Friday, 27 March 2009

Review by Moniek Darge

Moniek has written a review of infusoria for the next issue of the Logos Blad (the Logos Foundation’s monthly magazine): the text should appear there shortly in Dutch. In the meantime, here’s an English translation. (I added the links myself, for anyone who might want to know where Molenbeek is or what the Koekelberg looks like...)

Infusoria

Organiser Helen White and I are on the train to Brussels, to put the finishing touches to a small exhibition of visual poetry made by women just before it opens. Without wishing to dwell on my own expectations, I imagine mainly videos and internet pieces. As for myself, I have been invited to contribute two music boxes, which Helen has already installed for me.
The activity is part of a “Foire du Livre OFF 2009” and is being held at the Maison des Cultures in Molenbeek.

The metro takes us as far as the avenue that leads to the Koekelberg Basilica. We walk down several side streets with mainly North African residents, pass a typical grocer’s shop with vegetables displayed in front of it and end up in a building that looks like a school. The corridors are decorated with colourful silhouettes of children, drawings and photos and the place exudes a vibe of multicultural community work similar to initiatives in our part of Ghent.

The exhibition has found a home in a small room that has been given a highly original atmosphere with huge cardboard boxes placed in the middle of the room on their narrow sides like a sculpture. Some of the contributions to the exhibition are fixed to the sides of the boxes and there are plinths around the room with three-dimensional works. There is no sign of the internet or video works I had expected.

An employee of the Maison des Cultures is hard at work attaching the spotlights and bending them to the correct angle, and a second man is pacing nervously back and forth with his hands full of materials and tools. He warns us to hurry up and is clearly not convinced that we will be able to open on time, because at three o’clock he is going to open the doors, whether we are ready or not. I’m at a loss as to why he is so worried, because everything seems to be just about ready. I can’t resist having a quick look round to get an impression of the whole exhibition. A couple of striking works grab my attention right away. A group of old-fashioned teacups with teabags covered in text; underneath a bell jar, all kinds of little dolls, toys and dice with letters on them that have rolled out of a bottle lying on its side and a six-sided wooden box in which blocks with letters on them are displayed on a cheerful pink cushion. The playfulness of the exhibition is right up my street.

Helen is already busy attaching name cards and I offer to help. This is how I find out that the teacups are by the Canadian Alixandra Bamford and that the bottle under the bell jar and the box with blocks inside are by the same person, Michelle Detorie from California, who grew up in South Carolina. I’m curious about what Helen’s own contribution is, and it turns out to be little plexiglas cubes, one of which contains transparent films with text on, and another contains balls of sticky tape with letters on them. In places openings have been made to look through, bordered with a star of red or gold thread. Small pebbles are lying between the boxes with text on them. As a whole, they emanate both endless patience and great playfulness.

On one of the side walls, a door is concealed behind a translucent curtain into which messages in Morse code have been worked in stitching and beadwork. It was made by Jessica Smith from Buffalo and bears the self-evident title “Veil”. Unfortunately I can’t read the texts, but they remind me of my father who used to spend whole evenings signalling when we were small children, and often let us listen in to the mysterious Morse code messages from distant lands. Might that be where I get my wanderlust from?

My two music boxes are displayed in all their glory under their plexiglas domes. I have chosen to exhibit two particularly visual boxes with lots of different colours and quirky shapes. One of them displays curled Thai finger extensions in yellow copper, with blue glass marbles and two moving eyeballs that roll back and forth between them. The other box contains brightly coloured fishing floats and two blue tropical fish.

It is almost three o’clock, and I make eager use of the last few minutes to take a quick look round at the other activities. Besides the alternative French-language book fair, there is another photo exhibition by local residents that gives us a view of colourful festivals and overflowing living rooms. An African man stops me with a steely glance and a brochure in his hand: he turns out to be from some christian sect or other which wants me to listen to the voice of jesus calling my name and warmly invites me to come and sing his praises.

I beat a hasty retreat back to our room and at three o’clock the doors swing wide open and our first visitor come in. When he stops at the music boxes, I lift off the dome and start the first story. When I hold the fish to his ears so he can hear the ultra-quiet sound they make, he protests, telling me he used to be a long-haul sailor and that the sea is not silent at all, but that constant pandemonium rages over the waves.

The time flies by and as I make my way back to the metro, the lively images of this small exhibition full of good things are dancing in front of my eyes. I am genuinely delighted that there are people like Helen White who put their heart and soul into promoting visual poetry, which would otherwise remain unknown.

Moniek Darge

Thanks Moniek! *blushing pink*

You can find more of Moniek’s strange and wonderful music boxes here.

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