Wolfgang Tillmans is making a fresh start

Wiels Contemporary Arts Centre is presenting a solo exhibition of photographer Wolfgang Tillmans – it’s his first solo show in Belgium. London-based Tillmans is one of the world’s most renowned photographers – pushing the limits of the medium as he documents the world around him and his personal experiences. We caught up with Devrim Bayar, curator of the show, for a behind-the-scenes look at the exhibition.

This is a major exhibition, reflecting on three decades of Tillmans’ work. How do you choose what to showcase in an exhibition such as this?

We went to Wolfgang with a very open invitation. The final selection of what is included in the exhibition was made by him.

Most of Wolfgang’s shows span his entire career. He has a practice of presenting older images alongside more recent work – it’s a constant re-reading of history where nothing is ever fixed, a fluctuating constellation of photographs.

This exhibition is presented across two floors. One floor is more retrospective and is a good introduction for people who are not as familiar with his work. The second floor is more immersive, featuring video and sound installations.

What does Tillmans’ recent work show us about how he’s viewing the world?

The video installations are closely connected to the images featured in the photography – the sea, parts of the body, still-life compositions.

Overlaying that is the soundtrack that Wolfgang has composed. His lyrics reveal his reflections on how new technology influences the way we see the world but also how the world is becoming more divided.

Recent photographs, such as the ones he made of a LGBTQ+ community in a refugee camp in Kenya also show his ongoing engagement with the gay community and minority rights.

What do you hope that people feel when they’re visiting this exhibition?

Wolfgang’s work is very inspiring. This is an exhibition that asks a lot of questions – essential questions about the human condition, the passing of time, democracy, image making, and new technologies.

I hope people feel engaged and enlivened. Wolfgang’s images capture moments of everyday life and everyday experience. They’re also moments of beautiful poetry.

Wolfgang Tillmans – Today is the First Day

Until 24 May

Wiels Contemporary Art Centre

Avenue Van Volxemlaan 354, Brussels