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WE WIELS: youngsters and elders get together on ecology, sustainability and migration through contemporary art

Contemporary art is for everyone. Works of art undeniably speak about the world in which they are created and are catalysts for discussion and reflection. Like barometers of the current climate, artists offer us their poetic vision, as an example of resilience and creativity. The WIELS provides many tools for artistic mediation to help visitors tackle issues that are sometimes anxiety-provoking or controversial, in a reassuring context. However the treasures are well hidden in an impressive building and guarded by many doors and other elements that need to be overcome when trying to get in. In the framework of WE WIELS, brave young participants from the ALBA association and the Anneessens Funck Institute passed twice a week through the entrance doors of this Blomme building in Brussels. Joined by the elders from the Forest Senior Citizens’ Service, they visited several exhibitions from artists as diverse as they are inspiring: Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Shezad Dawood, Tapta, Danai Anesiadou… At the end of the project, young and less young people alike got involved in themes such as ecology, sustainability and migration trough contemporary art, looking for new and creative perspectives for the future.
Initially, WE WIELS wanted to gather senior citizens and young people so that they could meet, discuss ecological issues and develop creative workshops for each other. But in the end, it was the museum’s reception facilities that were called into question. Each visit was therefore adapted and a new element was added to provide access to the exhibitions’ content and give participants the opportunity to get to know each other. On the first visit, for example, one of the young participants did not get off the tram, so the whole group waited in solidarity. This gave them the opportunity to express their fears about the museum building, which appears to be very institutional: what guarantees did they have that they were welcome and legitimate? What if it was a place of control? How could the WIELS rid them of this mistrust? From that day on, the guides have been greeting groups of unaccompanied minors at the doorstep, watching for the arrival of the tram and waving to welcome them. No one has ever failed to show up. The youngster who had lost his way finally went back to school and the group visited Marc Camille Chaimowicz’s exhibition the following week. The elders, motivated by the chance to meet and exchange ideas, but less mobile and used to the place, entered through the back of the building. Rituals were gradually established: offering water and taking care of each other – like fetching seniors with the wheelchair if needed – before questioning our environment: thank you Mindchangers for raising our awareness on this!

American Night by Marc Camille Chaimowicz revealed the video-making talents of a number of would-be tik tokers, eager to demonstrate the usefulness of plug-in filters and gadgets of all kinds capable of mimicking night in broad daylight, while the elders were eager to learn more about the artist’s approach and the art pieces’ historical context. At first sight, it looked like it could be hard to get participants to talk to each other. But contemplation eventually got the better of them. One day, the guide invited them to pay attention to Chaimowicz’ “Celebration. Realife” and to ponder the following question: what is essential to celebrate (real) life? The discussion that followed showed that similarities could be felt beyond the differences. Minds were racing, questions were flying. Their shared journey could finally begin…Later on, the group visited Night in the garden of Love, an exhibition which led the participants to wander between virtual realities and plant-inspired art installations. The art work called “D-possession” raised questions about consumption habits, among other topics. Finally, the initial time set aside for the workshops was put to good use by the participants for a lively exchange of views.

At the end of June, during a creative week led by Alalata, the participants collaborated on a collective work of art that has been displayed during Expoétik, a poetic exhibition, and during the Park Poétik summer festival in Forest.