Vincent MEESSEN and guests
Personne et les autres
Pavilion of Belgium
56th International Art Exhibition
la Biennale di Venezia
9 May – 22 November 2015
Curator: Katerina Gregos
The Belgian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale will present the work of the Belgian artist Vincent Meessen, together with international guest artists. The title of the exhibition, Personne et les autres, is borrowed from a lost play by André Frankin, a Belgian art critic affiliated with the Lettrist and Situationist Internationals. The exhibition takes the history of the Belgian Pavilion and the international context of the Biennale (both derived from the colonial exhibitions and world expositions) as its points of departure. The Belgian Pavilion itself was the first foreign Pavilion to be built in the Giardini in Venice, during the reign of King Leopold II. Meessen’s work and artistic research have consistently explored the history and afterlife of colonial modernity.
The artist’s project, selected to represent Belgium at the Biennale, moves away from the traditional format of a solo show and opens up to include multiple positions and voices. Working in close collaboration Meessen and Brussels-based curator Katerina Gregos have developed a thematic exhibition and invited a dozen international artists to participate. Bringing together artists from the Americas, Africa, and Asia as well as Europe, whose practice is research-based, Personne et les autres challenges traditional notions of national representation at the Venice Biennale. The exhibition aims to reflect upon the legacy of Internationalism – understood as the labour-movement theory inspired by Marxism and libertarian socialism, grounded in revolutionary processes, and advocating international solidarity – as a global emancipatory project.
Personne et les autres challenges the Eurocentric idea of modernity by examining a shared avant-garde heritage, marked by an artistic and intellectual cross-pollination between Europe and Africa. The exhibition probes the unknown micro-histories and revisits a range of hybrid cultural and intellectual forms produced as a result of colonial encounters.
Central to the exhibition concept is a new work by Vincent Meessen filmed in Kinshasa. This piece will explore the largely unknown participation of Congolese intellectuals within the last international vanguard of modernity: the Situationist International, whose final conference took place in Venice in 1969. Belgium's colonial history and its strategic role in the Situationist International – through key figures such as Raoul Vaneigem – form a crucial backdrop in understanding 20th-century political and artistic avant-gardes in Europe. In exploring this aspect of the Situationist International, Meessen’s work will uncover hidden episodes in the interrelated histories of art, popular music and activism.
Personne et les autres focuses not on the colonial history of Congo and Belgium as such, but on colonial modernity and its ongoing relation to artistic and intellectual radicalism. Exploring both adverse and positive cultural outcomes of colonial history, the exhibition reveals artistic and intellectual dialogues under colonization, during liberation struggles and especially in the aftermath of independence.
Participating artists, include, among others:
Mathieu K. Abonnenc (1977, French Guyana; lives and works in Metz)
Sammy Baloji (1978, Democratic Republic of Congo; lives and works in Lumumbashi and Brussels)
James Beckett (1977, Zimbabwe; lives and works in Amsterdam)
Elisabetta Benassi (1966, Italy; lives and works in Rome)
Patrick Bernier & Olive Martin (1971, France; 1972, Belgium; live and work in Nantes)
Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhøj. (1967, Brazil; 1976, Denmark; live and work in Copenhagen)
Maryam Jafri (1972, Pakistan; lives and works in Copenhagen and New York)
Adam Pendleton (1984, USA; lives and works in New York)
Bio - Vincent Meessen
Vincent Meessen (b. Baltimore, MD, USA, 1971; lives and works in Brussels) Meessen’s work and artistic research have consistently explored the history and afterlife of colonial modernity. Through the use of various media (video, installation, prints, music and installation) he re-animates hidden or forgotten narratives and traces of the relationship between Europe and Africa during colonial times. His investigations lead to associations and appropriative gestures that are rewritten into critical narratives, pointing to the colonial matrix of western modernity. Meessen re-animates hidden traces of the colonial in the present and opens up new speculative scenarios.
Both in his work as an artist and in his para-curatorial activities, Meessen likes to use procedures of collaboration that undermine the authority of the author and emphasize the intelligence of collectives. He was a founding member of Ambassade Universelle, a facility for undocumented people (2001-2005), of the artist collective Potential Estate (2006-2012) and of Jubilee, a Brussels-based platform for research and artistic production.
Recent solo exhibitions include: Mi última Vida/My Last Life, MUAC, Mexico City; Patterns for (re)cognition, KIOSK, Ghent, 2013; My Last Life, Netwerk, Aalst, 2012; Cher Conseiller, FRAC Lorraine/ La première Rue, Cité Radieuse, Briey-en-Forêt; Vita Nova, Wäscherei Kunstverein, Zürich, 2011; Clinamen Cinema, Artist in Focus, Argos Centre for Art & Media, Brussels; Vita Nova, ABP Autograph, London, 2010. In 2015 he will present solo exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Basel and Wiels, Brussels.
Recent group exhibitions include: The Allegory of the Cave Painting, Extra City, Antwerp, 2014; Let’s Swarm, Stroom, The Hague, with Potential Estate; When Attitudes Became Form Become Attitudes, MOCAD, Detroit, 2013; When Attitudes Become Forms Become Attitudes, CCA Wattis, San Francisco; Un-scene II, Wiels, Brussels; A Blind Spot, HKW/Berlin Documentary Forum, Berlin, 2012; The Eye is a Lonely Hunter: Images of Humankind, 4th Fotofestival Mannheim Ludwigshafen Heidelberg, Kunsthalle Mannheim; Le Rayon vert, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, with Potential Estate; ARS 11, Kiasma Museum, Helsinki, 2011. On behalf of the non-profit organization Normal, Vincent Meessen has curated symposia, film programmes and exhibitions for various institutions, including Espace Khiasma (Paris), Extra City (Antwerp), CA2M (Madrid) and Argos (Brussels).
Bio - Katerina Gregos
Katerina Gregos is an art historian, curator, and writer based in Brussels since 2006. She is currently curator of the Belgian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale as well as curator of the main exhibition of the 5th edition of the Thessaloniki Biennial entitled Between the Pessimism of the Intellect and the Optimism of the Will. She has curated numerous major international exhibitions and biennials, among which, most recently: No Country for Young Men: Contemporary Greek Art in Times of Crisis, BOZAR, Brussels, 2014; The Politics of Play, for the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Sweden, and Liquid Assets: In the Aftermath of the Transformation of Capital for the Steirischer Herbst, Graz, Austria ( as co-curator), both 2013; Newtopia: The State of Human Rights, several venues, Mechelen and Brussels, and Manifesta 9 ( as co-curator), Genk, 2012. In 2011 she curated the critically acclaimed exhibition Speech Matters, for the Danish Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennial, and co-curated the 4.Fotofestival Mannheim Ludwighsafen Heidelberg: The Eye is a Lonely Hunter (Germany).
(1997-2002) and artistic director of
(2006 & 2007).
She currently also hold the position of artistic director at Art Brussels. Gregos regularly publishes on art and artists in exhibition catalogues, journals and magazines, and is a visiting lecturer in several art academies, including HISK
curated the 2013
laureates exhibition, Portrait of the Artist: Works and References.
She is also a regular speaker in conferences and symposia on contemporary art, internationally. Recently, she was also featured at TEDx, Gent.