WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels
WIELS | Avenue Van volxem, 354 / Forest
artist / participant
For over ten years, Belgian artist Vincent Meessen (b. 1971 in Baltimore, USA) has been exploring the multiple and contested faces of Western modernity. By revisiting forgotten or overlooked episodes of our colonial past, Meessen exposes the blind spots that inevitably accompany a Eurocentric account of history. His practice demonstrates a commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration and agency beyond the borders of art. In this light, he has recently been mining the influential heritage of the Situationist International, which upset so radically the relations between culture, politics and everyday life. While drawn to the Situationist International, Meessen is critical of its mythology, not least the consecration of Guy Debord as its hero and Paris as its epicentre.
Sire, je suis de l'ôtre pays, Meessen's largest solo exhibition to date, incorporates media that range from the moving image and its display structures to typography, together with rare situationist documents. For this presentation, the artist has created an expanded spatial setting for the filmic installation One.Two.Three. Co-produced by WIELS, this work was originally created for the Belgian Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennial and is shown here for the first time in Belgium. Structured around a protest song composed in May 1968 by Congolese situationist M'Belolo Ya M'Piku, rediscovered by Meessen in the archives of Belgian situationist Raoul Vaneigem, the film reveals hitherto unknown artistic and intellectual exchanges between the Situationist International and the Congo.
The exhibition takes its title from Ivan Chtcheglov's 1953 manifesto "Formulary for a New Urbanism." Following the situationists' plan to construct an experimental city on an uninhabited island, Meessen has built an ambitious sculptural installation in the form of a labyrinth. Titled SIISIS, Meessen's labyrinth is neither a monument nor an attraction, but a site that compels the visitor to drift under conditions of constraint. By means of this physical confrontation, Meessen invites the viewer to reflect on how a notion of citizenship could be implemented that—contrary to the current state of affairs—is not based on establishing roots but on circulation.