New work for Triennial Bruges 2021: TraumA plays on the dark side of the city
Gijs Van Vaerenbergh’s new work, Colonnade, is located in the Baron Ruzette Park in the northern part of the historic town centre of Bruges, Belgium. On the one hand, it resembles a portico or columned gallery: it has the scale and contours of a pavilion or park object and recalls classical temple structures. On the other hand the columns are slanted and jumbled together in a crisscross manner, which makes it reminiscent of an impenetrable forest with fallen trees. Numerous references instantly come to mind, yet they lead the visitor astray. In a subtle fashion, this installation breaches the artificial boundaries of what we think we know. The construction refers to something recognisable, yet immediately invalidates it. When can something be considered a space, architecture or sculpture? Gijs Van Vaerenbergh's work explores the subtlety and arbitrariness of boundaries. The fact that things often blur together is already reflected in their artist’s name, which is a conflation of both their names.
A spatial field of 100 columns
With Colonnade, Gijs Van Vaerenbergh adopts the most fundamental form of building and reduces architecture to its essence: A floor and roof slab measuring 10 by 10 metres and 100 columns in between them. By using architectural elements or building materials in an unusual manner, the artist duo creates a sense of tension and evokes in its work a feeling of alienation. The visual play of space and volume exerts an attraction and makes the visitor curious to enter the work. From a distance, Colonnade looks massive; it conveys a sense of heaviness and a certain monolithic quality. Once inside the work, a new and entirely different sense of space emerges. The solid image dissolves, the context disappears, and all points of reference vanish. On the inside, the external delineation of the work gives way to a feeling of infiniteness. We are thrown back onto ourselves and have to work our way through a spatial construction with labyrinth-like qualities.
Surrendering to the unknown
Colonnade is part of Triennial Bruges 2021: TraumA, a contemporary art and architecture event that takes place in the historic city of Bruges (Belgium), this year centred on the theme 'TraumA'. For the inhabitants of a medieval city, a forest represented something dangerous, something inhospitable. In a similar way, the journey through Colonnade requires each visitor to decide for themselves whether or not to surrender to the unknown. It is an experience that requires effort, akin to the way in which the personal experience of trauma requires one’s perseverance. With Colonnade, Gijs Van Vaerenbergh subverts familiar concepts, and in doing so, they reveal new perspectives. A space is never just a space: it is versatile and mutable. With its work, Gijs Van Vaerenbergh reminds us that space is not restricted to one image, meaning or experience. In this way, the duo draws our attention to something that has always existed, even if we never saw it, or were aware of it.
Text: Indra Devriendt