© Michiel Devijver

The VIERNULVIER Collection

Although VIERNULVIER Arts Centre is known mainly for its support of musicians, theatremakers, choreographers and writers, over the years we have also invited visual artists to create work here. They have used De Vooruit as their canvas, resulting in some surprising interventions. Some of these artworks were created as part of themed festivals, while others were made in connection with the recent renovation works.

In this way, the artworks depict the arts centre’s rich history as well as its close relationship with this imposing building. The Feestzaal (‘Festivity Hall’) reopened its doors in 1982 after a major clean-up operation. The public were invited to don hard hats and take a tour of the building’s many rooms and corridors. This year, VIERNULVIER (formerly Vooruit Arts Centre) is celebrating its anniversary of exactly 40 years. To mark this joyous occasion, we’re proudly highlighting our VIERNULVIER Collection and welcoming you to (re)discover the monument. 

The VIERNULVIER Collection is neither static nor carefully planned. Its lack of a clear line of development is made up for by its sense of movement: our Collection embraces chance and is a beautiful reminder of all we have been privileged to share with artists, staff and audiences here for four decades. It’s an eclectic mix of temporary interventions and semi-permanent work. Over the upcoming 2022-2023 season, you can get to know twelve permanent works and two temporary works located in and around De Vooruit. You will encounter old, familiar works as well as a number of new acquisitions.

With the VIERNULVIER Collection, we aim to gradually build a sustainable, multidisciplinary collection. In this way we offer a platform to (local) visual artists. The Collection complements the art centre’s individuality and accentuates its various artistic programme categories: performing arts, music, nightlife, talk, food, monument and residents. In the absence of traditional exhibition spaces, we are looking for other presentation possibilities that explore the limits of the building. In what ways can ephemeral, intangible or even invisible works be given a place? How do we approach digital apps and technological developments? With the launch of the VIERNULVIER Collection, some existing works are being paired with each other for the first time, but, most of all, what we are creating is a new platform, full of unexpected encounters for our building’s visitors and users.

'Tiled floor'
Christoph Hefti (CH)
2019
© Michiel Devijver

In May 2019, VIERNULVIER’s new entrance area opened, revealing a dazzling new floor. It was designed by Swiss artist and textile designer Christoph Hefti. For his creation of an inverted red carpet, he used 35,000 tiles, measuring 10 by 10 cm, in 11 different colours. 

“The basic idea is a red carpet. Those who know VIERNULVIER know how colourful the place is. Which is why I felt that the former, grey entrance hall was not a good fit for the arts centre. I want to give visitors the feeling of walking into a theatre when they enter De Vooruit. The carpet has movement to it, as if it’s folded and hasn’t really settled into a permanent position. Which in turn symbolises VIERNULVIER, where everything is also in constant motion.” – Christoph Hefti

'Disclaimer'
Wouter Huis (NL)
2011
© Jantien Vermeiren

 

In 2011, Dutch artist Wouter Huis participated in ‘Summercamp Electrified’, a project by Timelab and VIERNULVIER Arts Centre that explored how art could play an inspiring role in reclaiming (parts of) the public space.  

Huis’s work ‘Disclaimer’ refers to the message often seen in film credits that any resemblance between reality and what is seen in the film is purely coincidental. By engraving the text into a marble slab and hanging it in the public space, Huis adds an extra dimension to what happens on the street.

'Carnet de route' (4'08'')
Deogracias Kihalu (CD)
2021
© Jantien Vermeiren

In 1927, Edward Anseele Jr. made a colonial expedition to the border region of Burundi and Congo. Like his father, Edward Anseele Sr., co-founder of the Vooruit cooperative, Anseele Jr. was active within the socialist movement at the time. He was tasked with identifying the land most suitable for expanding Vooruit’s network of ‘red’ factories. Anseele Jr. was seeking locations for a cotton plantation, a mining site, a brewery and a tobacco factory, among other operations. The trip would only be made public after the fact, raising many questions from the Belgian Workers’ Party. But there were no consequences beyond a commission of enquiry and some tiresome debates. When the Bank van de Arbeid went under in 1933, documents relating the trip disappeared under dust for a long time.

Artist Deogracias Kihalu drew inspiration from these forgotten events for ‘Carnet de route’. He viewed the documents, processed the information and let his own history be his guide. ‘Carnet de route’ consists of a poem (translated into Dutch by Andy Van Kerschaver) and a ceramic sculpture. In doing so, Kihalu casts a twenty-first-century eye over this colonial piece of the Vooruit cooperative’s history.

‘Piano Piece #13 (after George Maciunas)’
Sonic Youth (US)
2001
© Michiel Devijver

 

On Sunday, 10 July, 2001, US experimental rock band Sonic Youth played De Vooruit’s Theaterzaal. It was a performance in connection with their album ‘Goodbye 20th Century’, which featured performances of works by avant-garde composers such as John Cage, Yoko Ono and Steve Reich.

The band also recorded ‘Piano Piece #13 (Carpenter’s Piece) for Nam June Paik’ (1962) by George Maciunas . Maciunas is one of the founders of the international art movement Fluxus, which played an important role in the 1960s and 1970s by questioning the limits of art. Among other things, Fluxus organised low-threshold ‘happenings’ that brought together visual art and music.

The performance began with Coco Hayley Gordon Moore, the six-year-old daughter of Sonic Youth band members Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, playing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ on her toy piano. Closing act was ‘Piano Piece #13’, in which the band members took turns pounding 15cm nails into the keys of the piano. Not a toy piano this time, but a real one.

‘Taking to the Streets’
House of Brownies (DE)
2021

 

Just like VIERNULVIER, our German friends and colleagues at the arts centre Kampnagel in Hamburg are also celebrating their 40th anniversary this season. To highlight the connection between the two arts centres, the video performance ‘Taking to the Streets’ will be on display in De Vooruit’s central stairwell until the end of 2022. To do so, however, you must first download the [k] to go app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store app. 

The [k] to go app was developed during the corona crisis. This allowed cultural audiences to continue discovering new performances in a completely corona-proof way. Once the app recognises one of the special QR codes, an augmented reality movie starts playing automatically on your smartphone. 

The videos show four dancers (Pascal Schmidt, Marcelino Libao, Ricardo Urbina and David Rodriquez) from artist collective House of Brownies engaging in self-discovery through movement. In this series of short stories, they depict real-life scenarios in different dance styles. In this way they face up to a cis- and heteronormative society, amplify their inner voices and embrace the beauty of their individuality.

‘printemps on recommence’
Pamina de Coulon
2018

 

In May 2018, Swiss playwright Pamina de Coulon took up artistic residency in and around the VIERNULVIER Café. During her stay, De Coulon painted and fabricated large coloured banners, with slogans referring to various historical revolts. The banners were on display in the Café during the festival.

In a struggle or revolt, banners are the perfect medium by which to protest, make demands or call to order. Banners and protest signs play an active role in the social history of writing and are a rare example of the use of non-commercial language in public spaces. They provide a caption and commentary on current events, documenting the things we do or indeed fail to do.

‘Het Werkmanskind’ (4’40”)
Teletext (NL)
2021
© Jantien Vermeiren

 

Sit quietly on the steps and watch the scene on the stained-glass window above the Winter Garden. Grab a pair of headphones and listen to ‘Het Werkmanskind’ (‘The Workman’s Child’) from Teletext, a song describing the tragic fate of a working-class woman.

Teletext are Dutch playwrights Leonore Spee and Sascha Bornkamp. They make music and performances, give workshops and create location-specific projects. Since 2019, they have been investigating the significance of folk music in the urban contexts of Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, among other places. 

‘Het Werkmanskind’ is a musical adaptation of Jules Jouy’s poem ‘Fille d’ouvrier’ (1895). It was originally set to music by French composer Gustave Goublier and was often to be heard in Parisian cabarets and cafés chantants during the belle époque. In 1868, Dutch cabaret artist Eduard Jacobs provided a Dutch translation. 

‘Shapereader’
Ilan Manouach (GR)
2021

 

Greek avant-garde artist Ilan Manouach was a guest in our Balzaal for three residencies amid the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020, 2021 and 2022. As an artist in residence, he invited performers from different musical backgrounds to explore how sound could be stimulated by touch. They began working with ‘Shapereader’, a universal non-alphabetic communication system developed by Manouach for visually impaired readers and comic book creators with the ambition of supporting them in the creation of tactile stories.

Through a simple ‘reading principle’, the system can connect tactile symbols with meanings, which are independent of ethnic or indigenous alphabets or Braille writing. The design, based on simple principles and easy-to-remember shapes, is intended to be accessible to all, regardless of nationality, language, education level, life situation, or visual impairment. 

During Manouach’s time at VIERNULVIER, the system was translated into an architectural wall installation. Workshops then took place where musicians used ‘Shapereader’ as an alternative musical score to write new compositions that are not be read visually, but literally felt.

‘Canteen Pending’ (12’07”)
Fiona Hallinan (IE)
2022
© Jantien Vermeiren

 

To meet the needs of our kitchen crew, and after thorough assessments, it was decided to move the kitchen of the VIERNULVIER Café, which was bursting at the seams, to the historic Majolicazaal. We were conveniently able to take advantage of the mandatory closure in corona times to install a brand-new kitchen that meets all the current energy and sustainability standards. 

Up until March 2020, the Majolica, with its colourful majolica tiles and beautiful stained-glass windows, was used as a dining area for staff and artists. To commemorate this special meeting place, which also overlooks the Café and the Winter Garden, Irish artist Fiona Hallinan created the work ‘Canteen Pending’. This delicate embroidered cushion is wrapped around one of the pillars of our new catering space, ‘De Doorloop’.

VIERNULVIER team members were invited by Hallinan to share their Majolica experiences. To help stimulate their memories, Hallinan gave them a drink containing cinnamon, cloves and cocoa. Using the ‘Schwartz’ interview method, she invited everyone to lie on the floor in the darkened former dining room. They were then asked to describe a Majolica moment from the past but using the present tense.

 

The cushion invites the audience to pause and rest, to allow themselves to be unproductive for a while. The headrest broadcasts an audio piece about the former Majolica canteen. The project is part of Hallinan’s doctoral research into the development of the concept of ‘ultimology’, the study of endings. Based on existing grieving and care practices, ultimology makes space to collectively pay attention to the end of the Majolicazaal as a meeting place for VIERNULVIER artists and team members. 

‘Canteen Pending’ is on display during the 2022-23 season.  Unfortunately, the work is not open to the public, but the audio piece (with sound design by Diana Duta) is available on our website.

'Gelukstraat'
Stefan Hertmans (BE)
2000

 

Sinds 2000 prijkt ‘Gelukstraat’, een gedicht van de toonaangevende Belgische schrijver, dichter en essayist Stefan Hertmans, op de gevel van De Vooruit. Het gedicht is onderdeel van de Gentse Poëzieroute, die tussen het Poëziecentrum op de Vrijdagmarkt en het S.M.A.K. in het Citadelpark loopt en 20 locaties telt. Tot 2013 was het gedicht (uit de dichtbundel ‘Annunciaties’, gepubliceerd in 1997) te zien op de monumentale zuidgevel van het Feestlokaal, maar door de bouw van het Terras moest het verhuizen. Sinds 2015 heeft het weer een nieuwe vaste stek gekregen aan de ingang van ons VIERNULVIER Terras.

 

‘vandaag/morgen’
Students LUCA School of Arts Ghent
2013

 

In 2013, De Vooruit celebrated its centenary. The lavish festive programme, which spanned six months, concluded with the ‘Possible Futures’ festival. On and off stage, the festival sought answers to questions about the future. It united artists, designers, thinkers, scientists, activists and audience members with the goal of developing scenarios for ‘Possible Futures’: what might an arts centre – and by extension the city and the world – look like in the next century?

A group of students from the graphic design course at Ghent’s LUCA School of Arts also gave it some thought. Under the guidance of our designer at the time, Matthias Timmermans, they participated in a workshop that would result in a series of subtle poetic interventions on the Terrace.

This sticker is the only remnant of this, but it continues to capture the imagination.

‘Crisis Of Masculinity’ (Cut No.10)
Egon Van Herreweghe (BE) & Thomas Min (BE)
2019

 

‘Crisis Of Masculinity’ is an installation consisting of a replica of the striking blue fence from Muscle Beach in Venice, Los Angeles. The fence, in its entirety, was part of the opening exhibition ‘Endless Exhibition’ (2019) at Kunsthal Gent. Since then, the work has been gradually cut into pieces to live a new life in other locations.

Muscle Beach is considered the birthplace of the fitness craze and played an important role in popularising and legitimising today’s body culture. Arnold Schwarzenegger started lifting weights there long before he was world famous. Still today, Muscle Beach is synonymous with toned, glistening (masculine) bodies. On both sides, there is a game of seeing and being seen. In doing so, the fence forms both a physical and a mental barrier: whoever enters, steps into the circus arena, so to speak. From behind the massive frame, the viewer watches the outward display.

Lifting the fence out of its original context like a readymade serves to draw attention to the materiality of the structure. This in turn causes its obstructive character to stand out: the visitor is restricted in their freedom of movement and forced into a certain relationship with the obstacle.

‘THE HICCUP RENDEZVOUS’
Sarah Yu Zeebroek (BE) & Haitham Haddad (PS)
2022
© Michiel Devijver

 

A location-specific project was planned for spring 2020 by the name of ‘YALLA’, through which VIERNULVIER hoped to build further on its relationship with Palestine and its art world in particular. Together with partner A.M. Qattan Foundation we developed a programme around cultural exchange and solidarity. A Belgian delegation of artists and cultural workers would travel to Ramallah and Haifa for a seven-day programme full of concerts, workshops, residencies and more. 
In preparation for the project, Ghent artist Sarah Yu Zeebroek travelled to Haifa in early 2020 to work on a creation with Palestinian artist Haitham Haddad. The corona pandemic unfortunately forced the cancellation of the entire project and also ended their collaboration.

To still make part of the exchange visible to our audience and to end the project in a more beautiful way, VIERNULVIER invited both artists to create a new mural together. In late September 2022, they collaborated here on a wall drawing featuring two different drawing styles that come together in a stylish symbiosis.

 

untitled
Strook (Stefaan De Croock) (BE)
2015

 

A major renovation of the Concertzaal and VIERNULVIER offices was completed in autumn of 2015. To celebrate, Bruges-based visual artist Stefaan De Croock (aka Strook) created a work commissioned by VIERNULVIER. The colourful, abstract collage is a cross between a line drawing and Strook’s well-known assemblage technique. Composed of both digital and analogue elements (such as woodgrain patterns), it was eventually applied as a large sticker on the wall belonging to our neighbours at VOKA. 

'Feestlokaal De Vooruit' (17'11'')
Carl De Keyzer (BE)
1981

In 1981, as a final-year student at Ghent’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK), Carl De Keyzer directed a ‘docu-fiction’ film about our building, Feestlokaal De Vooruit. The 20-minute film, with camera work by his fellow students Dirk Braeckman and Marc Van Roy, captures both the beauty and the decay of the building. The once-bustling Feestlokaal was looking rather grubby and deserted. It had seen better days. The cause of this decay was the gradual de-pillarisation of Belgian society and the rise of a new entertainment culture. There was hardly any money for much-needed maintenance. By 1980, the building was hanging on by a thread. 

‘Feestlokaal De Vooruit’ was featured in an exhibition at the Ghent’s Royal Academy. By exposing the decay, the creators from the school’s film and photography departments sought to draw attention to the architectural value of the Feestlokaal. Their goal was to bring about not only a restoration of the building, but a new hub of artistic activity.