September 2008, Le Garage, Brussels
Number 30, rue Jourdanstraat in Brussels has an unprepossessing facade: slotted into a mixed residential and cafe neighborhood, the blank, closed garage door which takes up its entire front promises nothing out of the ordinary. I would have walked right by it if a pair of bicyclists hadn't stopped to chat excitedly about the words spelled out in white neon above the door: CAPITALISM KILLS LOVE.
Le Garage, as it's known, is home to Brussels-based curatorial collective Komplot. It opens when you call. Someone arrives on a bicycle to unlock the door—an unpretentious touch which, like the facade, belies the seriousness of Komplot's endeavor. In July, the French artists' collective Claire Fontaine showed their video Counter-Poison (2004) in the crumbling space. (The declamatory neon sign is also a Claire Fontaine work, from 2008.) A huge screen was hung at a diagonal across the single, deep room. An assortment of mismatched chairs were scattered about on the far side; ladders and some long discarded boards had been pushed to the sides for the occasion.
Counter-Poison portrays a jolting midnight journey through an abandoned Glasgow theater. A single camera-man makes his way hurriedly through the theater, stomping over rotting wooden boards and pushing through obstacles that have piled up as the building collapsed over time. Lit only by a single light-source—an isolated lamp which moves in shaky synchrony with the camera— the lengthy sequence of choppy images is driven forward by the explorer's rushed, heavy breathing and break-neck pace.
Komplot was founded in 2002 by Wendy Van Wynsberghe, Jean-Philippe Convert and Sonia Dermience; today it counts seven members. The collective's decision to screen Counter-Poison in a deteriorating building was a canny one. If the film itself never loses its urgency, the darkened garage that houses the screen denies the viewer the escape of looking elsewhere. Counter-Poison is a dark homage to the neglected infrastructure that we ignore even in the heart of our most glorious metropolises—and a diatribe against ravaging urban development. The fact that the dilapidated Garage will soon be renovated to include a classic glass front and clean white walls only adds to the poignancy.
But Komplot—which means 'conspiracy' in French and Dutch—promises to continue with their agenda decrying our easy capitulation to systems of capitalism which 'kill love' and encourage us to destroy yesterday's creations once the immediate thrill of their novelty has passed. In August, artists Jaro Straub and Matthew Burbidge vow to 'take back' the 'society of the spectacle' so famously condemned by Guy Debord in his 1967 book of that name: before its transition from dilapidated hole-in-the-wall to clean-cut exhibition space, Le Garage will undergo one final 'Complete Communion Celebration'.
[The video Complete Communion Celebration will be on show at Le Garage on August 30 2008. Call +32 484 713 175 to visit it at 30, rue Jourdanstraat, B-1060 Bruxelles/Brussel].
whitehot gallery images
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