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:

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).

In
 terms
 of
 institutional
 positions,
 Gregos
 formerly
 served
 as
 founding
 director
 
 and
 curator
 of
 the
 Deste
 Foundation’s
 Centre
 for
 Contemporary
 Art,
 Athens
 (1997-2002) and artistic director of
 Argos
– Centre 
for
 Art
 and
 Media,
 Brussels
 (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
 –
 The
 Higher
 Institute
 of
 Arts,
 Gent,
 where
 she also
 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.