre, the ISELP (Institut Supérieur pour l’Étude du Langage Plastique), to analyse, from the crossroads of the year 2000 to the present day, 15 years of reclamation of urban areas by art initiatives. 6 projects have thus been selected and cut up into images and texts to question the role of art and its socio-cultural dimension. Examples: the giant megaphone located on one of the forecourts of the Gare du Midi and the Fantôme de la Cité Administrative, a work created by a Polish artist who broke windows on the abandoned building to bring out the shape of a face.
Two art historians, Adrien Grimmeau and Pauline de la Boulaye have launched several channels of thought in parallel, such as a web radio channel, a documentation centre, an open parliament, a journal, a map of works and even an arcade machine to make the process fun: “The beginning of the project was marked by the attacks in Paris and in its wake by the presence of soldiers in the city. This made us ask ourselves a lot of questions and we decided to come up with different structures with which to reclaim this broken, ruined place in which nobody dared go out any more, except to do the shopping. ”
A city also marked by various works projects such as tunnels, the pedestrian zone and the Musée d’Art Moderne, which together with difficulties concerning the status of the artist, have made residents wonder about our leaders’ interest in embellishing Brussels through art. “Nevertheless, says Pauline de la Boulaye, since the start of this century, there has been a constant flow of artists leaving Berlin, London and Paris because studios are more affordable here. There is also a general impression that the city is anchored in a kind of past, but there are things happening here and there, works or actions, such as the huge night animation on the ING building, which make a bit of a difference. I would say there is a kind of anachronism between these wave of new arrivals and the art institutions. “
Politicians who often find themselves with dozens of files on their desks and don’t know how to deal with them because they don’t necessarily have the skills. “That’s why they like experts committees so much, but that’s passing the problem on says Adrien Grimmeau. The real question is the urban project and the link between art and the public. ” As for the place of street art: “this is sometimes an easy and less costly solution: in the long run, laying out small budgets for a street artist instead of putting some real thought into public art is tantamount to downgrading; it can be counter-productive. “