TOURCOING.- Proximity and evidence make us blind: France is unaware of the inventiveness, the diversity and the current creative agitation of some of our closest neighbours. However, for the Northern region, with the ABC exhibition of Belgian contemporary art, there is real fraternity, a cultural permeability which, paradoxically, has not erased the borders in the way that, for example, American, German and even Japanese artists have done in favour of fashion and the art market. In many respects, Belgium has made an impact on all the current artistic disciplines: dance, theatre and the visual arts which including the invented forms where these practices merge. Collectors and amateurs in Belgium have been essential in accompanying this contemporary effervescence.
ABC is an exhibition that does not claim to be a comprehensive portrayal of the diversity of the contemporary scene in Belgium. The disciplines most particularly taught and practiced at Le Fresnoy have formed the criteria of priority for selection purposes: photography, film, video, installation, performance and choreography. And these are the exact areas where Belgium has recently been excelling, drawing from its inheritance of documentary film devoted to other disciplines - in this the work of Jeff Cornelis continues to maintain the tradition, - through experimental film (with his legendary festival in Knokke-le-Zoute) in a specific anarcho-dadaist tradition and finally quite simply with poetry of "beyond-the-limit" attitudes which, in the past, gave rise to spectacular provocations.
"I think that Flemish and Walloon artists are not particularly affected by internationalism. Belgium is possibly an artwork itself, and like every good artwork, it is a disappearing exercise which will continue to fascinate us and defy us."This is what Jan Fabre said one day and I retain two words that form a dumbfounding paradox, symbolist even: fascination and defiance. And we know how important art and symbolist poetry was for Belgian art, characteristics that continue to irrigate the most radical current practice. Further more, the exhibition is based on the hypothesis - and this was another factor of selection in the itinerary of the exhibition - that Belgium is probably the only country to perpetuate the cohabitation and mutual influence of two currents generally taken to be contradictory in post-1945 art: a conceptual, minimal trend and a post-dadaist trend with pranks verging on burlesque idiocy.
) It is a fragile country on the verge of implosion, drawn towards the idea of disappearing some say with an anarcho-poetical complacency that has become a cliché. In the last thirty years in Belgium there has been an exciting emergence of artists who do not wish to implode or disappear. A vitality based on a tradition of impertinence, provocation and nourished by the powerful and persistent belief in poetry, including the conjugation of visual forms where writing is the driving force. Symbolism, Surrealism and Minimalism form a specific trinity of which there is no equivalent in Europe and which forms the framework of ABC.