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Brussels Body Speech – Shanghai, 2010


A Brussels body speech show designed to present some of Brussels’ most brilliant contemporary artists will open at the Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum on September 19. The show, part of the Brussels Days at the ongoing World Expo, will be unveiled by Jean-Luc Vanraes, minister for External Relations of Brussels Capital Region, said Hans de Wolf, curator of the show. 

The 20-day show will display works by five Brussels artists, including Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Frank Theys, David Claerbout, Ann Veronica Janssens and Joelle Tuerlinckx. 

“When conceiving the exhibition, we wanted to show some artistic practices and discourses that are strongly connected to the Brussels art scene, but might surprise the people of Shanghai, provoking curiosity,” said Wolf. 

The exhibition concept is based upon a strong opposition between what could probably be considered the oldest form of human intelligence: ‘Dance’, with choreography celebrating the format of the human body every day, and a scientific debate known as “transhumanism” championed by mostly American scientists who believe that the challenges of the future will oblige people to modify the format of the human body, even to quit it all together, Wolf said. 

The museum will invite the world-renowned Brussels choreographer and dancer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker to the exhibition to show her movie of opus 1: Rosas Danst Rosas, with which she internationally broke through, said museum spokeswoman Yu Xiaoqin. 

Dance might well be considered as the oldest form of human intelligence, ever since it occurred in the development of the Homo sapiens. It never disappeared throughout the history of mankind and entered a new era of bodily expression and refinement when in the early 1980 young dancer Anne 

Teresa de Keersmaeker broke open a new chapter in contemporary dance. The originality and powerful intelligence of her choreographic design was immediately recognized worldwide. She stood at the beginning of what can be considered today, one of the densest, diversest and most internationally acclaimed carriers of the time. “The consideration that dancers celebrate in every single movement the format of the human body brings us to the opposite proposition,” said Wolf. 

He said the museum will place the film “Technocalyps” by the Brussels-based artist Frank Theys at the exhibition. Through this documentary, split up in three parts, the artist explores the world and opinions of a well-determined group of scientists, mostly in the USA, obsessed with the quest of eternal life. The film, based on many years of close observation of labs and the people working in them, features a number of highly intelligent researchers convinced of the fact that, in order to maintain the essentials of the human race in the coming centuries, the human being will have to adapt its traditional format: the human body. 

Experimenting with a variety of possibilities, going from massive structural improvements of the body to leaving the old format behind all together, those scientists, called “transhumanists”, represent a remarkable development in the evolution of human knowledge and science. 

By now, “Technocalyps” has obtained a real cult-status, both in artistic and scientific circles. By dealing with huge amounts of documentary material however, the result is no less a film as an artwork. In that sense “Technocalyps” is part of a tradition in the Western art ever since the 1960, he said. 

“In bringing this clash of opposite ideas to China and to the museum in Shanghai, we hope to contribute to this essential debate on the human body. New perspectives could be opened, new ideas could occur,” the curator said. The museum will also invite three more visual artists based in Brussels to contribute each in a very specific way to the concept of Brussels body speech, according to Yu. She said sponsors will organize a well-balanced symposium, meetings or workshops with artists and scientists from Brussels and Shanghai attending to discuss the status of art and science. “We hope to open up new dialogues between artists and scientists from Brussels and Shanghai during the exhibition, laying a solid foundation for future co-operation,” Wolf said.

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