Volume 05 â€” Issue 02
Neighbourhood Life + Global Style
Neighbourhood Smart move Life The writing on the wall Style The third man Music A shaded view Culture Stone cold + The photography special
The grey album
The editor’s letter
Publisher and editor-in-chief Nicholas Lewis Editorial assistant Sarah Schug Design facetofacedesign + pleaseletmedesign Writers Felicia Atkinson Sabine Clappaert Rose Kelleher Nicholas Lewis Philippe Pourhashemi Sarah Schug Sam Steverlynck Robbert van Jaarsveld Photographers/Illustrators Ulrike Biets Sarah Eechaut Veerle Frissen Pauline Miko Melika Ngombe Grégoire Pleynet Virassamy Intern Anne Catharina Richard For subscriptions (4 issues)
I never thought I’d say this, but doing this magazine has become rather boring. The thing is, I’m not the guy who goes out and does the interviews or who takes the photographs. I’m not the one who designs each and every page nor am I even the one who proof reads them. No, I’m the (boring) guy who sits behind his desk day-in day-out, planning, story-boarding and commissioning each story, shoot and feature for others to carry-out. Fact is, I can’t remember the last time I left this office and interviewed someone face-to-face. So you can image my joy when time came for our yearly photography special. Finally, I’d be able to get into the thick of it again. Interviews, studio visits, round tables, portfolio views – the lot. Photography, you see, is my thing here at Word HQ, and I got more than my money’s worth over the last few weeks. And what an exciting last few weeks it has been, especially for Belgian photography. There was the time we asked the heavy weights of Belgian photography to select their pick of future home-grown talents. We had Dirk Braeckman selecting Max Pinckers, Stephan Vanfleteren picking Thomas Sweertvaegher and Gilbert Fastenaekens choosing Clément Montagne. And those are just some of the big names whose opinion we enlisted. Then there was the round-table we hosted at Contretype in Brussels, asking certain players of the local publishing game to discuss the evolution of the coffee table book, and the possibility of it becoming the new exhibition. We also paid tribute to the artisans without whom photography wouldn’t be possible, photographed the cameras of three different types of photographers, did a round-up of Belgian photo zines, zoomed in on four photography series that particularly tickle our fancy at the moment as well as asked a portrait photographer to aim the lens at herself for once. And those are just the stand out features. Turn to page 67 for our statistics page and the entire special itself. On top of that, and not to be forgotten, we have the grey album. Before anything, you wouldn’t imagine how relieved and pleased I am for it to finally have gone to print. As many of you know, we had some problems bringing it out in February, as was planned, so decided to push it back a little. And that turned out to be one of the wisest decisions we’d taken in a while.
Transfer ¤ 21 (Belgium), ¤30 (Europe) or ¤ 45 (World) to account n° 363-0257432-34 IBAN BE 68 3630 2574 3234 BIC BBRUBEBB stating your full name, email and postal addresses in the communication box.
Content-wise, it’s a banger. We tracked down seven of the country’s most notorious graffiti writers, spoke to four specialists catering to the grey economy, interviewed Dior Homme creative director Kris Van Assche as well as profiled electronic music visionary Daniel Miller, founder of Mute records and The Grey Area.
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© Clément Montagne
The Word is published five times a year by JamPublishing, 107 Rue Général Henry Straat 1040 Brussels Belgium. Reproduction, in whole or in part, without prior permission is strictly prohibited. All information correct up to the time of going to press. The publishers cannot be held liable for any changes in this respect after this date.
Not that boring after all…
On this cover Self-portrait
Reeling in the years The greyboard
Dirty pretty things Human geography 19
Thank God itâ€™s Friday 20
Graffiti writers 30
Halfway there 21
Truck drivers 34
Altered states Grey expectations
Volume 05 — Issue 02
The photography Special
The hunter becomes the hunted A taste for paradox
A photo-zine a day keeps the…
Is the photography book the new… The middleman
The ones to watch
Photographers… and everyone… Drive-by shooting
Bozar’s summer of photography
78 Music 58
Snapper’s delight A stamp of approval 82 Uphigh Collective
Man vs. machine Grey Daniel Miller
It’s a Word’s world Felicia Atkinson Writer
This French-born and Belgium-based multi-talent is a contemporary artist, releases music under the pseudonym “Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier” and recently designed a T-shirt for Rue Blanche. But Felicia also has an encylopaedic knowledge on photography – not the only reason why we were delighted to work with her on our photography special. Task
For her first contribution to The Word, Felicia dived deep into the world of Belgian photo zines, moderated the round table about the future of the photography exhibition and profiled Antwerp-based photographer Jan Kampenaers for us. Quote
“Working on this issue made me think of a quote from someone else, Contretype’s Jean-Louis Godefroid: I see a photographer as a poet: I want to defend his special sight over the world.”
Pauline Miko Photographer
Studying photography at Brussels’ La Cambre and having come to our attention through her internship at The Word last year, Pauline quickly became a major pillar of the magazine. She’s especially proud to have had her grandmother’s snowball collection featured in our white album. Task
Strolling through Brussels’ streets to capture the strange phenomenon of boot scrapers on film, aiming her lense at upcoming Belgian bands, shooting zines as well as our grey inspirations… As manifold as her assignments are – Pauline’s personal style, empathic and intriguing, always shines through. Quote
“Taking endless walks around the grey city, it struck me how interesting a place Brussels really is: The new meets the old at every corner of every street.”
Sabine Clappaert Writer
Cosmopolitan Sabine Clappaert was raised in the hotter climates of South Africa and Australia. She currently calls Belgium her home – for now. Task
For this issue Sabine explored the concept of “consciousness”, diving into a strange world of altered states as coma and a condition called “locked-in syndrome” in which patients are aware of themselves but unable to express anything but brain activity. Quote
“The question that will truly haunt me after researching this article is “how conscious are we during the process of dying?” In my research I found an article showing brain scans of the brain’s activity during – and right after death – and the needle was screaming up and down the graph. Horrifying. Fascinating.”
Alex Salinas Photographer
Alex, though born and raised in Antwerp, is now hopping back and forth between his Belgian hometown and The Big Smoke. His raw and direct style is evident in his various personal projects as well as in the work he does for numerous clients from ID Magazine to Dazed & Confused. He’s also portrayed hot shots such as Dennis Hopper or Hannelore Knuts. Task
After having brought his very own twist to the snow white myth for our cinematic issue, we were thrilled to get Alex to once again take care of our fashion pages. Quote
“I love spending time in my new car, inhaling its specific smell, taking it for a drive – which is why doing a fashion shoot on wheels seemed like the perfect idea.”
Clockwise from top: Elina Brotherus’ book Artist and her Model, published by Brussels imprint Le Caillou Bleu. Brotherus has an exhibition running at Contretype until 10 th June and is also taking part in Bozar’s Sense of Place exhibition, which runs from 14th June to 16 th September. Black Mirrors, the catalogue for French artist Julien Langendorff’s exhibition at Agnes B New York, published by Brussels-based Shelter Press. Colin Gray’s book In Sickness and in Health, published by Steidl Mack. The book presents the last stage of Gray’s 29 year-long study called The Parents. Here, he documents his mother’s disability following a stroke. Harrowing and haunting, yet so powerful. / 02. Redbull’s newest drink, its Silver Edition. / 03. Left: Patti Smith’s Radio Ethiopia LP, recorded in 1976. Right: Leonard Cohen’s Live Songs LP. / 04. Purple Fashion’s pull-out Purple Books, cartes blanches given to certain creative forces in the field of contemporary art, photography and music. Luminaries have included everyone from Aurel Schmidt and Thurston Moore to Katja Rahlwes and Dash Snow. / 05. Grey Goose Vodka. / 06. Grey Gardens, Albery and David Maysles’ 1975 documentary depicting the lives of a mother and a daughter, both named Edit Beale, who lived in a dilapidated mansion in East Hampton, New York. The film makes for riveting viewing. / 07. Left: Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier is the musical project of Brussels-based artist Félicia Atkinson, who contributed massively to our photography special. This record, An Age of Wonder, was also released by Shelter Press, run by her partner Bartholomé Sanson. Right: The 12’’ for Stones Throw recording artist James Pants’ Ka$h. / 08. A grey HB pencil. / All photography by Pauline Miko. 01.
Belgium Human geography
© Arturas Raila
“Sense of Place” is a response to our environment and to the distinctive characteristics that give places their souls, making them unique and special to us. The images belonging to the exhibition of the same name at Brussels’ Bozar play with this spirit, with the connection between humanity and our environment while revelling in the aesthetics of landscape in contemporary European photography. This year’s major exhibition the ’Summer of Photography’ assembles some 160 works by 40 photographers, from young promising artists to internationally celebrated stars, including high-profile names like Andreas Gursky, Gina Glover and Elina Brotherus. Paying tribute to the environment while observing the connection between nature and urbanity, the images show how social identities have been shaped by places.
© Arion Kudász
From 14th June to 16th September Bozar, Brussels bozar.be
© Elina Brotherus
Sense of Place
Nighthawks Not only a married couple but also a team when it comes to art, Franco-Belgian photographers Merel’t Hart and Luk Vander Plaetse join forces for this exhibition at Brussels’ Cultural Center Jaques Franck. The show focuses on their common project called “De Buren,” a series inspired by a nocturnal walk through a little Dutch town and Edward Hopper’s iconic “Nighthawks.” The contemplative and intimate images expose peoples’ homes from the outside at nighttime, as seen through their windows thanks to the very Dutch habit of leaving the curtains wide open. Merel’t Hart and Luk Vander Plaetse’s work allows the viewer to dive into the private lives of others, confronting the notion of intimacy and revealing an interesting aspect of Dutch culture. But whether the act is a sign of independence and freedom or an extreme demonstration of “We have nothing to hide” still remains to be seen.
Merel’t Hart and Luk Vander Plaetse From 30th June to 1st September Centre Culturel Jacques Franck, Brussels lejaquesfranck.be
Dimensional transitions A sense of form reminiscent of Mirò and Picasso, shapes that recall Noguchi and vibrant colours that evoke elements of pop art – the descriptions applied to the work of American artist Aaron Curry are many. The Texan has managed to carve out a niche for himself with his fantastical, bizarre and colourful sculptures, collages and paintings that all have one thing in common: fluctuation between the bi-dimensional and the tri-dimensional, shifting from the background to the foreground and back again. This play with dimensions is the signature attribute of the LA-based artist, and an aspect of his work that is vividly apparent in the current exhibition at Brussels’ Almine Rech Gallery. The show unites Curry’s handmade collages and paintings crafted out of cardboard with large-scale wood and metal sculptures that resemble abstract and, at times, animallike organisms with biomorphic shapes and forms.
Aaron Curry: White Out Until 22nd July Almine Rech Gallery, Brussels alminerech.com
Playing history Jeremy Deller, English installation, conceptual and video artist, has been active in contemporary art for just about two decades, stretching its definition and, as some even claim, rewriting its rules. Wiels is now hosting an extensive overview of this very influential artist of our time, with all of Deller’s major works to date. The extensive oeuvre of 2004’s Turner prize winner includes everything from photographs, posters, banners and installations to performance work and sound pieces, that all come back to the prevalent theme of his art: People and their habits, symbols and social rituals. Intelligently but playfully, he explores the social landscapes of Western and especially British society, never without a dose of provocation. His most prominent project to date has been the public re-enactment of a violent confrontation between coalminers and police during the 1984/85 Miner’s Strike, a participatory work that united almost 1,000 people.
Jeremy Deller: Joy in People Until 19 th August Wiels, Brussels wiels.org
In the context of the “Summer of Photography,” the group show “From Here On” broaches the issue of the future of photography, raising questions about muchdebated topics like authorship, copyright and privacy. Naturally, the exhibition also touches upon the question of the “death” of traditional photography, with a number of international artists shedding a new light on this changing art form by working with the plethora of digital images from the internet. While British artist Mishka Henner’s images serve as a social documentary of sorts, derived from photos originally intended for another purpose, American Penelope Umbrico instead uses photo-share websites like Flickr for inspiration. Fellow American Doug Rickard works with a similar concept: He reproduces images from Google Street View in an attempt to portray a marginalised sector of American society.
© Corinne Vionnet
From 22nd June to 30th September FoMu, Antwerp fotomuseum.be
© Pavel Maria Smejkal
From Here On
© Barbara Visser
Designing culture What role does design play in the evolution of everyday life? And what is our relation to objects? How do objects influence society and our direct surroundings? Ghent’s Design Museum explores these and other questions with its exhibition “Destrøy/Design”, uniting an eclectic selection of outstanding art and design objects of the moment with pieces that date back to the 60s. Examining the blurry limits between contemporary art and design, the artists play with perceptions of the intended purpose of utility items, referencing, recreating or destroying prominent design objects – always with a sense of humour. The exhibition is curated by the Frac Nord-Pas de Calais in Dunkirk, France, an institution dedicated to contemporary art that has pioneered the investigation into the role of design in our daily lives. Works include those of Donald Judd, Barbara Visser, Gaetano Pesce, Sam Durant and Atelier Van Lieshout.
© Sam Durant
© Barbara Visser
Destrøy/Design From 7 th July to 21st October Design Museum, Ghent designmuseumgent.be
Until 12 th August Barbican, London barbican.org
© 2012 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
Bauhaus: Art as Life
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany
Even if you’re not an art buff, it’s very likely you’ve heard of Bauhaus, the name given to one of the most influential movements in modern design and architecture and the driving force behind the development of modern visual language in general. Its range of influence encompasses everything from art, interior and industrial design to typography and graphic design. With the biggest Bauhaus exhibition in London in 40 years, “Art as Life”, the Barbican Museum traces the history of the school from its founding by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919 to its dramatic closure in 1933 owing to pressure from the Nazis. This fascinating show encompasses no fewer than 400 works from prominent Bauhausers, including pieces from iconic artists and architects like Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. The exhibition also allows the viewer a rather rare insight into the everyday life at the Bauhaus, with a display of black and white photographs of its parties and festivals.
© Farkus Molnar
Black gold London’s Photographers’ Gallery is putting on a exhibition of the internationally renowned “Oil” series shot by one of Canada’s most respected photographers, Edward Burtynsky. In over thirty captivating images, he examines one of today’s most important natural resources with a sharp, critical eye and sense of morality, brilliantly revealing the effects of oil on our lives, landscapes and cities. Burtynsky spent over a decade travelling and documenting the production, distribution and use of a hotly debated and strongly contested natural supply that humankind has become extremely dependent on. The large-scale images give rare insight into the manufacturing process, with international drill sites, refineries, highways and recycling grounds, as well as abandoned oil fields. A vivid and well-researched chronicle of oil’s role in today’s society and a haunting reminder of the oft-forgotten disconnect between the oil industry and our consumer world.
Edward Burtynsky: Oil Until 1st July The Photographers’ Gallery, London photonet.org.uk
France & Holland Budapest – Berlin – Amsterdam In what is the first comprehensive retrospective of the work of photographer Eva Besnyö, Paris’ Jeu de Paume is showcasing around 120 vintage prints by the so-called “Grande Dame” of Dutch photography, an artist particularly known for her outstanding landscapes, architectural photographs and portraits. A prominent figure in the Dutch New Photography movement, she was also a true cosmopolitan: Born in Hungary, she emigrated to Berlin at the age of 20 and later fled to Amsterdam in the autumn of 1932 with the rise of the National Socialists. The exhibition “L’image sensible” unites images from the different phases of Besnyö’s life, revealing her strong sense of humanism and her influential neo-realistic approach to photography. In Budapest, Berlin and Amsterdam, the artist photographed the women of the 1930s, the postwar reconstruction effort and numerous writers, artists and actors.
Eva Besnyö: L’image sensible Until 23 rd September Jeu de Paume, Paris jeudepaume.org
Memory lanes The relationship between photography and memory is the main focus of exploration for Japanese-born, London-based artist Chino Otsuka. Her images are suffused with an autobiographical touch, tracing the past and recreating it, using memory as a form of storytelling. In Japan she’s known not only as a photographer but also as the author of a well-known book called “Chino’s Diary”, which she wrote at the age of 15, and that deals with her time at school in London. This phase in her life also inspired the series of images called “Summer”, for which she revisited the site and staged self-portraits (a recurrent practice in her artworks – a quest for identity). With the inclusion of her divorced parents and her grandmother, sometimes combined with archive materials and film stills, her images have a personal and intimate feel and they blur and blend the past and present, the imagined and the real.
Chino Otsuka: A World of Memories From 9th June until 9th September Huis Marseille, Amsterdam huismarseille.nl
The pick of festivals to come Lovebox London, England 15th to 17th June
Couleur Café Brussels, Belgium 29th June to 1st July
Ghent Jazz Festival Ghent, Belgium 5th to 14th July
Les Ardentes Liège/Luik, Belgium 5th to 8th July
Cactus Festival Brugge, Belgium 6th to 8th July
Dour Dour, Belgium 12th to 15th July
This June, London’s
Erykah Badu, De La Soul,
Bringing together pure
This seventh edition of
Cactus Festival, hosted
Franz Ferdinand, The
Victoria Park will be luvved
Sean Paul, Public Enemy,
Jazz musicians as well as
Liège/Luik’s Les Ardentes
in the picturesque
Rapture, Caribou, The
up and transformed into
Gentleman, The Subs –
some more fusion types,
is a helluva party that
surroundings of Brugge’s
Flaming Lips, Casiokids,
one big fat monster party,
Couleur Café is known for
this festival brags Jamaican
attracts around 70,000
Minnewater Park, is a
with Lovebox festival co-
having a thang for different
legends Ernest Ranglin,
music lovers every year
James Blake, Kurt Vile,
founders Groove Armada
cultures, but it’s not just
Monty Alexander and Sly
and a host of top notch
veteran on Belgium’s
Bon Iver, Dilated Peoples…
returning to the stage to
the line-up: this three-day
& Robbie alongside the
names. This year sees
festival scene, launching
Dour 2012’s line-up is full of
celebrate the festival’s
diversity-fest will feature
likes of singer/songwriter
“The Godmother of Punk”
its 30 th edition this summer.
deliciously tasty morsels of
10 th birthday – despite
the usual booths with food
Damien Rice and crooner
– 65 year old Patti Smith
Combining rock, reggae,
the very best in indie rock,
an announcement that
from all over the world plus
Antony and the Johnsons,
– take to the stage. Other
world music and dance,
electro, pop and hip-hop.
they’d never grace our ears
an art expo (this year’s
who’ll be accompanied by
highlights include The
this party has a name for
No wonder, then, that
with a live show again.
theme: Nature, je t’aime,
the Metropole Orchestra.
eclecticism and the fact
since its creation in 1989,
Named after the electronic
moi non plus) and the
Not only that, but soul
American hip-hop icons
that there’s only one stage
Dour Festival has grown to
music duo’s residency,
Solidarity Village where
veteran Bobby Womack is
Cypress Hill and French
ensures you won’t miss
welcome about 140, 000
the Lovebox Weekender
NGOs will be doling out
making a comeback after
dream-popper M83, who’s
a thing running between
people to its fields, with
attracts up to 50,000 party
info on humankind’s impact
a 10 year hiatus to give
just catapulted himself to
them. The line-up goes all
six stages blasting out the
people every year and this
on the environment. It all
a blast of a new album
international stardom with
the way from American
choons for 17 hours a day
time they’ll be rocking out
adds up to a colourful,
that’s been produced by
his latest album “Hurry Up
post-rockers Explosions in
over four days. A music
to headliners like Hot Chip,
none other than Gorillaz’
We’re Dreaming.” Four
the Sky and Soundgarden’s
marathon with around 200
Crystal Castles, Grace
festival that well lives up to
Damon Albarn. There’s
days and three stages mean
Chris Cornell to singer/
bands and DJs, this bash
Jones and The Rapture.
also a competition for
an immense line-up that
songwriter Kurt Vile,
has even won a prize for
Worth a trip to the island,
young emerging artists and
also features Warpaint,
Belgium’s Black Box
best medium-sized festival
we reckon. But be warned:
an exhibition showcasing
White Lies, and Marilyn
Revelation and genre-
in Europe – and we think
images from Ghent Jazz
Manson – amongst many
10 Days Off Ghent, Belgium 13th to 23rd July
Power Festival La Louvière, Belgium 20th to 21st July
Microfestival Liège/Luik, Belgium 3rd to 4th August
Brussels Summer Festival Brussels, Belgium 10th to 19th August
Pukkelpop Kiewit, Belgium 16th to 18th August
Lowlands Biddinghuizen, Netherlands 17th to 19th August
During its 18 years
For the eight time, the
After organising countless
Over 60 years old and
The second biggest music
With more than 10 stages
existence, 10 Days Off has
two-day Power Festival will
concerts and even growing
still no sign of letting up;
festival in the country after
and 200 acts, Lowlands
become a bit of a landmark
be hosted in La Louvière’s
its own label, Liège music
Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop
is one of the biggest and
for electronic music lovers,
Tivoli stadium, with a menu
collective Jaune Orange
Iggy & The Stooges are
gives the mic to around
best music festivals in the
not only in Belgium but
of metal, hardrock, punk
are finally realising their
performing at the Brussels
200 acts annually. This
Netherlands, a country
also beyond. In contrast to
and noise bands. British
fantasies with their very
Summer Festival this year,
party-in-a-field still prides
with probably a bit more
other summer festivals, this
punk rock veterans The
own festival. This one
sitting pretty at the top
itself on its independent and
than its fair share of decent
one is all indoors making
Damned will be returning
is small, has only one
of the line-up with The
summer gigs. Founded by
for a more clubby type
to the stage, while French
stage and is infinitely
Stranglers, Pony Pony Run
And the line-up speaks for
Utrecht-based artist and
atmosphere – not such a
metalcore band Eths will
affordable. They’re focusing
Run and David Bartholomé.
itself: Björk is set to enchant
painter Bunk Bessel in 1967
bad idea considering this
be presenting a brand new
particularly on fresh new
The BSF sees the glorious
the fields of Hasselt,
under the banner “A Flight
country’s bloody weather.
album. Belgian hardcore
discoveries and newbies.
Belgian capital play host to
while British rock icons
to Lowlands Paradise,” this
Whilst making space for
gets a spot, too, with
But don’t think that this
a 10-day music marathon
The Stone Roses will be
three-day-bash is a worthy
electronic music of all
Ghent-based power trio
mini fest, now in its third
on the streets that unites
hotting up the stage as part
shindig with an eclectic and
stripes, 2012’s edition is
Drums are for Parades,
go, is a gig for Jaune
all kinds of genres, from
of their much anticipated
high-profile line-up that
going for a bit of a dubstep
amongst others. And check
Orange protégés only – au
jazz and pop to folk, reggae
comeback. And don’t you
includes a delightful combo
buzz, while lending itself
this out: the whole thing
contraire. There’s Gablé,
and even classical. Plus,
dare miss American rock
of the cream of the crop of
to a bit of disco, too.
is free. A day out for the
and The Chap as well as
festival groovers can get
duo The Black Keys, as
everyone’s all-time favorites
The multifaceted line-up
more hardcore music fans
Colin Stetson and The
into a number of Brussels’
well as Hot Chip, Feist,
(Wilco, Eagles of Death
includes Richie Hawtin,
museums for free, and
The Hives, Modeselektor
Metal, Feist) as well as the
DJ Koze, Moonlight Matters,
this year rockabilly festival
and Django Django.
newest of the newcomers
Lapalux, John Talabot and
Brockxelles 58 is part of the
(Django Django, Tune
many many many more.
Yards) ready to charm the
pants off the low countries. lowlands.nl
The grey papers When grey takes a break from refereeing between black and white, this affable diplomat decorates our offices, coats our old movie reels in layers of dust and packs the inside of our skulls with things to think about. May we present grey’s very own papers, chronicling film archives, boring suits, life after prison, the brain, and Belgium’s legion of starving artists, along with a profile of those shoe scraper thingymajiggies that the posh of yore used to stop dragging horse shit through the parlour. Who said grey was boring? We should be bloody grateful. Writers Sabine Clappaert, Rose Kelleher, Robbert van Jaarsveld, Sarah Schug and Sam Steverlynck Illustrator Virassamy
ˆ “ One of the more sadistic ways bosses dupe us into thinking they’re human is a bizarre cultural meme called casual Friday ” ˇ
Thank God it’s Friday Your boss is not your friend. Occasionally, she’ll pass around a bag of sweets, or invite you to a barbecue and pretend she’s just like you. She might even add you as a friend on Facebook (don’t do it). But one of the more sadistic ways bosses dupe us into thinking they’re human is a bizarre cultural meme called casual Friday. Traditional offices are drab places with carpets, ceiling tiles and walls of a mysterious non-colour that gives grey a bad name. Once a week on Fridays, they bloom when staff are permitted a reprieve from formal wear and lope around in loosened collars, jeans and coloured T-shirts. But where did it come from? You can just imagine silver-haired CEOs watching Powerpoint presentations on the ROI of staff morale, reclining in leather chairs and going “Jeans, yes, I like it”. But that’s not how casual Friday snuck into our professional sphere. Some sources trace its roots to Aloha Fridays in Hawaii in the forties, when staff were permitted zany shirts one day a week.
In California’s dot com days, entrepreneurs thought it would engender creativity if office monkeys were permitted to wear whatever they liked. In Europe in the 90s, we read about grey Silicon Valley office cubicles transformed by a proliferation of primary coloured “things” like pinball machines and flip-flopped employees, receptionists in summer dresses and bright red anti-stress balls. We looked wistfully over the top of the New York Times culture supplement at our boss and he put his hands up and said “OK, wear whatever the fuck you want on Friday, OK?” Offices all over began adopting a Fridayonly wardrobe-fest. From behind a desk in Brussels, globetrotting IT manager Darren Ball waxes memorial. Suddenly, he says, casual Friday started being written into HR policy in Europe as a way to cheaply encourage staff to perform, while engendering warm and fuzzy feelings towards management. “For one day a week, you were allowed to be yourself.” And, he adds, it saved time on Friday mornings. But it’s like letting your dog up on the couch. You can’t just do it one day and then not the next. It’s inconsistent. Who wants to be “me” one day, and an indistinguishable office zombie the other four? What, exactly, is the message?
Some say casual Friday even encourages sloppiness. Indeed, many of the growing army of freelancers force themselves into something formal when they go to their “office” in the living room. We are loathe to change the world in our pajamas. But the traditional office is not long for this world anyway. Even Google’s pioneering alt-space hasn’t aged well. Take their offices in Place Jourdan/Jourdanplein in Brussels. If there’s anything more kitsch than 1995’s next big thing in industrial office design, we’d like to hear about it. A large square metal block of grey cubicles is still a large square metal block of grey cubicles, no matter how many fuzzball machines you order from an office supplies catalogue. All that upstairs-downstairs office stuffiness is so last century. Telecommuting makes more and more sense, and there are a growing number of creative office spaces that don’t look anything like office spaces and creative employees who don’t look anything like employees. So next Thursday evening, tell your boss that your work can most effectively be done from your couch, buck naked, in your wedding dress, or whatever. With or without your dog, of course, but make up your mind one way or the other. (RK)
ˆ “ Those with no home to go to after prison would end up on the streets if it were not for independent shelters like this one ” ˇ
Halfway there “It’s very difficult to come out of prison. You think you’re going to find everything as it was but everything has changed. People have disappeared, others have moved on, some have fallen ill.” We are sitting with Yassine in a back room of the Petits Riens / Spullenhulp, Belgium’s largest welcome centre for the homeless. He works in the centre’s social economy and we’ve nabbed him between hauling boxes in the rain at the back of the organisation’s flagship shop on Rue Americaine / Amerikaansestraat. He’s happy to tell us about the painful grey bit that ex-cons experience between prison life and normal life, a re-adaptive journey from institutionalised criminal to regular Joe. He was only 20 when the bars slammed shut behind him. Now in his thirties, his release has been confrontational – there is a new currency called the euro to contend with, along with something called the Internet. “I was on parole for a year. No, I didn’t feel free. I had to wear an electronic bracelet and I had a strict timetable to respect. There were lots of conditions. A couple of
times I didn’t respect the timetable so they brought me back to prison. It was very difficult, because you find yourself in prison again, even though you didn’t do anything wrong, you’re just late for an appointment.” He shakes his head. He says, funnily, that in his first days of “freedom,” he spent a lot of his time looking at cars. Most of the 120 men here have come from prison, either directly or after an unsuccessful stint at “home”. And yet, this is not a halfway house, a supervised state-run centre for ex-detainees. That’s because Belgium doesn’t do halfway houses. Those with no home to go to after prison would end up on the streets if it were not for independent shelters like this one. The woman who answered our call at the Office for Social Re-adaptation in Boulevard Anspach/Anspachlaan told us, “For early release, the detainee must have a fixed address. But after the end of the sentence, if they have no address, we just let them go. We have nothing more to do with them. I’m not saying it’s the best system…” Sadly, most of Belgium’s 10,968 prisoners (of which only 443 are women, according to official statistics), many will have burned their bridges by the time they complete their sentence. Homeless
shelters are their only option. The Office for Social Re-adaptation, along with NGOs like Apres and Petits Riens / Spullenhulp help them to develop a viable plan for a future, to write a CV, to apply for jobs and to “sell” themselves. But the majority arrive with drug addictions or mental problems (or both) that they picked up inside, adding to their considerable woes. A glance at the shiftless men lining the hallway of the shelter is testimony to this. A sincere Yassine says he is rehabilitated, and we like him enough to believe him. After all, isn’t that what all that tax money is paying for? He is looking to the future, with a wife and kids and normal stuff. “When I see people newly arrived at the centre from prison, I feel good because I have worked hard. But,” he adds, “You always feel like an ex-con. Everywhere I go, I am controlled. As far as I’m concerned, I’m finished with all that. But if there is a fight on the street and someone else gets involved, nothing happens. But if I get involved, I automatically get five years in prison.” (RK) petitsriens.be
ˆ “ The vegetative state is one of the least understood and most ethically troublesome conditions in modern medicine ” ˇ
Altered states Hello? Can you hear me? Yes, in here, in your head. You can? Good, that means you’re conscious. It may sound strange, but you’re the only one who knows you’re conscious. Of course, you can let others know by talking or interacting with them. But what if you were conscious, but unable to express it? What if you had been involved in an accident resulting in severe head trauma and were pronounced to be in a vegetative state, even though you could in fact see and hear us, but you couldn’t tell us or show us? How would you let the outside world know you’re in there? These are questions that keep people like Professor Dr Steven Laureys, head of the Coma Science group at the Liege Hospital, and Dr Adrian Owen of the Cambridge Sciences Unit awake at night. And rightly so: an estimated 41 percent of patients declared to be in a vegetative state are wrongly diagnosed and are, in fact, to a lesser or greater degree, conscious. The problem? Consciousness isn’t all-or-nothing. It consists of two components: arousal (wakefulness) and awareness (of the environment and the self). And although several scoring systems
have been developed to assess consciousness, no machine on earth can measure it objectively. Consciousness doesn’t have clear boundaries: where does it begin and where does it end? Consciousness remains one of life’s greatest mysteries. How to quantify it, and how does it change in altered states of sleep, hypnosis, anesthesia, coma or a vegetative state, a term used to describe patients that are awake but unaware of themselves or their environment? The vegetative state is one of the least understood and most ethically troublesome conditions in modern medicine, notes Professor Owen. To complicate matters, patients in a vegetative state also look awake: their eyes are open, they breathe without assistance and can move their head, body or limbs and even grunt, smile, cry or groan occasionally, albeit always as seemingly purposeless reflexive responses to external stimuli. But how can we be sure a reflex is not, in fact, a voluntary action? Owen and Laureys caution that “The diagnosis of vegetative state should be questioned when there is any degree of sustained visual pursuit, consistent and reproducible visual fixation or response to threatening gestures.” And if one showed none of these promising signs, would that exclude any possibility of consciousness? Let’s
reenact an experiment that was done to measure the conscious awareness of a 23-year-old woman who was declared to be in a vegetative state after sustaining severe traumatic brain injury in an accident. As in the experiment, a fully conscious person (you) will be the control, to help scientists measure activity in the brain of both the patient and the control. Ready? First, imagine if you will, playing a game of tennis. See it? Now imagine visiting all the rooms in your house, starting from the front door. Done? Here’s the startling result: scans showing the brain activity of the young woman would be indistinguishable from yours. Her brain would show activity in exactly the same areas as yours just has. Despite fulfilling the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of vegetative state, this patient retained the ability to understand spoken commands and to respond to them through brain activity, rather than through speech or movement. Moreover, her decision to cooperate by imagining particular tasks when asked to do so represents a clear act of intention, which confirms beyond any doubt that she was consciously aware of herself and her surroundings, states Owen. Aware, but unable to express it via any means other than brain activity. Fittingly, it’s called locked-in syndrome. (SC)
ˆ “ This is the technology of an industry that was almost like steam power back in the day. Now it is still around, but in 10 years, it will really be archaeology ”
© Grégoire Pleynet
Reeling in the years Belgians are an insecure bunch, often needing approval from abroad before recognising their own trumps. This is true for many artists – Jacques Brel first had to be hailed in Paris before gaining acceptance in Brussels – but it also seems to be the case with the Royal Film Archive of Belgium. Though the archive has been around since the 1930s, many Belgians only seemed to realise its importance when Martin Scorsese called it “one of the most important film collections in the world.” The strength of the collection is that it is – unlike the German Bundesarchiv / Filmarchiv or the British Film Institute – extremely diverse. Up to 80 percent of the films are foreign and the collection contains material that can’t be found anywhere else. “Basically, we keep on discovering new stuff every week,” curator Nicola Mazzanti says enthusiastically. Though the original negative of Citizen Kane – often called the best movie of all time – has been lost, the version closest to
the original can be found here in Brussels. The film archive also boasts a large collection of silent movies, including The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari which was restored here. The collection – containing 67, 000 titles besides prints, negatives and other items amounting to a total of 160, 000 elements – is stored in two industrial warehouses in Ixelles/Elsene with a surface area of 12,000 m2. While the general public can check out films at the city’s Cinematek cinema, the archives are meant for specialists like researchers and festival organisers. Employees working in the deposits are in charge of receiving new arrivals, shipping films to various festivals all over the world, managing the collection, etc. Restoration – an important part of the institution’s activities, making it one of the leading restoration laboratories in the world – happens in a laboratory close to Brussels’ Midi station. The long corridors of deposits, shopping carts with bobbins and employees carefully cutting strips all add to the bygone atmosphere. Though working conditions might seem archaic, this is no dusty old bureaucratic department, and the staff – in charge of the 3,000 or so items the institution receives every year – won’t be found asleep at their desks. The deposit’s sanctuary is two
rooms with low temperature vaults where old bobbins are stored at a temperature of 5°C and 35° humidity, evoking comparisons with the way Italian cheese makers devotedly stock their parmesan. While Mazzanti shows us around, he muses laconically: “This is the technology of an industry that was almost like steam power back in the day. Now it is still around, but in 10 years, it will really be archaeology.” The archive recently made the shift to digital, though it was not an easy transition: “The buildings, the machines, the know-how we have been developing the last 70 years… Now everything has to be invented for digital technology.” So how does Mazzanti see these changes? “That is a tricky question. I grew up with 35 mm films and have been a film restorer for more than 20 years, working with film, repairing perforations, etc. Emotionally, it is difficult for my generation to move away from film. On the other hand, I also know how imperfect film restoration sometimes was. An analogue copy is always worse than the original, but with digital technology you can do so many things that you actually distort the film. It is all a matter of respect.”(SS)
ˆ “ It’s better to be a cog in a well-oiled machine than a loose screw rummaging around the conveyor belt in search of its unique identity ” ˇ
Work SMARTer not harder Belgium is home to a lot of creatives who struggle to stay afloat or even on the right side of legality. That’s because labour laws are not primarily designed to suit the artist. The market is a system that favours the standard over the specific and it’s better to be a cog in a well-oiled machine than a loose screw rummaging around the conveyor belt in search of its unique identity. If you’re self-employed, you might be sick of the uncertainty; if you’re a plumber, you can be sure there’ll always be a clogged toilet somewhere but there’s no guarantee anybody will need an “artist” come the morning. Some artists work through SMartBE, an umbrella company that takes care of billing services. It saves on paperwork and provides a kind of a legal framework that lifts intermittent workers out of an uncomfortable grey limbo between “employed” and “unemployed”. In 2011, SMartBE handled more than €100 million
in fees for over 40,000 members. Managing Director Julek Jurowicz elaborates: “Our members are mostly aged between 20 and 40, and somehow connected to the artistic world. So that includes stagehands and technicians as well as artists and creative professionals.” This “somehow” is indicative: though SMartBE was born to serve Belgium’s artists, it has evolved to include many who work in professions that could only tenuously be described as creative, like commercial copywriters or translators. “We handle administration and give professional advice on finances. But we’re not just here for paperwork; the structure of our organisation allows members to do things they couldn’t otherwise. For example, our members may not have the security deposit needed for a 5,000€ lease, but since we do, they do too.” Sounds like SMartBE are more than earning their right to exist (and to reserve 6.5 percent of members’ gross income for overhead). Still, it might be better to improve on existing policy instead of slapping a band aid over it to stop people falling through the cracks. Could targeted legislation prove a threat to SMartBE’s existence? “I don’t believe that our success depends on the complexity of the administration. It relies on the atmosphere of our company and how our
members feel about us. Besides, when compared to other countries, Belgian legislation is actually quite friendly to artists because it grants access to things like social security, which is quite exceptional in a European context.” And yet the company still feels like a convoluted administrative contraption that owes its existence to a gap in policy. Meanwhile, companies are increasingly turning to project-based employment, which means that somebody needs to step in before creatives end up in the docks for tax evasion. “Our creative and artistic population is growing. We want to grow, not to become a huge international corporation but to have the leverage to lobby for our members on a European level. We have partners in five other countries, and SMartBE could become the main partner for self-employed creatives on the European mainland.” Across Europe, the employment landscape is shifting, with the profile of the workforce evolving to reflect the need for a more flexibility and project-based gigs. This has led to a mishmash of employment labels based on either fiscal, social security or legal regimes, requiring more than a little artfulness from Europe’s artists and their supporters, like SMartBE, to find out where, exactly, they belong. (RVJ)
© Pauline Miko
Dirty pretty things It’s odd how something pretty much all over the place can be so easily overlooked. Have you noticed those little ground-level niches with the horizontally attached iron piece next to the entrances of Brussels’ buildings? Reminiscent of oversized mouse holes, these so-called “bootscrapers”, antique versions of today’s doormat, can cause confusion for modern-day walkers – even though they’ve been an integral part of Brussels’ urban landscape for centuries. While
some are plain and functional, others are more like artworks in themselves. They’re remnants from the 18th and 19th centuries when they were used to scrape mud off shoes. Recently, these hidden treasures have attracted some attention: from academic research in Brussels’ universities to an exhibition in Halles St Géry, where over 1,000 photographs show boot-scrapers in all shapes and sizes. “When streets had not been asphalted yet, they were common in all big European cities,” explains Laurence Rosier, professor of Linguistics at the Free University of Brussels, who has delved deeper than most into the rather obscure subject. But the scrapers only started appearing when the first footpaths were constructed: “It wasn’t until the upper classes
in London, Paris and Brussels left their horse carriages and walking became socially acceptable that a market for the iron-made objects emerged,” Rosier continues. Although the scrapers can be found in a number of countries including Algeria, the ones in Brussels stand out for their sheer beauty inspired by art deco and art nouveau architecture. Today, the moveable version, banned in the 19th century out of public safety concerns (that’s when the scrapers started to become attached to house walls), can be found on eBay as a decorative item. And even though the streets are tarred nowadays, they can still come in handy as dog poop removers for example, something that’s much-needed on Brussels streets, we think you’ll agree. (SS)
1050 Décrottoirs! From 13th June to 7 th July ULB, Salle Allende, Campus du Solbosch Avenue Paul Hégerlaan – 1000 Brussels
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Graffiti writers Graffiti writers live for one thing and one thing only: getting their name up. Streets, highways, subways, trucks, trains, abandoned buildings, playgrounds – you name it, and chances are they’ve probably painted it. We hunted down six legends, each with their own speciality, and got them talking about their nighttime obsessions. Photographer Sarah Eechaut
For streets: Byz First started painting in 1992. Got into graffiti through skateboarding and trips to New York.
Very early on put all his focus into street tagging. Met SozyOne of RAB at art school and quite quickly got into the crew (“I told him that if I was accepted into the crew I’d do the work.”). Had an infamous battle with Roel (CNN) that lasted several months: “Roel Vs
Byz was a little like Anderlecht vs. Standard, or Madrid vs. Barcelona.” Once painted what was believed to be the tallest letter in the world in the inside of a now-demolished building in downtown Brussels, a “B” that measured 80 metres high.
For everything: Escro Started painting at age 14. Estimates having painted over 400 trains and 15 subways in addition to innumerable burners, throw-ups and tags. Painted exclusively in Brussels train yards for 10 years, mostly on Sunday mornings.
“I like tagging the most, preferably with fat caps. I like the French way of painting, going for quantity over quality. Guys like Trane from France.”
For walls: Defo First started painting in 1993. Prefers painting walls – he once spent 16 hours on a wall. Member of some of Brussels’ most infamous crews: DB, BCP and Bad News.
“I’m in several crews, although I like to paint with whomever I want.”
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For highways: AT1 First started painting in 1996-1997. Prefer painting highways as they’re more visible, and also stay up for longer.
“When we’re out on an AT1 mission, no individual names get put up. And when our members are on an individual mission, AT1 doesn’t get put up.”
For trains: Hulk First started painting in 1989. Estimates having painted over 1,200 trains and subways since then.
“Why trains? They’re simple, they’re beautiful, they’re clean and they run. There’s a certain atmosphere to painting trains, a certain tactical strategy to reach the train yard. You need to think of everything and, above all, you need to paint quickly and run even quicker if the police comes. Painting trains is a mission, so when you see your train pull up at the train station, that’s just the end of it.”
For subways: Cap First started painting in 1993. Got into graffiti through a group of friends (the SCT crew) and then through another crew, DRC.
“I was introduced to subways through Pom and Chinez. I prefer painting subways to trains because I get more of a kick out of it. Trains have never really been my thing. Over the years, I must have painted over 150 subways in Brussels alone. The best memory I have is of painting the Delta subway yard with 12 other guys, several times during the same day.”
For art: Bue First started painting in 1991. Mostly paints colourful walls. Estimates having painted over 600 of them.
“Painting for me is like therapy! And I feel free as a bird.”
The other Word on
Truck drivers Despite advancements in technology, at its core, the global economy still relies on a nomadic bunch of freedom-fighting oddballs whose life is spent hauling cargo from point A to point B across the world’s highways. And, with its sprawling and illuminated network of freeways nestled right at the heart of Europe, Belgium remains an obligatory pit stop on most truckers’ itineraries. Here, we hitch a ride with some of the local boys, capturing the loneliness that comes with having chosen life on the road. Photographer Ulrike Biets
Sipke Wielinga (1959) Friesland, The Netherlands. Driver for Veenstra International
Sipke drives a Volvo FH. His truck is three years old and has clocked up 475,000 kilometres. All in all, Sipke has driven over two million kilometres. His favorite destinations are everything south – France, Italy, Spain – because of the weather and the food.
He used to be a graphic designer until the age of 40. Why did he quit a desk job for life on the road? Freedom. Walls were coming down on him, so he decided to flee. His favourite music on the road is Johnny Cash.
Jurgen Vergucht (1972) Aalst, Belgium Driver for the company TGB
Jurgen drives a Scania R420. He’s driven more than 300,000 kilometres with it over the last three years. He mainly drives from port to port, but his favorite destination is the train terminal in Dourges, France. His boss likes the trucks to shine, so he goes to the truck carwash once a week. His favourite music on the road is Disturbed.
Filip Cap (1974) Sint-Gillis Waas, Belgium Driver for Tilleman
Filip drives a DAF YF 430. In his 11 years on the road, he’s driven almost a million kilometres. He mainly drives in and around Belgium, transporting piglets. Unlike most drivers, he returns back home to his family every night. His favorite part of Belgium is “de westhoek”, because of the absence of traffic jams. When driving, he likes listening to greatest hits.
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Rob Savelkoul (1956) Bocholt, Belgium Driver for Albert Keijzer Transport
Rob has been driving a DAF ND3460 since 2007, totalling 450,000 kilometres with it. The day he turned 18, he quit school and started his career as a truck driver. The best memory he has is when a company he used to drive for, following a logistical mistake, sent all its trucks to the same destination in a day.
The small village near Lyon was flooded by trucks and truck drivers, turning it into one big parking lot. Over 40 trucks used every free inch of space, with some even parked on peoplesâ€™ driveways and on the local football field. A massive four-day party ensued.
Roel Hertsens (1988) Kallo, Belgium Driver for Transport NV De Cock
Roel has been driving his Volvo FM for three years now, clocking up some 234,000 kilometres to date. Despite his young age, he already
has been involved in some serious accidents. When on the road, he prefers listening to the radio. His favorite destination is home.
Visit thewordmagazine.be/life/truckers for a complete gallery of life on the road.
Grey expectations By 2020, 40 percent of the Belgian population will be over 50. They will want to have fun, travel, and stay healthy and mobile in their own (renovated) homes. These four professionals understand that seniors will soon rule the world, and though it might not be terribly sexy, it’s the future. Photographer Sarah Eechaut
Interviews Rose Kelleher
Christophe Urvoy General Manager, Senior Agency Senior Agency is the only senior marketing company in Belgium. They specialise in generational marketing and “baby boomer monitoring.”
Older people have higher accumulated savings per head than younger people. So where are all the ads targetting them? Urvoy explains: “Many advertisers are afraid of doing something for older people, they think they will lose the younger. But when you’re 30, you have to pay for your house, your children... when you’re 50, everything is paid for. You’ve got time and money.” He says there is also confusion as to what “senior” actually means. “You ask someone to name a senior celebrity and they say Jacques Chirac. But a senior is Sharon Stone, who still appears naked in Paris Match. 86 percent of seniors don’t
recognise themselves in advertising, incredible but true.” And don’t look to your grandparents’ experience of retirement as a model for your own, he warns. “Before WWII, we didn’t have a lot of seniors. You worked all your life and then you died. The last generation are the first ones to live to be so old. The baby boomers have watched their parents, they know what’s going to happen, that they will live another 20 or 30 years, and they are wondering what they can do with themselves.” senioragency.com
Dirk Lefeber Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering, ULB/VUB The Robotics and Multibody Mechanics Research Group researches new actuators with adaptable compliance, dynamically balanced robots, robot assistants, rehabilitation robotics and multibody dynamics.
Aging isn’t only about the frail, but maintaining mobility is key to maintaining independence. Lefeber develops companion robots for children, as well as exoskeletons for the elderly. “What I am personally interested in is assistive devices to help people in their daily living. Things that can help people walk. You see elderly people who can walk for only 15 or 20 metres and then they get tired, they risk falling. We are building assistive devices to allow them to walk 200 metres instead.” The choice to stay in your own home is a big issue for seniors. “Not to
walk around in the woods but to move around your living room or kitchen.” he says. What will it look like? “Thats a big challenge. The devices are relatively bulky at the moment. What we are developing now will be more for ourselves, within 10 or 15 years these robots will be in our homes. We are not far from a scenario where we use exoskeletons for mobility.” mech.vub.ac.be
Mathieu Lefevre Course Coordinator, Université des Ainés, Brussels The UDA is a life-long learning service whose activities include more than 200 educational courses and workshops, plus conferences, seminars, and cultural excursions for the elderly in Brussels and Louvain la Neuve.
Living until 100 will soon be normal. That leaves three or four decades between retirement and death. What to do? Lefevre organises courses, seminars and conferences at the Université des Ainés, a day school for seniors, whose curriculum includes everything from maths to meditation.“We have an 81 year old studying information technology. Everyone has their place.” he says, adding that there are no qualifications to be gained at the UDA. “There is a real need for self-enrichment, but also to make connections, friendships, with others. It’s not for a diploma.” Particularly
useful, he says, is the opportunity for intergenerational exchange. “I remember there was a young history teacher who was giving a lesson on WWII. He was really happy because of the exchange of knowledge with the students.” The popularity of schools like the UDA is growing. Its numbers have swelled to 3,400 in recent years. “We are not the only one. There are more and more older people in retirement, and the need is becoming more real. It’s a reflection of modern society.” universitedesaines.be
Marysia Kluppels Marketing and Communications Manager, DELA Funeral insurance DELA is a a non-profit cooperative that organises funerals, and the only company in Belgium that sells funeral insurance.
“Many people say “I’m going to save money in the bank so if anything happens to me, the people I leave behind can have it.” But in a lot of cases, people don’t keep the money for their funeral because they want to travel, or buy something that they always dreamt of. The problem is also that we are living much longer, and people need to spend more money on “care” (service flats, nursing…). In the end there is nothing left for funerals. And who ends up paying is getting more complicated. Due to the increased amount of divorces, there are more “new composed families”. We see more in case of
sudden death, people start arguing about who pays for the funeral. The new partner? Or the legitimate children of the deceased who will inherit? Only a minority take action to prevent financial calamity. It’s very sensitive because our message is always related to death. It’s taboo. But it’s all about taking care of people at one of the most difficult times in their life. Since I started working here, I live more intensely, more aware that every day could be my last.” dela.be
A taste for paradox Kris Van Assche is a bit of a mysterious figure in the fashion world. The Paris-based Belgian – who designs Dior menswear as well as his own line – is clearly not the flamboyant type. In this exclusive interview, he opens up to talk about his own style, avoiding sartorial clichés and why having fun with clothes is important. Writer Philippe Pourhashemi
One thing Kris Van Assche cannot stand is stereotypes. The 35-year-old Belgian designer – who launched his own brand seven years ago and has been at the helm of Dior menswear since 2007 – has a quiet passion for subtlety, which seems to be an integral part of his personality. His design stance is more essential than extreme. A firm believer in discretion and refinement, he pays close attention to detail and doesn’t try to stand out. His clothes demand a second take, as there’s nothing obvious about them. Whether he designs for Dior or his own brand, Van Assche applies the same consistency to his approach. There’s something linear and precise about his style. It’s gimmick-free and functional. He’s been reworking the same items since the beginning
Photographer Gaetan Bernard
and doesn’t look for shock value. Despite studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the mid 90s and being surrounded with fans of trailer trash and heroine chic, Van Assche was always low-key in his perspective and never into anything flashy or overt. In fact, his restrained aesthetics and vision have not always been read properly, only slowly gaining prominence in an industry where flamboyance and inflated egos are commonplace, “I’ve been in this business for a while now and realised that no one could put me in a box. It amuses me sometimes, because I’m not even aware I’m doing it myself, but I am attracted by things that cannot be defined. I subconsciously avoid classifications and feel uncomfortable with them. For instance, when I pick models for my
shows, I tend to stay away from prepubescent boys or gym bunnies. I hate clichés. I’m much more interested in ambivalence and ambiguity. I guess there are complex elements in my work, which people might not notice straight away. Such an approach has its advantages – as you don’t get categorised somehow – but the inconvenience is that people don’t associate you with one specific word or item. Other designers can be identified much more easily.” Van Assche seems highly aware of the image he projects and there’s a genuine critical distance in his behaviour. You can feel that he’s probably his own worst critic at times and a sense of humility permeates his words. Don’t expect him to gloat about his success or many achievements. He’s far too understated for that.
Quick definitions don’t satisfy Van Assche. Throughout his career as a designer, he’s been looking for a sense of balance, trying to address the demands of contemporary life without renouncing his creativity. He defines his ideal man as an “acrobat”, an individual who would be able to balance opposite and contrasting worlds. Van Assche’s collections have illustrated this point well, pleasing fashion folks and industry experts alike. When he started designing for Dior, journalists were tough, but he kept doing what he was good at. Replacing Hedi Slimane who had left the house was no easy feat, but Van Assche stuck to his guns until the fashion world finally caught up with him. He has a healthy dose of pragmatism, making him undeniably Belgian, even though he’s been based in Paris for years. Van Assche makes clothes men actually want to wear and there’s no denying that he knows how to sell. His pieces may come across as simple and minimal, but they’re not plain either. Finesse seems a natural calling for him. You won’t see Van Assche indulge in sequinned pink trousers or brightly printed shirts, even though he probably loves to see them on other people “I don’t go out a lot, but like to watch how teenagers dress. Lately, I’ve seen some very cool types wear extreme things and get away with them. I love that kind of energy. I look at eccentrics like Anna Dello Russo or Bryan Boy and find it great that they are in fashion. When I studied at the Academy in Antwerp, clothes were taken too seriously and there was a feeling that you had to suffer for fashion in order to make it happen. It was all about conceptual style and intellectualism then. Such an approach no longer fits our world. It’s nice when people have fun with clothes. These kids don’t care whether you think they’re smart or not. They’re just here to have a good time.” Van Assche’s clothes are masculine, but they’re not butch either. He respects tradition, but also wants to move it forward. In his focus on suits and shirts, he’s tweaking elegance for a new generation that grew up in jeans and trainers. “The starting point for my last collection was seeing these tattooed, skater guys in LA and wonder what suit they would buy once they got a regular job. Formality does not have to exclude style or comfort. I don’t actually think elegance can be defined as such. There’s something very personal about it. The same suit can look fantastic on one guy and grotesque on another one. Caricatures are not elegant. When I meet someone new, I look at their clothes and the way they carry themselves. Elegance is about an attitude in the end. It’s the whole package, not just garments.” Van Assche has been playing with proportions to modernise the suit. He has taken the sartorial stiffness away, keeping structure as a backbone.
Van Assche’s moodboard for his Spring-Summer 2012 collection
His clothes are fluid and don’t go against the body. The idea is that you could wear his clothes in any context and not feel inadequate. In many ways, his designs incorporate the techniques and ease of sportswear, while keeping a distinctive touch. In his choice of colours, Van Assche favours subdued tones, such as white, black and grey. They may all be reassuringly masculine, but he knows how to give them a fresh spin. “I wear a lot of grey myself and love pinstripes, probably because they’re traditional and remain one of menswear’s key staples. I don’t really have a desire to go against the grain in my work. I’ve always liked classical patterns and neutral tones are a no-brainer for me. It’s not like I need to over-analyse them.”
ˆ His clothes demand a second take, as there’s nothing obvious about them ˇ Although Van Assche is clearly not an extrovert, his cool demeanour does not exclude a sense of humour. After all, he’s used to the level of scrutiny and responsibility that comes with being your own boss and designing for a major luxury brand. He manages two separate teams at the same time and is very good at it. There’s also a feeling that he’s gradually
loosening up and letting go with age. “I probably designed things that were crazier when I started. I was very young when I launched my own brand and learnt something new each season. I’d say I’m comfortable with my own style now and pleased with what I do. That may leave room for bolder things to come. The one thing that has changed within my own line is that I don’t feel the need to personally relate to the clothes. I can work with something I wouldn’t wear myself. It’s not a problem for me. That’s something I found impossible to do at the beginning of my career.” Van Assche’s own balancing act is to grow his label – which has a fairly selective and niche market – while keeping the executives at Dior happy “I couldn’t be freer with my own brand and Dior does have its tricky aspects. What can be frustrating with my own collection is that I have all this freedom, but also material limitations that I cannot ignore. Things can be tight and challenging as far as budget is concerned. At Dior, I have my own atelier and a bigger team. They can spend a very long time on research and work on great projects. It’s a completely different set-up. When you have more possibilities – like I do at Dior – you always have to watch that your focus does not get lost. Freedom is a relative notion, I suppose.” krisvanassche.com
Behind every successful designer, lies a great producer. Marc Gysemans, who collaborated with industry darling Raf Simons for more than a decade, doesn’t find defining his role an easy task, “I don’t think the words “producer” or “manufacturer” encapsulate what I do. I see myself as the person turning someone’s talent into a commercial reality,” explains Gysemans who – despite his affable manner and slender frame – doesn’t mince his words. “You cannot do anything without a vision. My company – Gysemans Clothing Group – handles production, shipping and distribution for fashion brands. I’ve been in this business long enough to know what designers are like. They will manipulate anyone to get what they want. They will use you as a stepping stone and forget about you the next day. It’s fashion amnesia.” In an industry full of pretence and illusion, Gysemans’ frankness stands out. Passionate about his job, he has seen a tangible change since 2008, when the recession kicked in and affected the fashion business, “You don’t see as much creativity now as you did five of six years ago, but you also have to be able to afford being creative as a designer. Fashion has become increasingly commercialised and industrial. We are going through a transitional phase and the world is still going to change. Shops don’t take risks any more, because they don’t sell conceptual collections.” Gysemans’ relationship with Simons is the stuff of legends. Whenever he talks about the Belgian designer – who recently was appointed artistic director for Haute Couture, womenswear and accessories at Dior – one senses Gysemans’ respect and admiration for the man “I’m sure Raf will do a great job at Dior. He will bring a welcome edge to the label and deliver inspiring shows. That’s always been one of his key strengths.” The majority of brands Gysemans works with are not Belgian. His factories are located in Europe, but he stopped producing locally. Last season, he collaborated with Belgian designer Anthony Vaccarello – who got plenty of press with his skin-tight dresses and sexy cuts – but the fit was not right. Recently, he took on Brussels-based Jean-Paul Knott, handling his manufacturing and distribution, as well as international sales. “Working with designers is complicated and there’s always an element of risk with someone new. You have to find some kind of ideal compromise between the artistic part and the commercial side. Designers come to me to make me a partner. I offer different packages and they can choose what suits them. The important
© Cici Olsson
thing about designers is that they’re emotionally attached to what they create. I appreciate this, but one should never forget it’s a business after all. Clothes need to sell.” Sitting in Gysemans’ office in Rotselaar it becomes clear what pleasurable company he can be. He’s witty, humble and has strong opinions. Gysemans is engaging, too, which means you are easily drawn to him. Despite having been in this business for years, his enthusiasm seems intact and there’s nothing remotely jaded about him. Strangely enough, Gysemans was not into
fashion as a teenager, even though he didn’t like anyone dictating his sartorial choices “Fashion was not my thing, to be honest. I liked clothes though and was quite specific about what I wore. I was the hippie type then and my mother tried to tell me what to wear. Needless to say, it never worked. I was obsessed with jeans when I was 15, wearing denim head-to-toe. And I did my own shopping, too. There’s no way I would have let her do that for me.” (PP) gysemansclothinggroup.com
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Seven things you should buy before you leave We’re keeping both him and her happy with this month’s showstoppers selection. We have the iconic bag, shoes and polo shirt, the future-friendly dresses, the obligatory pair of high tops, the jacket to go with them as well as the scent of the moment.
01. The bag
If Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel are as inseparable as Mulder and Scully, the German designer occasionally likes to inject some of his own Teutonic cool into the ubiquitous brand. Le Boy is a slightly androgynous handbag, with rectangular lines and a minimal aesthetic. Even though it clearly is a luxury item – coming with the hefty price tag it deserves – there’s nothing remotely bourgeois about it. The signature chain strap is thicker and heavier, giving it a tougher edge. In fact, Le Boy was inspired by Coco Chanel’s torrid relationship with Boy Capel, the English businessman she once described as “the great love of my life.” (PP) Chanel Le Boy classic bag (from ¤1,800). Available from Chanel (Brussels). chanel.com
02. The dress
French fashion label Lacoste has come a long way since its creation in 1933. Still mostly known for its timeless tennis polo shirts embroidered with the iconic crocodile logo, the brand has since opened up its style and delved further into fashion territory. This pure and simple yet stylish crewneck sweater dress with modern contrasting details is the ideal example of this. With its comfortable fit and contemporary look, it perfectly embodies the other, younger side of Lacoste. A cosy off-duty piece that can be worn as a dress, but also as a top. (SS) Lacoste sweatshirt dress (¤145) Available from Lacoste (Brussels). lacoste.com/be
03. The heels
There’s nothing like a pair of Manolo Blahniks’ pumps to raise a woman’s entire game. Infamous for its colourful extremes (think pink, zebra and neon) and famously still hand-drawn by its eponymous founder, the brand has held a special place in women’s hearts (and wardrobes) ever since they first appeared in that TV show we won’t mention. The first man ever to be featured on British Vogue’s cover back in 1974, there’s something about his designs that simply seems to instinctively understand women. And, with these grey suede high heels contrasted with a little black detail adding to its elegance, this pair is no different. (SS) Manolo Blahnik grey suede pumps (¤600). Available from Smets (Brussels). manoloblahnik.com
04. The perfume
The idea of vetiver cologne seems to conjure up images of old British men smoking fat cigars and wearing nasty tweed suits. Fact is, whilst Vetiver may be iconic in the perfume world, it often has a stuffy image attached to it. Leave it to Tom Ford then to revamp tradition, adding a sleek and sexy sheen to a deluxe scent. His Grey Vetiver is anything but classic, and includes playful notes of orange flower, aromatic sage and grapefruit. Ford is a Texan citizen after all, so don’t expect him to do anything too understated. Grey Vetiver is a seductive fragrance, smelling reassuringly expensive. It is masculine and sensual at the same time, melting into the body’s natural heat. (PP) Tom Ford Grey Vetiver (¤77,28 for 50 ml, ¤97,61 for 100 ml). tomford.com
05. The sneakers
Every man needs a pair of sneakers or two in his wardrobe. Thing is, as you edge closer to your thirties and forties, chances are your Nike’s, Adidas’ and Puma’s will need to be replaced by slightly higher-browed models. You know, a pair that won’t make your Dior suit seem completely out of touch with reality. In steps Pierre Hardy’s grey leather sneakers and, with them, a whole new world of sneaker fetishism. With almost an architectural purity about them, the ankle-high shoes’ simplicity and undertones of utmost sartorial confidence really is what placed them at the top of our list. If Pierre Hardy knows one thing, it is what men and women want to wear as shoes. Probably the reason why Dior as well as Hermès have entrusted him with their shoe collections, although that’s an entirely different story. (SS) Pierre Hardy grey leather sneakers (¤370). Available from mrporter.com pierrehardy.com
06. The jacket
German fashion house Hugo Boss has established itself throughout the years as one of the leading brands around the globe, promoting a style that is clear-cut, progressive whilst also remaining timeless. This grey, lightweight and waist-fitted sports blazer is part of Hugo Boss’ Green line predominantly featuring casual, sporty and relaxed pieces, an approach that this jacket perfectly embodies with its simple, contemporary look and its soft fabric. Elegant, luxury but also fresh sportswear that’s not only meant for the golf course (SS) Hugo Boss jacket (¤349). Available from Hugo Boss (Brussels). hugoboss.com
07. The dress
If the thought of going through your wardrobe trying to find colours that match gives you an instant headache, we’ve found the perfect piece that is guaranteed to make summer dressing a tad easier. Monsieur Bul’s sleeveless dress is a stylish and trendy choice, without being too girly. Lightweight and structured at the same time, the dress has a nicely fitted waist, an open back detail and is printed with cute little blocks of colour. We like the fact that it’s mostly grey, meaning you won’t end up looking like Ronnie McDonald by the end of summer. (PP) Monsieur Bul sleeveless printed dress (¤355). Available from Glory Box (Brussels). monsieurbul.be
See page 96 for full stockist information. Visit thewordmagazine.be/style/seventhings for full purchase links.
The fashion Word
Drive-by shooting We know what you’re thinking. This girl looks like trouble, working the roadside shift and teasing passers-by with her innocence. You couldn’t be further from the truth for this little sight of beauty knows exactly what she’s doing and where she’s going. And it ain’t in your car. Photographer Alex Salinas
Fashion Kim Peers
Sleeveless knit dress with metallic detail Chanel, Biker jacket G-Star, Bracelet Leen Boden
Lycra bathing suit Urban Outfitters, Suede caftan Hermès, Sunglasses Urban Outfitters, Necklace Tamawa, Ring Access, Sandals Filippa K, Vintage fleece Make-up Artist’s own
Tie-dye bikini top Tommy Hilfiger, Printed skirt Baby Beluga, Necklace Paula Giezman, Ring Ave, Leather handbag Delvaux
Stretch bikini top Louis Vuitton, Printed skirt Diesel Black Gold, Ring Tamawa, Necklace Leen Boden, Chain detail mini handbag Gucci, Sunglasses Valentino, Leather shoes Lanvin Vintage
Printed kimono La Costa del Algodon, Two-tone bikini Paule Ka, Necklace Access, Wooden bracelet A.P.C.
Silk top Sandrina Fasoli, Printed shorts Victoria Beckham, Cotton hat HermĂ¨s, Earrings Tamawa, Ring Access, Cotton trainers Converse, Structured leather bag Clio Goldbrenner
Denim shirt Lee Cooper, Slogan t-shirt Wild Fox, Drawstring shorts Lacoste, Earrings Access
The fashion Word
Nude camisole Urban Outfitters, Leather skirt Gucci, Watch Rado, Patent leather bag Louis Vuitton
Printed silk dress Vionnet, Necklace A.P.C., Bracelet Filippa K, Belt American Apparel, Trainers Faguo
Photographer Alex Salinas Assistant photographer Jef Jacobs Hair and make-up Esther Wauters Model Sharon @Ullamodels
See page 96 for full stockist information.
Combining subtle melodies with electronic beats, Pale Grey’s electro-pop is characterised by nifty soundscapes imbued with a melancholic touch. Following the motto “quiet is the new loud”, the Belgian four-piece from Liège / Luik just published their first EP “Put Some Colors” in May last year and has done quite some touring through Europe ever since. We spoke to the first-day founders of the band, Gilles Dewalque and Maxime Lhussier, about their first EP, color-driven inspirations and being part of the JauneOrange Collective. Photographer Pauline Miko
You recently published your first EP, “Put some colors”. Happy with the result? Yes. It feels great to finally start our discography. It’s our first production and of course just the beginning, but because of it we already met a lot of new people, especially promoters who believed in us and gave us a chance. That gave us energy to work even more.
Interview Sarah Schug
Why an EP and not an album? It’s just a first start, we wanted to test the waters and not do everything too fast. When we do an album we want to do it the right way – in a real studio, with more people involved and more money. The plan is to release it in about a year from now.
When were the songs written? Can you tell us more about your creative process? We were split between Brussels and Liège at the time so we communicated a lot via internet. We would send each other ideas, the other one would comment on it or add something and send it back again. So all songs are a mix of both of us in the end.
Where and how did you record? We recorded the songs in a barn that belongs to Gilles’ parents and did almost everything with our computers. We had no real drums for example. It was just the two of us at the time, the others joined later. So how did two become four? It was pretty impossible to play our songs live on stage with only two people. So luckily Ben and Jan joined us. You’ve played a lot of concerts lately, also in Germany and the Netherlands. How were you received and what was your favourite gig? The crowds are pretty much the same everywhere. Hamburg was weird though, people seemed really bored but afterwards everyone told us how much they liked the show. The best gig was definitely in Frankfurt, in this place that looked like an old squat. It was completely crowded and dirty and people just went crazy. That was cool, especially because we don’t have any press in Germany. I saw you made a video teaser to promote your EP. Gilles shot it himself at an old house in the middle of nowhere. He’s originally a photographer. We like to work with visuals and want to be in control of everything regarding the band. That’s why we work with an overall theme that can be found in all elements of the project – the video, what we wear on stage, the decoration of the instruments, the EP cover… What do you talk about in your lyrics? Is it all about personal experiences? I have the impression that you write a lot about personal relationships and love. We focus on simple themes, we want that people can recognize themselves without being too direct. Recurring subjects are feelings, families, responsibilities, and regrets. In the end you have to feel it in the music, the text is not the essence. We would never write anything political. When we write the songs, the music comes first and the lyrics are added afterwards. We also like the paradox of combining happy music with sad lyrics. Most of your songs go quite in the sugary indie pop direction, others have more of an electro sound to them. Why is that and in which direction will you go in the future? We enjoy mixing different styles and showing some variation. It’s a bit like having a bright and a dark side. At the live shows we started to realise that the energetic songs work much better. One of the reasons we didn’t do more of this kind was our limited equipment. It’s difficult when you only have computers to work with. That’s going to be different on our album, we want to make it more powerful.
What are your influences? Your intro reminds me of The Album Leaf for example. How would you describe your sound? Yes, we really like The Album Leaf. We listen to a lot of indie bands such as The Whitest Boy Alive or Errors. But we are also quite into post-rock and experimental stuff which influences us a lot. That’s what we want to do: Pop/rock with an experimental edge to it.
So what do the colors of the song titles symbolise? The intro we titled “White” because it’s like starting out on a white page. “Red” plays with themes as blood and death, it’s aggressive. The song “Green’ is about someone who has lived in the city for a while and now wants to move back to the countryside, go back to the roots. Interestingly we first wrote the songs and then chose the titles.
What’s the story behind your single, “Red” ? Is it about a dying friend? It’s about a friend of a friend who killed a friend and weirdly doesn’t feel bad about it. Not related to any personal experiences!
The collective you’re part of is also based on a color. Where does the name JauneOrange come from? Apparently one of the founders of the collective had an apartment with a room brightly colored in yellow and orange.
To continue with the color symbolism: The music industry also has some grey areas, I’m thinking of illegal downloading for instance. How do you experience this, are these developments counterproductive or helpful? It probably helps more than it hinders. It’s good especially for new bands. Everyone in the world has the possibility to listen to our stuff. The internet makes it easy to be discovered but it also makes it harder to stay and have a lasting impact. And you just can’t earn money with making albums anymore!
We rehearse in the countryside, in the High Fens region, an area where there’s fog and mist almost every day ˇ Let’s talk about colours – something we like very much at The Word. Why the band name? It sounds very Belgian in a way. “Pale Grey” refers to the Belgian sky: We rehearse in the countryside, in the High Fens region, an area where there’s fog and mist almost every day. From the barn where we practised we can only see a little window that looks out on the landscape and the greyish fog and mist. Apparently that’s the case for almost 200 days a year there. What about “Put some colors”, the title of your EP? Our sound was much softer in the beginning. Later we added different elements and spiced it up a little. It’s a bit like when you paint and have to fill a blank canvas. Everything is color-inspired, even the name of the collective you belong to and all the song titles on your EP. Why is that? With the name of the label we have nothing to do of course. But Gilles is a photographer and a very visual person, so that’s one thing. And we all not only enjoy music but also like to stimulate other senses. We wanted to do a whole artistic project, not just songs. And using colors as a symbol give a lot of room for inspiration and freedom.
How has it helped you to be part of the JauneOrange Collective? Just being able to use their name already helps a lot. We get a lot of advice, are included in their newsletters and they also book our gigs. How are the relations with the other bands? It’s like a big family. Almost everyone is from Liège, we rehearse in the same place, play shows together, go to each others concerts… it’s a small artistic community. And a lot of musicians are involved in several different JauneOrange projects, as Ben who also plays with Hollywood Porn Stars. What do you guys do when you don’t play with the band? Gilles organises exhibitions for a cultural centre, Max does press work and booking for JauneOrange, Ben works as an engineer and Jan studies literature. And who would you really like to open for one day? What has been your favourite so far? We really enjoyed playing with Syd Matters. But our favourite would definitely be 13 & God. Pale Grey’s latest EP, “Put Some Colors”, came out on JauneOrange in May 2011. myspace.com/palegreymusic
Somewhere between future soul and electronica you’ll find the eclectic, sophisticated and thoughtfully constructed sounds of Uphigh Collective. Having made a name for themselves with their 7” Blend that even got airplay across the Atlantic, the loosely knitted collective of Leuvenbased musicians and visual artists certainly has a bright future ahead of them. We caught up with William, one of its founding members, to talk about their latest projects, the challenges of performing analogue and hip hop influences. Photographer Pauline Miko
Interview Sarah Schug
What are you guys working on at the moment? Right now we’re focusing on our new live show which is pretty much finished but still needs some fine-tuning.
how to do that, how to connect everything technically and blend it together. But we managed and now we have a new show where we perform everything the analogue way.
Can you tell me more about that? We really enjoy analogue sounds and the analogue performance: The art of controlling everything on the spot. We wanted to bring that on stage. It was actually quite hard to figure out
Why didn’t you already do that earlier? Too complicated? Originally we are all bedroom producers and didn’t make songs with the idea of performing them. That’s completely different now.
When we went into the studio together and locked ourselves up for two weeks, we constantly asked ourselves: How do we want to perform this? The first thing we had to do was to create a setup that enabled us to play live and produce at the same time. So now we can even jam on stage if we want to. We finally found our flow. I know, for a regular band this is the most obvious thing, but as an electronic band we really had to search how to play our sounds and effects in a live show.
What’s your favourite equipment? Do you also play real instruments? None of us have a real musical background. We just taught ourselves how to push buttons and turn knobs. That’s one of the differences with regular bands. But when we want to change a sound we cannot just click next, we need to change all the knobs on every instrument. So it kind of takes us back to the 70s when the bands had to really master their equipment. Take the Korg MS 20 for example that we use for the bass – it’s so easy to make a mistake. We also use Korg Monopoly to make random patterns and the main sound comes from a Guno 106. The drum machine is a 108. You started as three-piece I-sa and then grew bigger and changed your name – what’s the story? You can compare it to a family that grows constantly. First it was just Ducap and me. We did some beats together and then wanted to take it to a higher level musically. We met up with a friend who had a jazz background and he would play our keys. That worked really well for us. For two or three years we just played in the basement, did some demos, had fun and got to know the instruments. The guy who was responsible for the keys moved to Barcelona though and we met a few other guys at a beat session in town who were really on the same wavelength. We started jamming together the same night and Uphigh Collective was born. How did you choose the name? I used to work in a skate shop in Leuven called Lowdown. My friends were hanging out there a lot. We just turned the name around and made it Uphigh. You mentioned spending two weeks in the studio, what’s your recording process like? Now we have a really nice place at the Depot in Leuven. Before our equipment was just in a living room. For ’Blend’ we didn’t really plan the recording, we just made a beat one night, Delvis came along for the first time, took the microphone, and sang. I remember I went down to the night shop to buy some drinks and when I came back upstairs they showed me his first vocals - it was so impressive. He just came up with it on the spot, without writing lyrics or anything. Things rather just happened without planning them back then. Your first single was pretty soulful and your newer tracks go more in the electronica direction. How would you describe your sound? Now we are definitely working more on the electronic aspect, but it’s hard to describe. We are into many different types of music. One
night we do soul music and on another night we are into up-tempo stuff. We are not focused on one thing in particular, but we do try to find our own sound. “Blend” came out very fast and I wouldn’t define our sound or genre with it. It’s something we can do and we like to do, but at the moment we are more into electronic-driven and bass-driven music. What musicians do you look up to? We are really into the sounds of things. You can hear if musicians really look for a special sound and experiment with it. I like when people try to find something of their own. We really enjoy Jimmy Edgar, Africa Hitech or Lazer Sword.
ˆ You can compare it to a family that grows constantly. First it was just Ducap and me. We did some beats together and then wanted to take it to a higher level musically ˇ Do you see yourselves as part of a certain genre? I guess we are located in the electronic corner but the main thing about us is that we all have a hip hop background. We can all enjoy Mobb Deep (laughs). Hip Hop was the music of our teenage years. And we still enjoy that a lot, so you can even today still find some serious hip hop beats in our stuff. You can always hear if someone has a hip hop history, even if the person is making dance music now. It has a big influence in terms of how you think about music. Who do you like in the Belgian scene? We learned a lot and got a lot of opportunities from the guys from Infinite Skills and Monkey Robot. They really supported us. They are older than us and were always one step ahead of us. Addicted Krew Sound is a band that influences us because they play next door in the Depot, even though they do something completely different. I really like ”Aid Ok”, can you tell me more about that? “Aid Ok” was actually the starting point of the new live show. Ronaldo was the driving
force behind the idea to bring the analogue sound out of our rehearsal room, and while he was trying to find a way to do so, ”Aid Ok” was created. We released it end of August and that was the point when we decided: From now on we’ll only release tracks that define our new sound and that we can perform live. How did you get together with the On-point label? We are not signed actually. Alex from On-point had an agreement with Title to put out Caravan on 7’’ and they told him he could choose whoever he wanted for the D side. Luckily he chose us! Alex really liked our stuff and organised a lot of shows for us. He promoted us last year with “Blend,” but we don’t have any future plans together. We are very close with Title though, he gives us a lot of feedback. Is one of your goals to find a label? Yes, definitely. We are still fine-tuning the new songs and transforming them into studio versions. We only put out two tracks to give a glimpse of what’s coming. But yes, if someone is interested, we are open for business. What music would you consider grey? Purple Naked Ladies from The Internet. I know it has purple in the name, but it feels very grey. You don’t know where to locate them, soul, electronica, … Where do you really want to play one day? Worldwide Festival, definitely. The location is unbelievable, it’s at the beach, in the middle of the summer. I was there last year and that’s when I said to myself: We have to play here one day! What are your plans for this year? We’re currently working on a few remixes which will probably be released in September and also a dubplate with two new tracks for djs to play this summer. If we can finish this year with some good songs and a good live reputation that we can build on, we’d be very proud. uphighcollective.com
The word with
Daniel Miller has always been a relentless force in experimental electronic music, first with his own project The Normal, which had an underground hit with the track “Warm Leatherette” back in 1978, then with his own imprint Mute, which he founded in 1979. He also started the Grey Area as a spin-off to Mute with the aim to release re-issues of some of the bands that shaped his own musical upbringing – Can, Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire amongst them. We spoke to him over the phone to talk about his formative years at Guildford, going back to being independent after 10 years under EMI ownership and the Kraftwerk original vocoder he bought on eBay. Photographer Pauline Miko
Interview Nicholas Lewis
Can you tell me about your days at Guildford and the kind of vibe around that time? Well, I’d just left home and gone straight from school to college. It was one year after the ’68 demonstrations so it was still a very politically active time, especially in colleges. There was a lot of disruption with student strikes and demonstrations in the summer before we started out. A lot of the staff had been fired because they supported the students. When we arrived it was a very different regime to the one we had signed up for so it was kind of in a feeling of conflict and rebellion. Listening to the music you were making around that time or a couple of years later, it sounds like it was very tense. There were a lot of things going on with myself: growing up, being away from home for the first time, just normal stuff really. In terms of music, I was just starting to discover things through my own and visiting record shops. I was very passionate about music. That period of the 60s was very fast moving in terms of music. It kind of expanded and moved on, and became something completely different from 1963 to 1969. I was looking for something new all the time and that’s how I started to hear the early German experimental stuff. At some point you moved to Switzerland and played over there. Was that when you discovered all these krautrock bands? No, it was few years later. God knows, I can’t remember what I heard first: I think it was either Amon Düül or early Can. There was a shop in Guildford in which there was somebody buying the records who was obviously not in sync with the house policy… So you had all these great free jazz records and German imports going for like really cheap because no one would buy them. It was a good source; that’s where I bought my first Amon Düül record. Once you hear something like that, you think there must be more and you find it out. I remember hearing Can for the first time around that time and, you know, that’s how it evolves. I don’t remember how I specifically got interested in electronic music per se. There was a film department that I went to in college. There were three tape recorders in the small studio and we would do a lot of stuff like tape loops and white noise, just basic stuff, exploring. We were very excited about it; we’d never heard anything like this before. What kinds of music tribes were there at college at that time? Were you guys considered as oddballs for playing around with equipment, technology and new kinds of sounds? Not really. On one hand there were guys who were very much into American, country rock and singer-songwriter stuff like Crosby, Stills and
From left: Bruce Gilbert’s Insiding, Add N To (X)’s Add Insult to Injury and Swell Maps’ A Trip to Marineville
Nash, and on the other hand most people were into Jimmy Hendrix. I was always very dismissive about other people’s musical taste and was always trying to turn people on to this or that, and trying to find new stuff. One qualification for running a record label is to be a great fan of ideological things. It’s about the music you like. You have to have very strong ideas and for me, I have to dislike 99 percent of everything.
ˆ I was always very dismissive about other people’s musical taste and was always trying to turn people on to this or that, and trying to find new stuff ˇ Your fascination with Ballard’s writing is quite well documented. Was Warm Leatherette based on the characters from one of the books? Well, it’s inspired by the idea of the book. I had this kind of artistic partner in college with whom I made music. Then after that we kind of lost touch. I travelled, lots of things
happened and I read Crash by J.G Ballard a few years later in 1973. I got back to London and wanted to tell him about it so I phoned him and the first thing he said was “Have you read this book? It’s called Crash”. We were both unemployed at that time because the film industry was not prospering, so we decided to write a script based on the book, without any real vision, just more as an exercise. We spent quite a lot of time doing it and then nothing really happened with it. I thought that we’d put so much effort into it that we couldn’t stop now. I wanted to use that. I was so familiar with the book I wanted to carry it and distil it in a three-minute song. If I am not mistaken you sold 40,000 units of that song in the first year. I don’t know. I can’t remember. But it was quite a big hit. It went quite well but it wasn’t “a hit”. I don’t know if it was 40,000 but it was a hell of a lot more than I expected. It became an underground hit, which completely took me by surprise. How did the whole Grace Jones cover happen? Chris Blackwell, who was the founder of Island Records, was working with her on her new album. Somehow, he heard the single and played it in the studio. And then they pressed me about publishing because they wanted to release it so I said “Why not? Sure, go ahead”. It was pretty naïve, business-wise.
The word with
Was it something you were pretty thrilled about or you didn’t really care? I couldn’t quite believe it. It’s not my version, it’s her version but it exposed the song. I guess it was a compliment. Moving on to Mute, you guys went independent in 2010 after 10 year under EMI’s wing. Was it a purely financial move or were there other creative reasons for you? I decided to sell the company at a certain point because we were having a rough time financially and I was looking for some kind of investor. Because we weren’t doing very well, we didn’t get a lot of response. Just as things got really bad, Moby’s Play album became a worldwide hit and sold 10 million records. It made a huge difference to a company like Mute so we wanted to have a partner and then all of the sudden everyone wanted to be partners with me. I decided to go with EMI because I had worked with them and knew the guy who ran it, who was to become the head of EMI in Europe. He understood what Mute was about. So I just wrote down all of the things I wanted in terms of control etc and they pretty much agreed to everything. Over the years, EMI started to have problems of their own, new management came in and they didn’t really understand what the culture of Mute was. They understood why Depeche Mode and Moby were there but not why Mute was there. All of a sudden I found myself in an environment that had no relation to the one I had entered into. I had creative freedom but felt like Mute as a label was going backwards. I don’t think I’m a very good team player and finally EMI and I came to an agreement whereby I would start a new company and they would license me the name Mute, some catalogues, and some of the artists would move as well. So in 2010 I started a new company, which works under the name Mute, with pretty much the same stuff, quite a lot of the same artists and kind of the same catalogue. Obviously they didn’t let me have some of the bigger names but that’s fine. So how exactly have you benefited by going back independent? Well, I do whatever I want. Do you still go out a lot and discover new bands? Yeah, I go out fair enough and people come to see me too. We listen to stuff and decide together. The last one I personally brought in was probably Apparat. Which bands are you most excited about today and which ones would you love to bring to Mute? Oh God (laughs). We only sign things to Mute if we’re all very excited about it so I’d say all the current projects we’re working on
Yazoo’s You and Me Both
like Apparat, SCUM, Big Deal, Beth Jeans Houghton, Liars,… All those things are very exciting. We signed a lot of new stuff when we went independent again. Are there any “new kids on the block” amongst the stuff you’ve heard lately…? These guys like Big Deal and SCUM are all very, very young bands. They’re in their late teens or very early 20s. There are all very young kids and I like working with young musicians, young artists, it gives me a big challenge as well.
Are there any non-Mute artists you love to listen to? It may sound very closed-minded but when you’re working on so many records it’s very hard to listen to music for pure entertainment. I’ll listen to music when I’m thinking of signing it. Because my head is not in entertainment mode but in analytical mode. I’m not very good at multi tasking. Of course there is loads of stuff out there that is interesting. I’ve been doing some more DJing recently and I have a radio show in Berlin that I’ve been doing for a really long time.
Can you talk to us about Grey Area? Why was it important to reissue certain bands’ catalogues? We didn’t start out by saying: “let’s do that”. What really happened was that Throbbing Gristle stopped working together and they asked us to take over Industrial Records. We were friends of theirs and we were fans so we were very, very happy to do it. Then all of a sudden I was approached by Can, who were one of my favourite bands in my life, I mean they influenced me and millions of other musicians. That opportunity was great and we thought we’d separate the reissues from the Mute frontline of new releases and this is where we came up with a separate name: Grey Area. It’s part-fandom, part-archivist work.
How exactly do you work with them? Are you still in the studio with them or is it more like coaching and mentoring? It depends. It’s very different from artist to artist. I usually end up in the studio with them at some point or another. Not producing the record but just helping them finish it, or if I have a strong view about a song or some final details. It’s a good time for me to get involved – when everybody else is tired and have heard everything for a hundred times, it’s good to have a pair of fresh ears and a bit of input.
It has a strong cultural element in it… Yeah, it’s an important thing to keep this music going. When we started the Grey Area it was quite easy for those musicians to just to slip out of shops, slip out of the distribution area and disappear. These days it’s less likely to happen because everything is on the Internet but still, it’s not just about putting the records out, it’s about helping people whose catalogue may disappear and sometimes it means reissuing, re-mastering, doing box sets, all those little things. Things that the fans like, the artists like. It keeps the music alive.
ˆ I don’t think I’m a very good team player and finally EMI and I came to an agreement whereby I would start a new company
How exactly did the Can thing happen? The band owns their masters on Spoon Records, which is the band basically. The person who runs Spoon records is Hildegard Schmidt, the wife of Irmin Schmidt. She’s been taking care of the business side from day one. I met her once in the Rough Trade shop very briefly (I think that they had a license with somebody else and it was running out) and somebody said to her: “You must see Daniel, he’s a huge fan!” So she got in touch, I was flattered, we talked and it all went very well. Because she’s full of energy and ideas we have constantly been reissuing things, making different version, documentaries, books and important things you can bring to the audience. I’m not a music expert so tell me if it is completely irrelevant but is re-mastering a Can record similar to touching up a Da Vinci for example? No, it’s more like cleaning a Da Vinci. It’s like finding a painting somewhere in the attic and trying to make it look like it was in the first place. So it’s not changing the picture, it’s getting back to how the artist originally saw it. It’s not mixing, it’s just mastering. Taking the original master tape and readjusting it so that it sounds as good as possible on the CD. You know, when CDs first came out, people wanted to put everything on CD, but they didn’t really have the technology or the understanding of how to make it work. There were a lot of CDs that were basically shit. The technology was not there nor the experience. 25 years later things got so much better. That’s why you re-master CDs: because the old ones didn’t sound very good. This might be an obvious one: why did you decide to call it the Grey Area? I don’t think I did, it was the guy running Mute – John Mcrobie, who no longer works here – who came up with it. He started the idea of doing it and oversaw the Grey Area. It is kind of hard to play with words really: industrial grey, grey area, in between things… the vague zone. How do you pick which bands’ catalogues you are going to reissue? Partly, what is available then things we like of course. We tried to do Neu! for about 10 years and we failed. Neu! is really what I wanted to do because nobody released CDs at that time, there were a lot of bootlegs. We had individual agreements with members of the band but the band could not agree between themselves. It was a long struggle. Do you know Grönemeyer? No, I can’t say I do. He’s a big German star, he persuaded them to work with him on his label, Grönland. I was
just very happy that it was done and they did it very well, according to policy, respectful. I know that it was not Mute but someone else, but they did their job. I’m happy and I’m not possessive about it.
ˆ We thought we’d separate the reissues from the Mute frontline of new releases and this is where we came up with a separate name: Grey Area. It’s partfandom, part-archivist work ˇ Obviously, anybody is going to say this – especially if you are running an independent label – this is not a commercial venture for you? Well, it all has to be commercial at some point. Can have been commercially successful, Cabaret Voltaire as well. All those things don’t sell very much every week but we’ve been working with these catalogues for years and years and they continue to sell. Every time we re-promote it, we sell some more. It’s important income for us and it’s important income for the artists as well. A lot has been made about the Kraftwerk vocoder you bought. Can you tell me how
much you paid for it or is it completely out of order? It is completely out of order (laughs). A lot more then I should have. But, the way I see it is: if you’re a guitarist and the guitar that Jimmy Hendrix played Purple Haze on went for sale, it would just be priceless. It’s even more than that because Hendrix played on a Fender Stratocaster but this was a one-off, never to be repeated piece, so it is expensive but I’m delighted that I acquired it. Who did you buy it off? It was actually sold by the band. I didn’t know Ralf Hütter (the leader of Kraftwerk) was selling it. What’s funny is that I know him a bit and it was on eBay. But as it was under a different name, I had no idea it was him. Then one day I get an email saying, ���Daniel, you gotta check this out, you might be interested”, with the link to the vocoder auction. A colleague of mine is a big eBay person; he understands the tricks etc. so I asked him to bid on it in his name. At the end Ralf figured out that it was me and I figured out he was selling direct. I think he felt a bit bad about how much it was, so he made this lovely stuff like a special authenticity certificate for me. Is it the kind of thing you’d insure? Absolutely! It’s not replaceable. You must have some pretty insane electricity bills at home! It’s not cheap. Problem is: you just never really switch this off; it’s too risky to switch off! Is there still a piece of equipment that is on your wish list? No, not really. I’ve got too much stuff anyway as it is. mute.com
Pieter Dirkx Young Belgian filmmaker Pieter Dirkx, a graduate from Antwerp’s Royal Fine Arts Academy and St Lucas in Brussels and whose movies have been shown at renowned film festivals from Cannes to Montreal, has just finished what is possibly his most prominent work to date: the music video for “Maniac”, the latest single of celebrated Brooklyn indie rock band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Other than that he was recently invited to the Küstendorf festival by cinema legend Emir Kusturica and is now working on a feature film about an alternate reality where redheads are considered as evil. We asked him to put together what a grey playlist would sound like to him. Illustrator Virassamy
Visage Fade to Grey Polydor
An obligatory choice for this list! This song always makes me wish I had experienced the 80s more consciously.
Geinoh Yamashirogumi Kaneda Victor Music Industries, Demon Records/JVC Records
Akira is one of the things that inspired me the most to become a filmmaker. It’s the most sombre, gloomy animated film I know. The soundtrack is unlike anything else you’ll ever hear and it matches the richly detailed, highly desaturated artwork perfectly.
Clogs The Owl of Love Brassland Records
This sounds like it could have been written by Monteverdi and it features guest vocals by my friend Shara Worden from “My Brightest Diamond”. The song is about an owl that’s awake at night and goes to sleep in the grey morning light.
Wild Beasts Albatross Domino
Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark 2nd Thought DinDisc
For me, “Organisation” is OMD’s best album. It also has the most beautiful and appropriate cover image. The photograph of the desolate volcanic landscape puts the music in an entirely different light.
Another song about birds! This one features an albatross crossing the vast, cold oceans. Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming both have amazing voices and I hope they’ll keep writing many more songs like this.
Grizzly Bear Deep Blue Sea 4AD
Daniel Rossen and Ed Droste sing about a blue sea, but whenever I hear this song I imagine whales and jellyfish swimming so deep that the water becomes dark grey. It’s an especially simple song to Grizzly Bear’s standards, but one of their finest.
Andrew Morgan Five Paintings Broken Horse
If grey had a vocal equivalent, Andrew Morgan’s voice would come pretty close. This almost unknown album is perfect winter music.
My Brightest Diamond She Does Not Brave the War Asthmatic Kitty
This is a beautiful song about the unnoticeable women who work like crazy to take care of their families without getting the recognition that heroes usually do.
The Cure A Forest Rhino Records
Any song by The Cure could go on this list, but “A Forest” is still one of their most haunting ones.
Clare & the Reasons Everybody Wants to Rule the World Fargo Records
This cover of the Tears for Fears song has a wonderful arrangement for strings. I bought the album during the stormy holidays in Brittany where I made my very first short film on the stony grey beaches of CamaretSur-Mer. This music was the soundtrack to many location hunting trips.
Modest Mouse Float On
Bright Eyes Road To Joy Saddle Creek
Conor Oberst’s dark and bleak lyrics often make a great contrast with his upbeat music, and this is one of his most pessimistically cheerful tunes. “If you’re asked to fight a war that’s over nothing, it’s best to join the side that’s gonna win,” is probably the one line he’ll be remembered for the most.
Moonface Marimba and Shit-Drums Jagjaguwar
This bold song by Spencer Krug from Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown is made up entirely of marimba, synthesised drums and many layers of voices. It’s as unusual as its silver cover artwork.
The Shins The Past and Pending Warner Bros. Records
After hearing this for about a thousand times, I can still say this is probably one of my favorite songs ever. A perfect song for when it’s really bad weather outside!
Isaac Brock has the most nuanced, ironic lyrics I’ve ever heard. With witty album titles like “Good News For People Who Love Bad News”, ’We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank’ and ’No One’s First And You’re Next’, nothing is every really black or white for Modest Mouse.
Mew Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy Sony
This song comes from my favorite album of theirs called “No More Stories Are Told Today I’m Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories the World Is Grey I’m Tired Let’s Wash Away”. The title summarises the melancholic tone of the songs very well.
Animal Collective Brother Sport Domino
Arcade Fire No Cars Go Merge
For me this is the most beautiful Arcade Fire song, both lyrically and musically. It’s about the blurry moment where you fall asleep and dreams start to take shape. For the sake of extra greyness I’d choose the much rougher, original version from their self-titled EP.
Sergei Rachmaninoff Isle of the Dead London
I love almost everything by Rachmaninoff, but this is one of his most chilling compositions. It was inspired by Arnold Böcklin’s famous paintings that show a man in a boat approaching a dark island on misty waters.
Woodkid Iron Green United Music
This song has one of the most impressive black and white music videos I’ve ever seen. It shows many different kinds of warriors being bombarded with black smoke in front of a plain grey background.
My Morning Jacket Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt. 2 Rough Trade
There’s a lot of songs I like to play when it’s raining, and this is another one that always makes me want to sit under a warm blanket.
If Visage let us fade to grey, Animal Collective can let us fade back to bright colors. They’re one of my favorite bands because of how they reinvented music to create their unique sound. It evokes the most vibrant, psychedelic images. Brother Sport is their most epic song to date and makes all imagination-stimulating substances obsolete.
1.000.000.000 images have been uploaded to Instagram since it launched in October 2010,
the same price Facebook recently paid for it.
In Belgium, photographs are uploaded to Facebook everyday
photography galleries in Belgium
The photography special
2 Belgium has
Apple has sold more than
An average of
million photographs are uploaded daily to Facebook
digital cameras were shipped around the globe in 2011
The specials papers
Dieudonné Cartier’s Selection of collection
Selection of collection n°002 (Slides)
Benoit Grimalt’s Trésor caché de la Côte d’Azur
Jurgen Maelfeyt’s The Swing (APE)
Jurgen Maelfeyt’s The Swing (APE)
publishing a zine in your new adoptive country can help to set your feet more firmly on your new turf. And it’s true that zines can communicate in a very direct language; that of the present image, without the need for too many words. Benoit Grimalt is French, likes experimental music and weird movies and once photographed Jean-Luc Godard for French newspaper Liberation. His work often betrays a kind of distant humour as well as the irony of everyday life. He organises gigs in the city and photocopies raw zines and flyers for distribution at parties. One of his zines is called Trésor Caché de la Côte d’Azur and is published by Poursuite Editions. It’s printed with a risograph, the ancestor to the Xerox machine, using a process that produces bright colors, something that’s coming back into fashion in the zine scene. The Swing is another risographed and wonderfully psychedelic zine produced by Flemish designer Jurgen Maelfeyt that’s filled with pictures of the cosmos. A couple of years ago, Jurgen created Art Paper Editions in Ghent, a small publishing imprint that focuses on contemporary art and design as well as random images of girls fighting in the mud or surrealistic collages of breasts encountering watches.
Theophile Calot and Eleonore Joulin are a young and dynamic French couple also based in Brussels. He publishes zines and distributes free copies with his bike at openings, organising small press salons in the hip and trendy corners of Europe, while she collects images of Chernobyl and the Titanic, representing these iconic disasters in oversized zines. Not the oldest, but one of the earliest in the zine publishing scene is Bartolomé Sanson’s Kaugummi which he founded in 2005 and whose pages have featured photographers like Alec Soth and Todd Hido, all before Sanson himself reached 25. Working with artists from his own generation, he discovered photographers like Jeff Luker before he was hired by Levis to shoot the Go Forth Campaign. After publishing more than 130 titles, Bartolomé stopped Kaugummi last summer and has moved on to a new project called Shelter Press that will feature the creme de la creme of photography… to be continued, xeroxed, sold out and reprinted. (FA)
© Pauline Miko
BNT by Pica Pica
A photo-zine a day keeps the doctor away From the DIY movement to organisations like Self Publish Be Happy, the zine scene’s never been quite as lively as in recent years. And this is particularly true for the photography variety. From Erik Van der Weijde to Ed Templeton and the New York Book Art Fair, to photo-blogs like One Year of Books or Little Brown Mushroom, it’s not just going on a mission to collect them that’s getting more and more popular; publishing is now all the rage too. So what about Belgian photo zines then? We’ve chosen a non-exhaustive collection: spontaneous, fast, teenager-ish, egotistical, brilliant – and cheap. They’re an artistic balancing act between punk and conceptualism. Many of the zines listed here are produced by foreigners living in Belgium, as though
benoit.grimalt.free.fr poursuite-editions.org artpapereditions.org kaugummi.fr
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First, let’s sit on a rock and think: what is a landscape made of? The colour green? The absence of urbanism? Can a landscape even exist without the human eye? Perhaps Jan Kempenaers asked himself these questions when he shot the images for Spomenik and The Picturesque. Spomenik is a series of abstract, monumental and almost cosmic images of landmarks in the former Yugoslavia. Grey concrete figures stand muted in the middle of isolated fields, somewhere between Tarkowski’s zone in his movie Stalker and Camille Corot’s French countryside cliché. The treatment of this very graphic and silent subject may take its cues from the school of photography known as the New Topgraphics and led by Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams, The Becher and the likes. It’s also interesting to know that when the Belgian photographer travelled to the former Yugoslavia, he sometimes had to make drawings of what he was looking for for the locals: difficult to reach battlegrounds and monuments, witnesses to World War II, from a time when the Balkans constituted one single force and wanted to be remembered as such, places where the landscape had experienced so much change that their meaning had turned into a riddle. We met Jan Kempeners in Ghent at the Kiosk Gallery at HOGENT art school, and he was just a couple of weeks shy of presenting his PhD “In search of The Picturesque”. His workin-progress was to be exhibited by the gallery in conjunction with a monumental sculpture by Karsten Fodinger, a beautiful and cold gigantic metal cage called, in clever paradox, “Void”. This white cube, unfolded into several rooms, featured photographs you might have encountered in books by independent art publishers ROMA. It’s interesting to meet pictures hung vertically on a wall when you’re used to enjoying them up close in the privacy of a book, or in jpeg form, reblogged on your tumblr. Suddenly, in the three dimensional space of the gallery, the images appear and they don’t belong to you anymore; they’re bigger, stronger and more mysterious. An image faces you, as if it had its own eye, and you almost exchange glances. Islands touching the sea, grey ruins, trees in the snow, falling stones depicting the loss and the passage of time that is as romantic as it is political. Jan Kempeners took his inspiration from books, the very books that led him to the landscapes he decided to shoot. And with the landscapes captured on camera, Kempeners is making more books. The publishers at ROMA are two accomplished artist themselves: Mark
© Sarah Eechaut
The possibility of landscape
Menders and Roger Willems, and documentas-subject is a crucial part of their work. ROMA has published many art books since 1998, from editions of two copies to 150, 000, and they’re considered major players in the field of contemporary art books. Their evergrowing catalogue includes artists such as Nigel Shafran, Batia Suter, Dirk Braeckman
and Aglaia Konrad. For more than 20 years, ROMA has shown the art world how the art book is sometimes even more important than the exhibition itself… standing still like a rock in the face of the grinding passage of time. (FA) jankempenaers.info romapublications.org
The specials papers
The ones to watch Being a magazine with somewhat of a penchant for photography, we’re in the rather enviable position of receiving a great deal of portfolios on any given day. And, although the majority of them are good, only a handful manage to get our attention and capture our imaginations. Here are four of those series which we’ve been particularly keen on lately.
Sarah Carlier Habitus
With her series “Habitus”, Belgian-born photographer Sarah Carlier, currently based in Holland, carefully observes and explores the long lasting, worn-out habits of people with an intimate and sensitive eye. For one year she studied the personal environments of people living in West Flanders and The Hague, focusing on revealing the remains of a traditional way of life in the midst of today’s modern society. “I don’t want to put a finger on urgent social issues – my focal point is the human existence as such,” Sarah explains. “My goal is to let people see the world from a different angle,” something she skillfully accomplished with “Habitus”. Sarah’s works are currently exhibited in Antwerp’s FotoMuseum, Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum and at the Stroom art center in The Hague. Her book “Four years, three deaths, sweaty armpits and a fetus,” has been nominated for the Dutch-Doc Award 2012. sarahcarlier.nl
The photography special
Quentin de Wispelaere Burning flowers
After having been trained as an airline pilot in the US, Quentin, born in Mons and based in Brussels, took up photography studies at La Cambre. With his “Burning flowers” series, he picks up the subject of the fast decay and strikingly vivid mortality of flowers: “I wanted to make a series about nature, human intervention, aesthetics and destruction.” Quentin spent two nights somewhere in a lost forest in the Belgian countryside shooting flowers, symbolising their passing away by burning them. “I wanted a more radical and obvious way of killing flowers than cutting them, so I decided to put some fuel on them and light a fire.” Through the use of special chemicals, he succeeded in making the flames appear in different colours, creating a mesmerising and vibrating visual effect. Quentin will soon be covering Paris fashion week (he is especially looking forward to Raf Simon’s debut show for Dior). quentindewispelaere.com
Vincent Delbrouck As dust alights
Vincent Delbrouck is a 36 year old photographer based in Loupoigne, Belgium who also practices shiatsu therapeutic massages. His series “As dust alights”, which he has been working on for the past four years, is a way for him to, as he puts it, “share with images the energy I get from the periods I was travelling in Nepal and India.” Imbued of a resolutely intrinsic approach to photography, Vincent’s work sits somewhere in between auto-fiction and poetry, staying clear of casting any kind of westernised filter on the elements he chooses to capture: “There is a flow. And maybe a fiction you can imagine with all that: the characters, the animals, the stones, the trees, the colors and the light.” Vincent currently has a solo show at Cardiff’s Third Floor gallery and is working on a new book for ’As dust alights’. vincentdelbrouck.be
The specials papers
The photography special
Lara Mennes Capturing the sensible
Born and based in Antwerp, with a Masters in Fine Arts from Central Saint Martins, Lara’s series “Capturing the sensible” is a search for memoirs in architecture, an archive of the forgotten artefacts of a building’s inner being, those that leave a trace of its past human activity. Capturing the interiors of a school, a hospital and a semi-industrial building, the series looks for meaning in what is usually destined to be demolished and disregarded. Lara’s work stops time and gives cause for thought. “I always work on different projects at the same time and for a long period. This one took about two years. I think it is important that a project has time to grow and develop.” Lara is currently working on a permanent installation for the garden of the Emile van Doren Museum in Genk, titled “Dans l’ombre du coin perdu.” She will also be taking part in the group show “Between Stories” running from 19 th August until 14th October in Genk. laramennes.be
Bozar’s summer of photography Bozar’s bi-annual platform for international photography kicks of on 14th June, uniting over 30 museums and other cultural organisations in a two month-long programme of exhibitions and talks around one central theme – landscape. In its fourth edition, the biennial spreads out across Brussels, Antwerp, Charleroi, Ostend, Knokke-Heist and Hornu. Here, we select four shows to be pencilled into your agendas.
1. Sense of place
© Elina Brotherus
Drawing on more than 160 works from 40 European photographers, this exhibition, the festival’s main one, takes a look at the evolving nature of the relationship between man and environment. More specifically, the show seeks to illustrate how today’s landscape has been shaped by the modern day realities of a post-industrial society marred by concerns for its environmental future. Traditionally a focal point of photography, landscapes as we knew them have drastically changed over the years – appropriated, manipulated and redefined to suit man’s many needs – and, with that, so to has our interactions with them. Demonstrating the importance of the surroundings in shaping the individual, the show is separated into three geographical sections – Northern, Central and Mediterranean Europe – and proves that Europe isn’t merely a political space, but also a place with personal meaning.
© Ilkka Halso
From 14 th June to 19 th September Bozar, Brussels
© Massimo Vitali
© Pieter Hugo
The photography special
2. Bamako encounters
© Khalil Nemmaoui
This ninth edition of the internationally reputed Rencontres de Bamako has as its central theme “For a sustainable world”. Drawing on over 280 photographs and 10 videos, the show reveals the underbelly of European landscapes, presenting a diverse regional view of horizons that serve to illustrate the environmental situation on the African continent. With the customary poetic narrative African photographers have been known for, the exhibition exemplifies the interconnectedness of landscapes in today’s globalised world, proving that what happens in Europe is of importance in Africa, and vice-versa. One of the strongest initiatives to grow out of the continent, and one which has done more than any other to establish Africa as an art force to be reckoned with, especially in terms of its photographic talent. From 15th June to 26 th August
© Khalil Nemmaoui
Thurn and Taxi, Brussels
3. De Buren (The neighbours)
Brussels-based couple Merel ’t Hart and Luk Vander Plaetse have been roaming The Netherlands’ urban landscape in a rented trailer for the past two years now, exploring notions of Dutch chastity and freedom through their mesmerising series on a very specific architectural characteristic: the large window panes of Dutch houses that allow, invite nearly, passers-by to peer through. A striking statement of independence and transparency, the photographs capture houses and their inhabitants at dusk, when natural light disappears and artificial light takes over. A painstaking work of research and authorisation requests, the work, a series of large format prints, is exhibited in Brussels for the first time. From 30 th June to 1st September Centre Culturel Jacques Franck, Brussels lejacquesfranck.be
The photography special
Three additional events for your agendas 1. Meet the Artists
4. Viewpoint – Point of view
Symposium on landscape photography with Massimo Vitali, Pedro Cabrita Reis, Céline Clanet and Vesselina Nikolaeva and Liz Wells (curator of the exhibition Sense of Place). Bozar, Brussels
Inspired by the series Barriers-European Neighbouring, that documented the evolving function of borders in Europe, the exhibition Viewpoint-Point of View sees life from a tourist standpoint. Taking as starting point the areas from which tourists photograph certain landscapes, the images on show emphasise the imposed and dictated way in which we are told to view certain landscapes. With a focal point and a picture frame pre-determined for us, the comfort of the viewer seems to lie in the restriction of choice in viewpoints. Four images from the original series will be shown alongside new work, all presented by photographer Michiel De Cleene. From 14 th June to 16 th September
14 th June from 14h
2. “Landscapes in contemporary Czech photography and in my own work.” Lecture by Pavel Banka, photographer and editor in chief of Fotograf magazine. Bozar, Brussels 16 th June from 18h30
3. Recyclart evening projection A selection of photographers show their own vision of the relationship between nature and city.
Cultuurcentrum Strombeek Grimbergen ccstrombeek.be
26 th July from 20h recyclart.be Bozar’s summer of photography will be running from 14 th June through to 16 th September in over 20 locations around Belgium. summerofphotography.be
The festival’s catalogue is available from the BOZAR Shop. bozarshop.com
A stamp of approval We asked six greats of Belgian photography to nominate one emerging Belgian photographer that got their stamp of approval. Thereâ€™s nothing like getting anointed by those that paved the way for you.
Stephan Vanfleterenâ€™s nomination Thomas Sweertvaegher
The photography special
Dirk Braeckman nominates Max Pinckers One of the most prominent photographers of his generation, Dirk Braeckman is known for his grey-scaled works that owe as much to his acute sense of composition as to his restrained approach (he sometimes doesn’t develop his rolls years after having shot them). A teacher at Ghent’s Academy for Fine Arts (Kask), Dirk picked Max Pinckers as his nomination.
What attracted you to Max’s work? What strikes me most in Max’s work is that he developed a new approach, something I haven’t seen before. He works within a documentary context yet leans towards staged photography, always expressing a form of theatricality. This grey area in between is where Max’s images find themselves. What would you like to see him develop? What I would like to see more of in Max’s work has just arrived with his new series, “The Fourth Wall.” His first series “Lotus,” based on transsexuals in Thailand, had a very sensational edge to it. The new work is moving away from this and achieving a more mysterious feel. What would you advise him in terms of his work and career? Don’t be put off of by gallerists and keep doing your own thing. maxpinckers.be
Gilbert Fastenaekens nominates Clément Montagne His sombre, mysterious and slightly haunting nocturnal studies are what made Belgian photographer Gilbert Fastenaekens famous. Living and working in Brussels, he focuses especially on urban landscapes, industrial structures and city views, referencing the German and French schools of landscape photography and promoting a documentary style. His nomination: Clément Montagne.
What attracted you to Clément’s work? What I really like about Clément’s photographs is the atmosphere they reveal. I like the spirit of the images. And Clément doesn’t just take photographs: He also creates his own, personal hand-crafted books with the images he takes. How did you discover Clément? Actually in a rather incestuous way: He was my student at Brussels’ ERG school. At the time I met him he was already well-educated by another former student of mine: Fréderic Barthes. That made it much easier for me! What advice would you have for him? What’s most important is to have confidence in yourself and what you do. And he should not pay too much attention to the rapidly changing nature of photography and contemporary art – the developments are just too fast. There’s no point in trying to keep up with that.
Stephan Vanfleteren nominates Thomas Sweertvaegher Kortrijk-born photographer Stephan Vanfleteren started his career at De Morgen, going on to make a name for himself beyond Belgian borders with his striking portraits fraught with social commentary of individuals living on the fringes of society. The winner of the World Press Photo award and the prestigious Henri Nannen prize, he is known for his powerful black and white photography, as radical as it is sensitive. Besides a well-documented love affair with his home country, he also aims his lens on conflict zones in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Stephan’s pick: Ghent-based Thomas Sweertvaegher.
Why did you choose Thomas? I am fascinated by his series on skateboarders. He shows a whole different world from its very inside. And I find the liberty, the slightly anarchic, hippie life of the people shown in these photos very appealing. What is it that you like about his work? He is part of this sociotope and you can see the trust and intimacy in Thomas’ images. That’s why, even though I have a lot of experience, I would never be able to take the same pictures. I really like that he exposes a part of society in a way that’s rarely seen – not from the outside, but from within. switnphoto.com
Harry Gruyaert nominates Bieke Depoorter With a special focus on the subtleties of light and the power of colour, Gruyaert’s work has for the last 30 years stayed clear of any clichés. A member of legendary photo agency Magnum since 1981, the Antwerp-born photographer is especially famous for his portrayal of Morocco, a country that has continued to fascinate him throughout the years. Harry Gruyaert picked Bieke Depoorter as his nomination.
What attracted you to Bieke’s work? I really like her personal approach. Her images are very intimate, very personal. She builds a relationship with the people she photographs and sleeps over at their houses for example. And her photographs are always well-composed, also colour-wise. What would you like to see her develop? I’ll leave that completely up to her. What would you advise her in terms of her work and career? The only advice I have for Bieke is to be herself. biekedepoorter.be
The photography special
Marie-Françoise Plissart nominates David De Beyter Living and working in Brussels, Marie-Françoise Plissart is the author of a number of books, many originating from the collaboration with her former partner Benoît Peeters. In 2001 she started a second career as a filmmaker with her first documentary, “L’occupation des sols”, and in 2004 she received the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale of Architecture for her captivating images of Congo’s capital Kinshasa. But most of the time Plissart directs her lense on her home country, as in a series entirely shot from Brussels’ rooftops or in her works on the renovation of the Atomium. Her nomination: David De Beyter.
What attracted you to David’s work? What I like in his work is his adventurous, exploratory side. There is this sense of freedom about what he does. David is someone who organises his vision of the world without hesitation and feels completely at ease jumping into a collective memory. My favourite image is the one with the light-painted house. It is obviously staged and this staging is intrinsically photographic. It would not make sense in another medium. What advice would you have for him? I know that he’s already done staging with several people (for example a group of friends sitting in a tree). That image was full of promise regarding his capacity of uniting people, arranging them in a certain way and composing a situation. I’d really like to see more of that.
Serge Leblon nominates Laetitia Jeurissen Belgian-born photographer Serge Leblon’s distinctive visual narrative has been shaped through years of shooting for some of the world’s most important fashion publications, from Another Magazine and Dazed & Confused to Purple and Self Service. With countless exhibitions paying tribute to his work and a new monography about to be launched, Serge is without a doubt one of the great fashion photographers of his time. He currently is based in Brussels, and picked Laetitia Jeurissen as his nomination.
What attracted you to Laetitia’s work? Her capacity to decentralise and bring a critical and human eye on our society. Her refusal to give in to technology and her attachment to the essence of photography’s history. Her use of analogue photography which is rare nowadays and requires a more consistent preparation of the subject. Why did you select her? I had noticed her work at one of La Cambre’s end of year shows. What would you like to see her develop? I’d like to see her fine-tune her narrative as well as her technique and find the tone that suits her best.
Man vs. machine Some shoot digital, others shoot analogue. Some use medium format, whilst others religiously use large format. Most, however, aren’t defined by the camera they use although they very much see their choice of equipment as an extension of their work. Here we profile three Belgian photographers’ cameras. Photographer Sarah Eechaut
Brussels-based Japanese photographer Satoru Toma seeks out the marginal landscapes, a city’s behind-the-scenes wilderness. His recent book Ask the Cat, published by Le Caillou Bleu, documents a walk along Brussels’ boundaries. Satoru is photographed with his Toyofild 45-A. “(I like it for) its slowness as well as its format and huge precision.” Satoru will be taking part in a group show dedicated to contemporary Belgian photography at Bucharest’s MNAC from 30 th May 2012. satorutoma.com
The photography special
Michel Mazzoni is based in Brussels since 2007. His work explores notions of time, space and territory and is a constant balancing act between light, focal point and frame. He has more recently been focusing his attention on places which history seems to have touched and abandoned. Michel has published three books (Zones, Straight in the light and God’s left eye) and is represented by Anyspace gallery. Michel is photographed with his Linhof Technica. “I’ve lately been using the Linhof quite a lot. I like this model because it’s foldable, is very precise and extremely reliable. I also like working with it because it demands a lot of reflection.” michelmazzoni.com
Antwerp-based photographer Frederik Heyman mostly works in fashion and advertising. His conceptual and futuristic work has resulted in commissions for everyone from Vogue Homme Japan and Metal Magazine to Bruno Pieters and Kenzo. Frederik is photographed with his Canon Eos 5D, mark II. “The 5D is fast, sharp and easy to handle in complex surroundings.” Frederik has a solo show, Pen PALS, at Base Alpha Gallery in Antwerp starting 17 th May. frederikheyman.com
The hunter becomes the huntedâ€Ś We often wonder what the photographers that hide behind some of our favourite portraits look like, so we asked one of them to turn the lens on herself for once and describe the experience.
The photography special
Géraldine Van Wessem Ghent-based Géraldine is a 27 year old portrait photographer who first started taking photographs at the age of 22.
“I found facing the camera quite strange, I thought it would have been easier. I found it hard to focus, to get a concentrated expression. It is strange to think about what a picture of me should look like: of how I should present myself, of what light and what colours I should use. The picture is rather undefined and I look really reserved, but I guess that’s also why I feel better behind the camera. At the same time I was very curious about how the image would look on the ground glass. I am always very nervous when I take someone’s picture, but somehow looking at the ground glass is a moving experience.” geraldinevanwessem.com
The round table
Is the photography book the new exhibition ?
We met in the art nouveau sanctuary for Belgian photography L’Espace Contretype to talk about the future of the photography books and how it might or not become the future of exhibitions. Jean-Louis Godefroid opened Contretype in 1978 in his apartment when he was still a student, and now runs the major contemporary center for photography in the Hotel Hannon, in Saint Gilles / Sint Gillis. Fabrice Wagner created his publishing house Le Caillou Bleu 10 years ago, and since then has defended a very concerned and humanist point of view on photography. Bartolomé Sanson founded the zine and cassettes publishing house Kaugummi in 2005 before bringing an end to it in favour of new imprint Shelter Press in 2011. A conversation moderated by Felicia Atkinson
Photographer Grégoire Pleynet
The photography special
Felicia Atkinson — Since Martin Parr published the Anthology of the Photobooks, the importance and value of photo books have been acknowledged by a wider world. It was also a way to bring to the crowd the access to some very rare books that one could not easily collect. With those two large volumes, everyone could all of a sudden discover an ideal library that was previously only open for specialists. I would like to ask you to introduce your self while choosing one book that inspired you to do what you do and tell us why and how…
Fabrice Wagner — I remember a book I bought in 1998 called “Photographs” by Emmet Gowin. It gathers images of his family with pictures taken from a plane and some foreign landscapes. This book has been mentioned now by Martin Parr as a very important title, but back then I had no idea of its value when I purchased it. At this time Le Caillou Bleu wasn’t existing yet, but it was the year that my first child was born, and the premise of the imprint: I would name it “the blue stone” after watching him painting stones in blue at his grandfather’s… This question of filiation is crucial to me. The book by Emmet Gowin was showing something I was looking for for a long time, a very unique way of treating everyday life and the family portrait. I was still living in Strasbourg, where there were very few photography exhibitions, and this book was like the first entrance for me to the photography world.
then the photography world didn’t really reach Belgium. We didn’t have such museums as Charleroi or FOMU, and the art world wasn’t so much concerned about photography in galleries… The only access to see photography was through books. There was a library at school and our teachers had books too. They would also show us some slides during classes. And then, one day, in a second-hand bookstore, I found “Nothing Personal” by Richard Avedon and James Baldwin. It was a very large format, with close-ups and portraits. It was the first book I saw that wasn’t just a monograph. It was a shock.
Bartolomé Sanson — I created Kaugummi Books in 2005 in Brittany, when I was very young. I didn’t know anything about the photo world, who was famous or who was not, I could publish in the same book a photograph of Alec Soth and one by a young unknown teenager from Norway... The book that I would choose is pretty recent but gathers I think all my recents concerns. “Directory” by Ari Marcopoulos, co-published by Nieves and Rizzoli. This book is the size of a phone book,1400 pages of photocopies with a signed print inside. It is rare, modern, precious and cheap. It is an incredible sum of work, very well thought, where the design is completely serving the concept… It’s a retrospective and a contemporary object. I think it brings together all of the parameters that a photo book should endorse. FA — What is the book that you published that was the most challenging to you?
Jean-Louis Godefroid — I created Contretype in 1978 when something needed to be done in Brussels for photography. Back
FW — I would answer very radically: each book I published had its own challenge! I need to be behind each book if I want him to have a chance, at each step of its process. I realise this every day! I chose the big distribution game with a European stockist, but first, when I began I was bringing the titles to the bookstores myself. I realised very quickly, in the first hours of my work, the ambiguity of the job: one bookseller would by 15 copies where one would just take one to try and see. For me, one of my main concerns is that the book has
to be available for the biggest audience possible without losing its personality, and that’s a big challenge. Another challenge is each time I publish an unknown artist, who doesn’t have any history in the photo world. But the challenge can also be in the run I choose for a book. For example with the monograph of Elina Brotherus I am publishing now, we decided to handle a large print run, which means taking a risk with costs. Each time the dynamic is different, but remains crucial, in the conscience of the crisis that stands now, where bookstore returns 40 percent of the books to the publishers, when they used to send back only 15 percent. You need to be very aware of those matters nowadays. J-LG — With Contretype, we first published three or four books and then we realised that was another job than curating a space, and we decided to ask real publishers, such as Fabrice, to help us. Each book we would decide to copublish would be related to our space: a residency, an exhibition… We can’t afford to do differently. The challenge stands in terms of subject and meaning. To exist, a book needs to be bought, which means being considered in the short and long term at the same time. FA — What about the increased speculation for books online? FW — The succes of a book is also dependent on the energy of the photographer itself but also from the hype of the moment of course. Think Engstrom or Alec Soth, whose books get sold out in a very short time. They are tastemakers in the photography world now with blogs like Photoeye or Ahorn, places such as LE BAL in Paris or Dashwood in New York, and bookfairs like Offprint or Kassel. FA — But isn’t there a danger to just do a very catchy design to win another photoprize and get sold out asap? BS — When you take a book like Tokyo Suburbia by Takashi Homma, a photographer that I love, it is weird how the book is now so expensive! It seems that it’s not anymore about what’s inside the book but just about the value and speculation, and that’s frightening. JLG — We should’t forget that the key for a photo book is not the subject or the design, but the point of view of the artist! I see a photographer as a poet: I want to defend his special sight over the world. shelter-press.com contretype.org cailloubleu .com
The round up
Photographers… and everyone around them Painters can just pick up their paintbrushes and let loose on a canvas. Photographers, on the other hand, need a whole microsystem of specialists – printers, framers, air brushers – to get to the final result. In a bid to shine a light on those professions essential to the photographic process, we profile four artisans without whom none of this would be possible. Photographer Veerle Frissen
The reseller Campion
Michel Campion’s second hand camera shop, nestled in the heart of Brussels’ Matonge district, has something of a museum feel to it: The small space is filled with countless cameras, focal lenses and vintage leather bags of all kinds and shapes. The 69 year old, who took the business over from his mother in 1973, has built what could be considered a true shrine to the photography of the past, with a large and varied selection of analogue models. “Children and grandchildren come here to sell the cameras they inherited from their parents and grandparents, mostly trading them in for new digital cameras in our first hand shop across the street,” Campion explains. Amongst the plethora of archaic equipment, a gold-plated Swedish Hasselblad (¤5,000) stands out, as well as the rare cameras dating back to the 19 th century. On the way advances in technology have affected his business, Campion is unequivocal: “There will always be a niche for it, just as for vinyls.” Rue Saint-Boniface 13 Bonifaasstraat – 1050 Brussels
The photography special
The framer Mertens
When artist Peter Mertens couldn’t find anyone building frames to his liking, he decided to give it a shot himself. Soon he was making frames for his friends too and as the demand grew he started his own framing studio in Amsterdam in 1988. Since then the business has grown immensely, including the opening of a second studio in Brussels 12 years ago. Eppo Dehaes, who was taught all about framing by Mertens himself, has managed the Brussels branch for quite some time now and keeps up the tradition and high-quality practice, which is reputed for not using any standard production items. Having developed its own framing system, Mertens has a proper wood workshop where every frame is assembled and painted by hand. “Patience, attention to detail and precision are crucial,” says Dehaes, who studied painting at St Luc in Brussels. Specialising in contemporary art and especially photography, Mertens’ roaster of clients include art galleries Xavier Hufkens and Catherine Bastide as well as prominent painters such as Luc Tuymans. Rue Antoine Dansaertstraat 188 – 1000 Brussels mertensframes.com
The round up
The printer Jazz Colorlab
André Jasinski (53) started out as a photographer himself, having studied photography at Brussels’ St Luc school. After years of developing his own black and white photographs, he switched to colour photography, but was never quite satisfied with the prints he received from the various labs he tried. Finally Jasinski, who also worked for Brussels’ center for photography Contretype, decided to learn the craft himself in a laboratory in Canada. When he came back to Belgium 12 years ago he founded his own print shop and today Jazz Colorlab is one of the very few places remaining that still employs the rare method of handmade chemical photo processing from analogue films. “After the overwhelming success of digital photography I think I might actually be the only one in Belgium,” he tells us. His clients, professional artists for the most part, come from as far a place as Finland, as photographer Elina Brotherus for example. Rue de Flandre 29 Vlamsesteenweg – 1000 Brussels
The photography special
The printer Atelier KZG
What Jazz Colorlab does for analogue cameras, Atelier KZG does for its digital counterparts. Founder Gaëtan Massaut (36) and his associate David Marlé (37), who studied photography themselves, are dedicated to continuing the photographic printing tradition whilst at the same time bringing it in line with the requirements of today’s digital photographers. Massaut opened the studio in 2004, at the time of the switch from analogue to digital photography with the goal of providing a high-quality service for a new need. “Our job is not just about the process of printing an image,” Marlé, who is also a teacher at La Cambre, explains. “We have long discussions with the artists, always trying to find the best possible version of the image and bringing out its utmost potential by adjusting the vibrance of colours or strength of contrasts.” Today Atelier KZG is the place to go for some of Belgium’s most reputed photographers such as Stephan Vanfleteren or French man Vincent Fournier. Avenue Van Volxemlaan 405 – 1190 Brussels kzg.be
The photography showstoppers
Snapper’s delight There’s something of a duality to our photography showstopper selection. On one hand, we’re very much in the nostalgic, with our pick of pendant and wallet, whilst on the other, we’re clearly aiming to the future with our road test of the latest camera and digital frame to hit the shelves. Either way, we’re set for a summer of photography. Photographer Melika Ngombe
1. The pendant
Considering that even key chains have digital photo displays nowadays, wearing a necklace with a photo pendant around your neck might seem a little archaic in certain circles, although definitely not in ours. And, thankfully, iconic jewellery-maker Tiffany’s still produces the nostalgic neck piece. With its clean lines and no-fuss aesthetics, this particular pendent made with real silver isn’t heart-shaped nor does it have the kitschy engravings, although its oval locket with room for two photographs sits just about right to hold those you love close to your heart. Tiffany’s oval photo locket (¤465) with chain (¤80). Available from Tiffany’s (Brussels). tiffany.com
The photography special
2. The wallet
Google launched its digital wallet service and according to a recent study smartphones will have replaced wallets by 2020. A plain leather wallet seems almost like a relic of ancient times then, and it is no wonder that we had to dig quite a bit to find one with the classic feature of a see-through picture pocket. For decades parents have used their wallets as photoholders for their children’s portraits – probably because it’s the one thing you never leave the house without. Nowadays though most of us don’t flip out our wallets anymore when they proudly want to show their new born baby or favourite pet: These days it’s the smartphone they reach for. A big no no if you ask us, especially with the kind of wallets French leather goods maker Longchamp creates. Fact is, in our world, physical beats digital any day, and we’d much rather show off an actual photograph of our little ones than a pixelated version. What’s more, a study once revealed that wallets with photos are more likely to be returned to their owner – with baby pictures being especially efficient. Longchamp wallet with picture pocket (¤130). Available from Longchamp (Brussels). longchamp.com
3. The camera
With a whopping 16.1 mega-pixel resolution, there’s not much this camera cannot do. An everyday man’s compact with professional aspirations, the latest addition to Nikon’s Coolpix tribe includes such standout features as its specially crafted wide-angle Nikkor lens, its squarish design as well as its fluid automatic-manual shift a the flick of a switch. Testing it out, we were particularly impressed by its lack of camera shake when set on long-paused shutter speeds although it really is its high-definition filming capability that got the entire office bubbling. However, if there was one flaw we had to find with the camera, it’d have to be its weight: it can at times feel a little light which somehow gives you the impression it’s not as sturdy and solid as you’d want this type of allterrain equipment to be. That’s only an impression though. Nikon Coolpix P310 (¤319) nikon.be
4. The frame
This nifty little invention is aimed at people who don’t make a habit of printing their photographs, preferring instead to keep them in digital format on their hard drives and desktops. The thinking goes like this: instead of pinning your holiday pictures or family portraits to the fridge, why not upload them to your memory card which can then be slotted into this digital frame. Once that’s done, the frame will rotate up to 1,000 of your favourite photographs in one continuous slideshow. It’s not for everyone, although your elders who are still struggling to make the switch from analogue to digital might see some benefits in this one. Philips digital photo frame (¤99,99) Available from philips-store.be
Grey Young and upcoming Belgian photographer Adriaan Hauwaert’s mesmerising grey series works against the dull and monotonous image associated with the colour grey. His photographs shimmer in immeasurable shades of grey to reveal the often hidden dazzling features of a generally disregarded, underestimated tone, bringing out its undeniable beauty in the most unexpected of places.
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Volkstraat 27 2000 Antwerp +32 (0) 3 237 79 64 lacostadelaldogon.com Lacoste
Galerie Porte de Louise 228 Louizagalerijen 1050 Brussels +32 (0) 2 512 20 32 lacoste.com
Chaussée de Louvain 650-652 Leuvensesteenweg 1030 Brussels +32 (0) 2 325 12 30 manoloblahnik.com Monsieur Bul (at Glory Box)
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Tamawa (at Smets)
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Boulevard de Waterloolaan 63 1000 Brussels +32 (0) 2 501 66 33 tiffany.com Rue Neuve 37 Nieuwestraat 1000 Brussels +32 (0) 2 219 22 07 tomford.com Tommy Hilfiger
Avenue de la Toison d’Or 20 Gulden-Vlieslaan 1050 Brussels +32 (0) 2 513 67 87 tommy.com Urban Outfitters Antwerp
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Paula Giezman (at Biutiful)
Urban Outfitters Brussels
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Place Stephanie 6 Stefanieplein 1000 Brussels +32 (0) 2 207 14 80 urbanoutfitters.co.uk
Paule Ka Brussels
Boulevard de Waterloolaan 48 1000 Brussels +32 (0) 2 347 28 85 Paule Ka Antwerp
Komedieplaats 10 2000 Antwerp +32 (0) 3 233 42 92 Pierre Hardy
Lee Cooper (at Inno)
Place Brugmannplein 22 1050 Brussels +32 (0) 2 343 33 86 sandrinafsoli.com
Tom Ford (at Ici Paris XL) Manolo Blahnik (at Smets)
Schuttershofstraat 19 2000 Antwerp +32 (0) 3 227 09 43
Rue Wayezstraat 150 1070 Brussels +32 (0) 2 522 92 45 rado.com
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Before we leave you…
So, what’s next on The Word calendar. A quick rundown… Travel in June, music in July then a break in August on thewordmagazine.be A graphic design exhibition, Smile, in September
Then the pink album Think Belgian bourgeoisie, home-grown highs, party people, highbrow haircuts and gym gorillas. We’re also toying with the idea of hosting a party towards the end of the year. Oh, and then there’s the book we’re planning on releasing together with Sarah Eechaut, an extension of our “facing the blank canvas” feature. So, lots on our plate then…
The Word’s Pink album ( + the design special )
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