joint performance, Marie Julia Bollansée and the audience
at S.M.A.K. Gent, on Sunday 19/9/2021 from 1PM until 5PM
Hadewych Cocquyt, photographs
Cynthia Vertessen en Pablo Bollansée, video-camera
Mit Hendrickx, knitwork
Marie Julia Bollansée, concept, performance, felt garb
Ann Hoste, curator
S.M.A.K. staff ,making it happen
Alicia, Dirk, Linde, Nomi, Suzanna, assistance
Abbey Westmalle, Extra Trappist
As an extension of her exhibition GEOLOGY, Marie Julia Bollansée presents a new performance: RIVER. The artist sees rivers as the veins of the earth that carry vital water from its source to the seas. If these arteries are blocked or severed, human lives are in danger. On the lawn next to S.M.A.K., Bollansée creates a new landscape with the “tarpaulin blue” sails typical of her work and a long strip of knitted fabric. She invites visitors to enter the landscape and accompanies them as they cross the river.
“I spread a white, long knitted fabric on a lawn next to S.M.A.K. It was devotedly knitted by my wise mother, using my own handspun yarn. To me, spinning is a form of meditation in the germ that gives rise to works, such as this performance.
The strip resembles a white, narrow river; the landscape it bisects turns ‘tarpaulin blue’.
We all come into contact with ‘flows’ in our lives, both literally and figuratively. Sometimes we have to cross rivers, at other times we can go with the flow. Rivers, the veins of the earth, carry vital water from its source to the seas. If these arteries are blocked or severed, our lives are in danger.
In the performance RIVER, I invite the audience to remove their shoes and socks and step barefoot across the white, narrow river. I ask them to concentrate, not to talk, not to look back and to proceed individually and slowly. A free glass of Trappist beer, a gift from the abbot of Westmalle Abbey, awaits them at the finish.”
In form, RIVER resembles the work of Giotto, an artist I admire because he was the first Renaissance painter to fall in love with the colour blue. He painted the entire ceiling of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua with the magical blue pigment created from the lapis lazuli found in Afghanistan, allowing the golden stars to shine within. Under the lapis lazuli sky and in long strips, he sketched biblical scenes from the life of Jesus and his ancestors (on his mother’s side).
RIVER finds its origin in Benares (India) and Kathmandu (Nepal). Benares, or Varanasi, is an ancient city situated on the banks of the Ganges. In India, Hindus aspire to make a pilgrimage to Varanasi at least once in their lifetime and, if possible, to even die there. Their bodies can thus be cremated on the pyres that line the water’s edge, the ashes of which are scattered in the Ganges. Only then are their souls liberated and they can enter Nirvana. In Kathmandu I witnessed the same funeral rites taking place on the banks of the Bagmati River. Hindus and Buddhists both have great faith in their rivers. The waters of their sacred rivers have the power to purify them spiritually. Being there, I saw and smelled how terribly polluted the Ganges and the Bagmati River are nowadays.
I created a participatory performance especially for Benares: I spread my blue tarpaulin on the banks of the Ganges and asked people to walk barefoot across it, following the direction of the current.
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