L’Herbier & le Nuage
After three years of being a coal mine-based construction site in Grand-Hornu, the Museum of Contemporary Arts of the French community of Belgium (MAC’s) opens its doors with an evocative exhibition of collections and programmes. Under the guidance of LAURENT BUSINE, the director of the new institution, this first demonstration reunites twenty artists belonging to different generations and aesthetic movements. Arte Povera, conceptual art, surrealism, abstract painting, photography and contemporary video – to sculpture from the Renaissance period! – reveal themselves in a dialogue of essential art: how to embrace the world in its totality?
Entitled L’Herbier & le Nuage, the inaugural exhibition of MAC’s presents itself as a poetic journey which is an initiation through imaginary spheres that traditionally divide our world into two distinct orders: the terrestrial and the celestial. Like this the contemporary arts – inspired by ancient traditions, religion and alchemy – were organised partly by themselves and partly by this abstract horizon. Sometimes along the journey one discovers followers of the systematic arrangement of world order and sometimes those who accept the elusive chaos. Among the first, the exhibition organiser has selected out of the archive a few connoisseurs. To begin with, the Dutch photographer PAUL DEN HOLLANDER who immortalised the old "herbiers" in black and white, where some of them are reduced to prints in dust fallen flowers and where only a few calligraphic lines of botany are attached. Among the second, exponents of abstract impressions for whom the universe is – like the image of a cloud – capricious, changing, evanescent, incommensurable. The Belgian sculptor ANN VERONICA JANSSENS belongs to this category. She uses a smoke generator to create a misty screen upon which she projects beams of light, and presents to visitors mirrors which lead to the sky.
Between these two extreme artists who lead us directly to the title of the exhibition, there exists a multitude of links towards other orders, "cosmological" and "chaotic" for instance, not only literal. Records of the Grand-Hornu by CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI belongs to the group of great "archivists" – in the same way as the telescopic photography of the Chinese group ZHUANG HUI or the chrono-photographic portraits by RINEKE DIJKSTRA – about which there is no doubt at all. The unlimited wealth of material by MICHEL FRERE place him with DAVID CLAERBOUT or THIERRY DE CORDIER on the side of romantic artists for whom the world proves to be inexhaustible and without limits. If the first understand the world and introduce method to it until the smallest detail, the second renounce any classification by letting themselves be absorbed, body and soul, into the desperate immensity of an unsoundable universe. But what is to be said of those who, like MICHEL FRANCOIS, formulate their conscience of being from the world by a more relative means: "where am I, looking from the sky ”? If that is not so, they come and go between the earth and the sky, looking as an inventor that the world is not totally rational nor absolutely intuitive…
In light of the number of reconciled plasticians today, recent methodical and subjective printing, this choice of theme – of a separation between the infinite sky and the enumerated earth – could only serve the best intentions of the concerned organiser of "mixing and blending everything", LAURENT BUSINE. It is by visualising such a large horizon, that the director of MAC’s provided the means to arrange the first indoor exhibition of his institution, within sufficiently large boundaries to welcome an extremely varied range of artistic attitudes. Seen as a kind of manifestation, L’Herbier & le Nuage announces a colourful museum where there will be presented – without the spirit of a chapel – world visions which will be, above all, personal and poetic. It is on this base that one has to understand the associated artistic presence of JOELLE TUERLINCKX or BRAM VAN VELDE, the methodical and the intuitive, the spirit of the Cosmos and the taste of the Chaos. It is in accordance with this opening precept that one resists a segregative project, and means that one has to allow the participation of conceptual, non-dogmatic artists like JAMES LEE BYARS or BALTHASAR BURKHARD, which also means that one can savour a distinct approach shaped by generations of sculptors like JACQUES DU BROEUCQ and LUCIANO FABRO. "Mixing and blending everything" is again the motto which presides over the presence of many photographs which, in keeping with the style of the album, highlight this desire to capture despite the irretrievable loss of time: ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE and his flower series, ANDRES SERRANO and his images from the morgue, SEIDOU KEITA and his portraits of young Africans.
To conclude, in this first exhibition MAC’s exhibition, there is still reserve space which has yet to be occupied by one of the territories of contemporary art which is less accepted in modern art; known narrative art. Disregarding ancient classifications which used to organise the fine-arts into as many academic practices that existed in the "domain of competences", L’Herbier & le Nuage associated with its questioning of the exhaustible or inexhaustible nature of the world, displays works which refute modernist dogma and dare to inform us of histories. In the case of FAUSTO MELOTTI on who a few monographic exhibitions have been held since his death in 1986 and who has developed during the course of his long career, a sculptural art-work whereof Laurent Busine imagines that "maybe only a scattering of small accounts from which we still have to decipher the global meaning that is yet to be discovered from within them". Closer to us, are the art-works of PATRICK CORILLON or of MARIA MARSHALL who elaborate on the different methods of narrative sequences, which have in common the revealing, like in a novel, of the interior world of imaginary and autobiographic characters. Cloud-like worlds, "impalpable" but as an "embalming of a souvenir" become conserved under the form of poetic images.
Exhibition catalogue in the French language which includes articles by LAURENT BUSINE.