Retroterra

Public space

Meeting point: exit CERIA/COOVI
12, 13/05 – 16:00 + 18:30
14, 15, 16, 18/05 – 18:30 + 20:30
NL / FR
1h

A member of the ZimmerFrei collective, Italian artist Anna Rispoli’s work focuses on the relationship between the city and its residents. In Brussels in May 2012, Anna Rispoli and Edurne Rubio invite us to climb up high and observe our urban condition. Setting off from the CERIA/COOVI metro station, groups of spectators will be taken up a high-rise tower recently built to house the Elishout campus cooking school. From the top floor of this remarkable building, they will look down over a non-place between the centre and the outskirts, where the city’s functions and movements meet: the canal, the ring road and its stream of commuters, big industries and commercial districts, a hospital, a garden city, a cemetery… Equipped with an audio-guide, they listen to the building’s view of the activities going on in and around it. Using fragments of real life stories, utopias and urban myths, a narration is constructed about the dynamic body of the contemporary polis. A social and poetic place to be reconquered.

Excerpts of the testimonies for the creation of Retroterra can be listened to in Mirador, a sound installation in the festival centre from 4 to 26 May (in collaboration with Bruxelles nous appartient/Brussel behoort ons toe).

Direction
Anna Rispoli

Research
Anna Rispoli, Edurne Rubio

Text
Ivan Carozzi, Anna Rispoli, Edurne Rubio, Emanuele Nicolotti, Bruno De Wachter

Sound
Els Viaene

Voices
Lotte Heijtenis, Didier De Neck

Dramaturgy consultancy
Diane Fourdrignier, Christophe Meierhans

Production assistant
Manuel von Rahden

Actress coach
Peter Vandenbempt

Assistant
Emanuele Nicolotti

Translation
Rudi Bekaert

Interviews
Xaveer de Geyter, Steven Derrider, Ingrid Huyghe, Roeland Dudal, Peter Schoelliers, Luc Delprat, Patrick Wouter, Valerie Vandermeulen, Gwenaël Breës, Guido Vanderhulst, Marcel Jacobs, Thierry Vanderbreetstraeten, Cindy Lopez, Amir, Fedath, Maissan, Jasmina, Nora, Mohamed, Lina, Anoua, Stéphanie

With the participation of
Jan Dellaert & the Traumland, Christophe Moles, the cooks Johan Souffriau, Jan de Kock, Celine Leys, Joan Roesems, the students of Elishout, EDC team, FC Anderlecht Milan, Antenne de Prévention
UZINE, Maison d’enfants de la Roue, Complex Sportif du Ceria, Kose Cleaning, Taverne Restaurant De Pierino, Electrabel in the role of Electrabel

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Elishout

Production
Mokum (Brussels)

Production support
Caravan Production (Brussels)

Co-production
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Bruxelles nous appartient/Brussel behoort ons toe

Supported by
Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie, Elishout, deBuren, Pianofabriek, CERIA

Thanks to
Mme Cawels, Mme Juwet, M. Lefaible, EDC, Ing Ryezembere & all the CERIA’s technical team, Séverine Janssen, Kaat Arnaert, Jeroen Vander Ven, Karlijn Sileghem, Isabelle Dumont, Simona Denicolai, Emmanuel Lambion, Federico Pedrini, David Elchardus, Paul & Sylvia Meierhans, Maria Sartore, Fam. Rubio, Margherita Isola, Miriam Rohde, Muna Mussie

Back to top

Newcomers, politics and regional borders

At first sight, the Italian Anna Rispoli, the Spaniard Edurne Rubio and the ‘cookery tower’ on the Elishout campus in Anderlecht, a recent design by Xaveer De Geyter Architecten, have nothing in common – unless perhaps this: that all three are newcomers to the city and that they have decided to stay here. Newcomers share the fact that they see the city from a fresh although perhaps somewhat naive perspective, and thereby see things others no longer see. Retroterra evolves around that relationship.

Anna Rispoli and the collective ZimmerFrei were behind the 2010 film LKN Confidential about the Rue de Laeken/Lakensestraat in 1000 Brussels. It did not offer a historical portrait of this street, but delved into the environment of local retailers with their often extravagant offer of knickknacks, pets and dyes. This story of lost dreams and new opportunities left one with a fresh view of this neighbourhood. For this edition of the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Rispoli, in collaboration with Edurne Rubio, turned her gaze on even less familiar areas of the Region. Anna Rispoli explains.

“We wanted to explore what the borders of the Brussels Region have to tell us about the relationship between the city and the country, or between Brussels and its hinterland. The periphery is heavily influenced by the Brussels Ring Road and the Green Belt. They act almost as a border, a river that divides the territory in two. Even though it often differs strongly from that of residents, everyone has their own rough idea about the city centre. But no one has a clear idea of the areas in the periphery. Although often a neglected and poorly planned region, it contains many historical layers. The industrial past of Brussels has left some clear traces, for instance at the point where the Brussels-Charleroi canal crosses the regional borders. A lot of new residential areas developed after the Second World War in the periphery. We asked ourselves what kind of potential these areas had and why it was never fully realised.

We initially focused our attention on the area around the Buda bridge in Vilvoorde. Our attention was then caught by the area of Anderlecht between the Ring, the Chaussée de Mons/Bergensesteenweg, the canal and the train tracks: a roughly triangular space that is hemmed in on all sides. We call it the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ because it is so invisible. The area experienced strong development after the war, but things have since come to a halt. You can see it in the real estate, for example, which consists entirely of old houses. No new houses have been added in recent years. However, the site is dominated by the centres for adult education COOVI and CERIA, notably reputed for their hotel training. They once formed a whole, but now have Dutch- and French-speaking branches. The Flemish training centre, COOVI/Campus Elishout, is located right next to the Elishout Farm.

Since its emergence in the 1950s, the campus has been characterised by a tall, narrow tower that bears the CERIA logo. This landmark was meant to be a water tower. A new tower was recently erected on the same plot of land, a second landmark. It is a remarkable design, consisting of 14 almost identical floors with a square base, most of which have been fitted with kitchens for the catering training. It is remarkable that the tower has glass walls on all sides, except where the service shafts join the façade. On one side of the building, four free-standing lifts run up the façade. A trapezoid shaft made out of white cement, which houses the plumbing and stairs, stands against the second façade. A narrow black shaft with round perforations for the stairs projects from a third side of the building. But otherwise you can look in from all sides. If you are stuck in traffic on the Ring Road you can kill time by looking at the students attending their cooking classes. Conversely, the building offers breathtaking views of the surroundings, especially from the top floors, which house a bar and restaurant. The building is only a part of a much vaster plan to redevelop the campus, although nothing has come of the rest of the master plan. Still, this is a nice solution to preserve the plot from construction, very unlike the existing campus buildings that are scattered over the open space.

An added bonus is that this tower is dedicated to cooking and eating. Cooking is an activity that involves profound cultural exchanges, certainly in Brussels: as a political capital it is also a culinary metropolis, since how many deals are not sealed over a good meal? But cooking is also an earthly activity: it involves products from the soil. That is also what makes this tower alienating: its abstract forms seem to distance it completely from that very soil. That tower serves us as a privileged witness of that area. We let it express what it witnesses. The ambiguity of the tower, dedicated to the earthly while at the same time rising above it, seemed symbolically appropriate. We show two poles, two possible points of view. On the one hand, the subjective pole: how do residents and visitors consider this area? They don’t see it as the periphery. It is the centre of their world, especially for children. For them the city centre is far away, despite the direct metro line. The new tower is thus symbolically very important. More so still than the old CERIA tower with which it seems to enter into a dialogue, it marks out the area as a place with its own identity. It is a step in the direction of a polycentric model for the region, one which recognises other focal points than the centre. But an objective view of this area is also possible, of course. That view coincides more or less with that of the authorities and planners, who put the emphasis on strategic aspects in particular. What role does this urban fragment play in the development of the city as a whole? From that perspective this is an area with no clear identity. It has obviously never fulfilled the utopia that apparently lay at its source. As such the tower also plays a role, of course, since if you look out from the top floor you have a bird’s view of the area. You can suddenly see how it fits into the larger puzzle.

For the ‘performance’, members of the audience will receive headphones and an MP3 player and will visit the tower virtually alone. Through the headphones the tower will speak to you and invite you to explore the territory. Thanks to a few small orchestrated actions in the neighbourhood we can bring that landscape to life and humanise it. The tower is a ‘newcomer’ and thus a bit naive, but less so than you might think. It is certainly not a tourist. Through its voice we let the landscape express itself. We recount, for instance, what things were like in that area before the Ring Road cut it off from the communes of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw and Drogenbos.

At present [more than a month before the performance, Ed.] we feel that it will be difficult to present simultaneously the objective and subjective views in the text for the MP3. We are now thinking of presenting the subjective view, the stories of the inhabitants, at the festival centre, where visitors will be able to listen to the recordings. We also wish to add photographs taken by the Dutch photographer Dieuwertje Komen (b. 1979). She focuses on photographing the present landscape in an attempt to discover what idealised picture the constructed reality established. To do so she records aspects such as materials, light, human presence and empty spaces in the constructed environment. We will thus bring the peripheral view to the city centre, while questioning the ‘objective’ view on site.

You’re probably wondering why we want to get involved with this sort of question. What do we get out of it? Well, we are not tourists in this city. We decided to live here. Even though we’re newcomers, that’s precisely why we see certain things in a different light. We see things that people who have lived here for a long time can no longer see. This work is tied to our political view of reality. Politics, for us, means taking part in the ‘polis’, being active in an environment that is always changing thanks to the many small actions of the men and women that come together there. The city does not always change through large interventions, but also through small attentions, which, once added up, can have a huge impact. If you try to get to the bottom of that, then I believe you’re involved in politics.”

Pieter T’Jonck
translated by Patrick Lennon & David Camacho

Back to top

With the relationship between humans and cities a central narrative in Anna Rispoli’s work, she tests possible appropriations of the public space by citizens through participatory practices, architectural performances and urban installations. Her recent projects in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Riga and Hannover use city urban revitalisation plans as fictional backdrops against which to set contemporary naumachias, domestic light shows, ephemeral monuments and watchtowers on the current state of utopia. Anna Rispoli is a Brussels-based Italian artist and part of the Italian ZimmerFrei collective.

Edurne Rubio’s research has always been related to the individual or collective perception of time and space. Interested in contexts that make perception a given variable and mutant, forgotten or archived, she seeks to associate or contrast ways of perceiving reality with the aim of creating a second composed reality. In recent years, her work has got closer to documentary and anthropology, using interviews, archive images and research on oral communication.

Back to top