In a major exhibition, KANAL-Centre Pompidou is giving carte blanche to contemporary artist John M Armleder. Armleder will be taking over all six floors of the showroom, creating monumental and immersive installations that will provoke discussions, conversations, and an exchange of ideas. We caught up with the team at KANAL-Centre Pompidou for a behind-the-scenes look at what we can expect from the exhibition.
Armleder’s work often examines the context in which art is displayed. What has the process been for bringing together this major exhibition or installation?
It Never Ends is, indeed, a totally specific proposal by John M Armleder, that responds to the imposing, and spectacular context of KANAL’s industrial architecture of its showroom. On each of the immense plateaus of the space, the artist is installing one, or several large-scale installations, that are especially conceived for the show.
He’s also conceived a program of exhibitions that welcomes solo shows by his friends, as well as an intensive program of performances, concerts and talks.
What makes Armleder an important artist in the context of today’s European art world?
Art history never managed to classify John M Armleder’s work. He’s both an abstract painter and a conceptualist, a performer and an installation artist. He’s been associated with the Fluxus movement in the 1970s, with the Neo Geo period in the 1980s, and has been considered a precursor of relational aesthetics in the 1990s.
This versatility has become a singularity – a capacity of resistance to categories that the art of our times incarnates so well. It’s a form of freedom, as a work in progress.
Also, Armleder is a catalyst, an artist curator. In the early 1970s, he opened one of the first artist-run space in Western Switzerland, organised performance festivals, ran a bookshop, and published books.
Today, Armleder continues to consider his work as collaborative, inviting, based on a network as much as on his own sensibility.
The Fluxus collective had a strong focus on events and stuff that happens. Is that an element embraced by It Never Ends?
The show will be activated on a daily basis by dance, performances, lectures, readings, screenings, concerts, and a range of different activities.
A special week-end dedicated to Fluxus will welcome tributes, re-enactments, films, reinterpretations, and works by artists from other generations, as well as projects developed by art and performance students from different schools in Brussels. There will be always something happening.
The title of the exhibition – It Never Ends – evokes this idea of a show that remains infinite, by the fact that it changes all the time.
What are some of the challenges in presenting an exhibition of this nature, in a way that people can easily engage with the art and the experience?
The spaces of the showroom are a major component of the exhibition. The space is rough, loaded with a particular history, and calls for an experience of art that is partly liberated from the conventions of a ‘classic’ museum, where everything is protected, precious, and distant.
Two floors of the exhibition are open as public spaces, with a restaurant, a library, a music program and major installations.
In some ways, this exhibition is like an artist-run pop-up, showcasing what he looks at, what he listens to, the friends that he invites to take part. In this way, the audience becomes part of this community of artists – not as visitors, but as friends.
It Never Ends by John M Armleder, 4 April – 1 November
Place de l’Yser 2 IJzerplein, Brussels
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