The never-ending wonder of the artist as a researcher

On a cold winter’s morning, New Master Bo Vloors joins us to visit the museum CIVA in Brussels. The exhibition After / D’après / Na by artist Vincent Meessen inaugurates ‘Research in Residence’, CIVA’s new collection-oriented transdisciplinary research initiative. Vincent Meessen presents a narrative reconstruction of a two-acre site just outside of Brussels to raise questions about the position of an artist as a researcher. That same question, as well as the never-ending wonder over one’s own surroundings, both possess filmmaker and photographer Bo Vloors like no other.

Interview by Sacha Celine Verheij
Photos shot by Lieve Kleeven

How do you feel walking through these two acres of Brussels?  

The way Vincent tried to archive a rural plot on the outskirts of Brussels appeals to me. Through video, photos, soundscapes, objects, sculptures and text, he aims to recreate a place that no longer exists.

The maker influences the material through artistic choices when making a translation between reality and representation

Can you elaborate on that? 

Like Vincent, I carry a desire to translate reality through my work. I can strongly relate to capturing a place or a moment in time as generously as possible. Of course, I will never fully grasp the actual reality; I might aim for it, but I don’t claim to do so. The maker always influences the material through artistic choices when making a translation between reality and representation. However, using multiple disciplines such as image, word and sound is in some way an attempt to come very close to that.

This exhibition places the artist as a researcher. Would you call yourself a researcher?

Yes, although not so much in the academic sense of the word. All I do is observe my surroundings, I take it all in. I create images without purpose, work intuitively, and add them to my archive. I am a slow worker and I prefer to stay in the process of observing. The decisive moment to concretize a choice is not something I wish to impose on my material. I spend a lot of time with my material, to be able to read it and listen to it until the artistic choices present themselves to me.

Why do you prefer to stay in the process of observing? 

Collecting images around me can be a lonely practice. However, I find it soothing – it’s you and your environment. Your material and your intuition are the most beautiful companions. You take the time to absorb and observe. The moment I start working with the material, you start appropriating it.

What image you choose to use influences the story

Can you tell me more about your work?

I am a person of images and words. As a filmmaker and a photographer, I capture my surroundings. I also write, because sometimes images are too limiting to tell a story. Through writing, I explore the missing image. The use of a variety of disciplines brings me closer to reality and allows me to add nuances. I allow myself to reuse images from my archive, and whatever image I choose influences the story. In the playfulness with images, I look for a way to tell a story in the most representative way.

Both you and Vincent are observers of the space around you. How do you relate his work to your own?

We both examine the relationship between people and their environment. In this exhibition specifically, he looks at what the presence of a human in nature does. We see the human influence and co-existence with nature on just two acres. In my work, I similarly invite the viewer to enter a world where human relations and their surroundings are placed as ambiguous central points.

I leave black holes for the audience to find points of recognition themselves

Do you have a final message for our readers?

I hope that my work provides nuances to reality, but remains open enough for interpretation and dialogue. Even though my material starts from a personal experience, I leave black holes for the audience to find points of recognition themselves.

Interview for Different Class (formerly known as Subbacultcha Belgium):

Research in Residence #1 – Vincent Meessen
Until 26/03 – CIVA, Brussels
The exhibition is free for everyone

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