M – Museum Leuven (2014)
Ravaged: Art and Culture in Times of Conflict
Curated by Eline Van Assche & Ronald Van de Sompel, M – Museum Leuven
Chairman Scientific Committee: Jo Tollebeek, Prof. KU Leuven
M – Museum Leuven is hosting an exhibition on the destruction of art and culture in times of conflict. We are confronted every day with the reality of how vulnerable culture is in conflict. This relevant theme has a long tradition. We will show how artists throughout the ages have been inspired by the theme. Crimes against culture have been depicted in art for centuries. The history of art features examples of classical and popular art, both in realistic and symbolic representations. Reflections and interventions by contemporary artists will therefore be juxtaposed with artworks from the past. The works of classical masters and contemporary artists will engage in dialogue in the exhibition spaces at M. Leuven burns: the occasion and starting point of the exhibition
In August 1914, Leuven was occupied by German troops. In retaliation for alleged attacks by snipers, the occupiers inflicted severe reprisals. Citizens were herded together, shot or transported to Germany. Saint Peter’s Church, the University Halls, which housed the famous university library, a number of the ancient colleges and public buildings and all their contents were burned. The burning of
Leuven University Library caused of a wave of disbelief and outrage across the world and proved that the terrors of war are not only directed at civilians or soldiers, but also at culture and the arts. It is one of the most famous examples of the destruction of culture and intellectual heritage, but a mere echo of a far broader history. This exhibition marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Of all ages The destruction of culture was an inspiration to artists long before the First World War, and has continued to be so since. Themes such as the devastation of cities, destruction of monuments, art theft and propaganda have featured in artworks for centuries. In the exhibition, you will discover
examples by artists from between the 15th and 21st centuries. This creates an interesting dynamic between the past and the present, in a great diversity of media. Ravage presents painting, tapestry, photography, video, graphic works and monumental installation, made specifically for the exhibition
rooms at M. Contemporary art in dialogue with old masters The work of old masters such as Henri met de Bles, Michael Sweerts, Pietro da Cortona and William Turner will be displayed beside works by modernists like Floris Jespers and contemporary productions, such as Mona Hatoum’s installation Bunker (2011), for example, a group of steel constructions that look like damaged and burned modernist buildings, which refer to post-war Beirut. You will also see work by Adel Abdessemed, Lamia Joreige, Cai Guo-Qiang, Mona Vatamanu & Florin Tudor, Lida Abdul and Michael Rakowitz, as well as new creations by Sven Augustijnen and Fernando Bryce. M will also be exhibiting numerous loans from international collections (including the National Gallery London, Rijksmuseum, Carnavalet, Imperial War Museum). A number of works, such as the tapestry
by Floris Jespers, are being shipped back to Belgium for the first time especially for the exhibit.
Beirut Autopsy of a City (2010)
Multimedia installation (3 chapters), variable dimensions
This project proposes possible reconciliations between the task of the archaeologist and that of the poet, between modern images and ancient texts. In the middle of tales of conquest and defeat that shaped (and disfigured) Beirut, one wanders amidst narratives that point out to the impossibility of constructing a grand history.
The first chapter A history of Beirut’s possible disappearance exposes collected elements from various epochs, juxtaposed and overlapped in what seems to be a timeline; they constitute poetic associations between image and text, creating inter-temporal relations between those elements. These fragments question the validity of a complete and comprehensive history and propose instead a fictionalized narrative.
The second chapter Beirut, 1001 views is a large projection of a wide view of the harbor. This image, a multi-layered one, is an amalgam of different photographs taken at various times, each referring to a specific moment of history. It is therefore a fictive representation of Beirut that embodies simultaneously different periods of history, hence being neither a past image nor a present one, yet one reflecting a time that is non-linear. Elements of the image disappear while other appear almost imperceptibly.
The third chapter Beirut, 2058 displaces the anxiety from the past and its remnants and projects it unto a future apocalyptic realm. A narrator speaks of numerable troubles of the past that seem to have culminated in a catastrophe