Manifesta 9 takes place from June 2 until September 30, 2012 at the impressive site of the former Waterschei mine in Genk, Limburg, Belgium. For the first time in the history of Manifesta, the biennial not only presents an international, industry-leading selection of contemporary art. The exhibition also consists of an impressive collection of historical works and displays the rich mining heritage in a surprising and innovative way to both local and international audiences.
Curator Cuauhtémoc Medina (Mexico City) developed the concept for Manifesta 9, addressing the social and societal impact of the recent past in Limburg. The exhibition “The Deep of the Modern” is presented as a triptych. For the first section, 35 international contemporary artists were invited to create new work, paying heed to regional context, linking the local theme with global issues. The art historical section provides an overview of works of art from the 19th and 20th Centuries, with the impact of the coal industry as their subject. The third section focuses on the extensive legacy that the Limburg mining industry has left behind. -
CURATORIAL CONCEPT / MANIFESTA 9: The Deep of the Modern
Manifesta 9 stages a dialogue between different layers of art, heritage and history. We propose an experience of contemporary art immersed in a dialogue across generations, geographies, time frames and social projects, as one of the forces that produce the world. Therefore, we have avoided the convention of the biennial as a mega-exhibition of contemporary art to create a focused montage of three components that echo, resonate and interact within the Waterschei mine building: -
I. Poetics of Restructuring
Capitalism cannot exist without constantly revolutionising production, and thereby all social relations. Our ways of living, as well as our sensibility and subjectivity, are to a great extent the fleeting output (and the strata of residues) of the constant restructuring of the economic system. This section consists of aesthetic responses to the worldwide economic restructuring of the productive system in the early twentyfirst century, tracing developments in industrialism, post-industrialism, and shifting geographies and conditions of production in the era of global capitalism. By relating contemporary artworks with the encrypted meanings of the Waterschei historical building, this exhibition explores the way poetics relates to the shifting experience of labor, the geographical volatility of populations and industries, and the generalisation of material and intellectual processes that stir every quarter of the globe. Both empirically and enigmatically, artworks are witnesses to and sites of the poetic reworking of the uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, the everlasting uncertainty and the agitation characteristic of the different industrial epochs.
II. The Age of Coal -
An Underground History of the Modern
Although coal was one of the key factors that determined the transformations of social life and the natural landscape during the Industrial Era, we rarely consider it as a source of cultural energy. Such neglect owes to an aesthetic resistance toward coal mining, in combination with the ideologies that would isolate art from history. The Age of Coal offers a selection of artworks from the late eighteenth to the early twenty-first century to form an essay in the material art history of modernity. In ten chapters, we excavate the many ways coal as a fuel, as an environmental agent, as a fossil and as an industry shaped and conditioned artistic production. -
III. 17 Tons
This section of the exhibition is an exploration of the cultural production powered by the energy of memory that runs through the diverse heirs of coal mining in Limburg and beyond. By transforming the title of one of the most famous coal miners’ songs – 16 Tons, recorded in 1946 by Merle Travis – 17 Tons ciphers the need of going one ton beyond the standard ideas about heritage. The show traces unexpected journeys through objects and documents kept in museums, as family treasures or in police archives, as well as a diversity of creative disciplines and traditions involved in a continuous exchange between the past and the future. Although the exhibition is divided into different sections – all brought together in this single building in Waterschei – there are thematic, poetic, and methodological. -
Manifesta 9, until September 30, 2012
at the former Waterschei mine in Genk, Limburg, Belgium -
Duncan Campbell Edward Burtynsky Katleen Vermeir & Ronny Heiremans Suske en Wiske Rocco Granata Claire Fontaine