a work in progress
In 2003 Etienne Van Den Bergh initiated and curated the first edition of Contour to show how contemporary video art could incorporate historic spaces in the city centre of Mechelen (Belgium) as a new form of painting or sculpture. Since then, the Contour Biennale has made a name for itself far beyond Belgium as a unique platform for visual and audiovisual arts. The tenth edition is planned for the autumn of 2023 and will be curated by the Brussels production and distribution platform Auguste Orts. It will be a jubilee edition to really look forward to!
But what is the Contour Biennale? It is a temporary exhibition at different locations in the city, often complemented by a discursive and multidisciplinary parallel programme, in which socio-political issues are at stake through the contribution of young and established artists. During the past nine editions of the Contour Biennale, more than 200 Belgian and international artists have exhibited in about 60 different locations in Mechelen.
It will not be possible to list all the venues of the previous editions, but visitors to the biennials were able to experience and discover artworks in art spaces (CC Mechelen, De Garage, De Maan), churches (Beguinage Church, Church of Our Lady-across-the-Dyle, St. Rumbold's Cathedral), museums (Museum Hof van Busleyden, Kazerne Dossin, Toy Museum), public buildings (Aldermen's House, Court of Justice, Town Hall), public spaces (Botanical Gardens, Grote Markt, Mechelen-Nekkerspoel Railway Station) or unusual spots like KV Mechelen Stadium, parkings, Prison Mechelen, several shops...
To name but a few of the previous participating artists, not forgetting the important contributions of the others, in Mechelen the curators of the Contour Biennale brought works by Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Chantal Akerman, Black Speaks Back, Michaël Borremans, Aline Bouvy, Chicks On Speed, Carl De Keyzer, Edith Dekyndt, Els Dietvorst, Harun Farocki, Omer Fast, Chiara Fumai, Jef Geys, Dan Graham, Marine Hugonnier, Jelena Jureša, Vincent Meessen, Deimantas Narkevičius, Otobong Nkanga, Trinh Thi Nguyen, Pipilotti Rist, Slavs and Tartars, Georges Senga, Nedko Solakov, Hito Steyerl, Fiona Tan, Ana Torfs, Wendelien van Oldenborgh...
And how was this possible? The Contour Biennale was possible thanks to the commitment of the artists, the different people who were part of the Contour Biennale team and the former curators. Each edition had a sharp identity because it translated the perspective and inspiring vision of curators such as Etienne Van Den Bergh, Cis Bierinckx, Nav Haq, Katerina Gregos, Anthony Kiendl, Jacob Fabricius, Nicola Setari, Natasha Ginwala and Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez.
One of the specificities of the Contour Biennale is the discovery of new places in Mechelen, the enhancement of the cultural and urban heritage of the city, the intention to try to propose contemporary art in unexpected places close to the public: to achieve this, a constant and open dialogue has been developed with both public and private instances of the city. This local collaborations are complemented by a Belgian and worldwide network of institutions and organizations that contribute to the (co)production of new artworks, to the international aura and to the success of the biennial.
Last but not least: the support of the Flemish Government and city of Mechelen – together with the contribution of others private, public, media and technical partners – has made all this possible!
After acting as an independent non-profit organization for many years, the Contour Biennale has been part of nona arts centre since January 2017 and it’s now coordinated by Andrea Cinel. Within the renewed nona which will turn in 2023 an entity composed by organizations kunstencentrum nona, Abattoir Fermé and Jazzlab, the Contour Biennale will still take place every two years in different locations in Mechelen and beyond, but it will keep on focusing on the moving image in the visual arts, without precluding challenging multi and cross disciplinaries’ projects which are typical of nona’s programme.
We are currently in full development and we look forward to welcoming you in September 2023 to the tenth edition of the Contour Biennale. Stay tuned to read more about the next edition, its curator and plans!