After our painting workshop in Tuscany, a stop in Belgium!
Recently arrived from Belgium where we, Walk the Arts, had the opportunity to attend the Bruges Contemporary Art and Architecture Triennial 2015. This year the event raised the following questions: What if the five million tourists who visit Bruges every year decided to stay? What if this small and historic city suddenly became a megapolis?
The Triennial’s concept made us think of the thousands of people who every day flee warn-torn countries hoping to find asylum in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. How to cope with the challenge of adapting the cities to the refugee’s needs? How to integrate them into new societies and provide them with housing, education and work opportunities? How to help them overcome communication barriers? How to provide them with a space to think, to be? The situation is complex and needs numerous creative solutions as well as a total change of our societal values.
Among the eighteen proposals by international artists, we were very touched by Tree Huts in Bruges by the Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata (b. 1953) at the courtyard of the city’s well preserved béguinage, the Ten Wijngaer (today a Benedictine’s convent). The béguinages were enclosed communities that developed in north-western Europe in the 13th century as the product of a mystical women’s movement. They were founded by the béguines, pious single or widowed women, who wanted to live an independent and monastic life outside of the recognized orders. Typical Flemish béguinages were architectural ensembles composed of houses, functional buildings, a church and green spaces.
Kawamata installed a dozen wooden houses high up in the tall trees that grow from the central lawn of the béguinage’s courtyard (not a single nail in the trees). Signs at the entrance to the béguinage ask visitors for complete silence, so the peaceful atmosphere makes the unreachable little houses even more desirable. Both secret and sacred, they invite to reflection. A quiet place just to oneself that allows imagination to flow freely is the dream of any artist. How important it is to find in our own home, in our daily life, that unique space that allows us to make a cognitive reset… simply a personal reboot. A remote place that allows us to step away from our social identity and daily routine, to create and find our true self is a universal need. Unfortunately, the priority for too many is to cover basic needs and cope with suffering. Space, in both its physical and symbolic senses, is indeed becoming more and more an invaluable commodity. Let’s find ours!