The May Events


    16/05 - 20/05

Fifty years after the events of 68, The May Events explores the – often hidden – plurality of narratives that might spring from this date, as a way to both retrace a complex cartography of the past, and to explore the multiple perspectives of its future. From the workers’ revolts in Detroit to a reflection on students’ protest in Mexico, as it will appear in 2048, The May Events presents a stratification of time and fictions : not only by traveling back in time and see – from there – the urgencies of today, but by projecting ourselves into the future to speculate about the shape of the present. Articulated into exhibitions, a performative installation, discursive moments, workshops and guided tours – and taking place in art school INSAS– the programme invites art as a landscape for new narratives.


The May Events will continue on 23 > 26/05 at Vooruit in Ghent

The May Events of the title are those of May 68, of which the 50th anniversary occurs, but also the artistic projects and discourses gathered around the programme at the artschool INSAS, Brussels, and at Vooruit, Ghent. The activities and performances serve to relaunch and conjugate in the present tense, questions about the time and the forms of protest and revolt, and the possibility of ‘revolutionary moments’. 

The programme presents and investigates these moments of pure potentiality, inspired by today’s topics and contexts and arising from behind a global horizon of radical singularities. The historical reference is questioned, challenged or even left behind, and the coexistence of past, present and future times is made more complex by means of fiction, as a form of speculation, activism or intervention. Fiction as a form of honesty, moving towards the real. 

Thus 68 becomes plural and multiple, thanks to artists and practices engaged in writing counter-hegemonic narratives of the past, in bringing to light other stories and landscapes of the 68 movements and in measuring the distance between then and now. This is the case with the works by Pamina de Coulon, who reappropriates slogans and statements producing a series of banners and reclaiming the possibility to start protesting all over again, and by Lagartjias Tiradas al Sol, whose performative installation looks at the 68 movement in Mexico via a fictional future documentary movie. 

Our present time is also inscribed in history. The commitment to it, and to the production of the future that can only happen in this moment we inhabit, is another relevant thread of many artists’ proposals. They track the struggles we need to undertake to remain human and the new horizons we have to open up for the coming generations. One main issue seems to emerge, related to the forms of privilege and to the need to make space for diversity, within an artistic field which is not immune from the diseases we can acknowledge in society at large. It is pivotal in the Decolonial Guided Tours, made in collaboration with Collectif Mémoire Coloniale et Lutte contre les Discriminations in Matongé, addressing the link between the colonial period and the first African migrant settling in the district. 

With regard to contemporary contexts where art and culture are under attack, and their political value springs stronger than ever, the program gathers some Brazilian artists in a public talk (Art & Populism. Brazilian Arts under Attack) moderated by Leandro Nerefuh and addressing the relation between art and populism in a country where conservative forces are threatening culture and installing new censorship laws. 

Producing and sharing knowledge, improving the conditions under which we work together and advocating the need for alternative platforms and non-hierarchical forms of exchange have been some of the most productive achievements of the 68 movements in Europe, and are today appropriated by new generations of artists. Alternative ways of knowledge production and sharing are proposed by the collective practice of reading proposed by Ivana Müller with Notes, where annotating a shared book becomes a way to transform reading into a silent, collective gesture, and by Michiel Vandevelde with The Political Party (hosting a public library and a reading club). Schools and universities are also actual places where different distributions of power may be tried out, and the students of INSAS are also responding to the presence of the festival in their school with two strong gestures of appropriation: a Ciné Club, planning two outdoors screening related to the themes covered throughout The May Events, and a Student Assembly, gathering students from other art schools of the city. Art students are also invited to attend two different workshops offered by some artists of The May Events (Gabino Rodríguez / Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol and Ivana Müller).

Hosted by an art school and generated by the desire to deal with the complexity that composes the fabric of time, the programme offers an extended temporality that invites the audience to linger, to enjoy the company of the artworks and discourses, to traverse and be traversed by them, to pass through different states and configurations, and to experience a communal time. A transformative dimension may take form within the intertwining agencies of reality and fiction.

Silvia Bottiroli, curator  

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