Contour (Biennale) has made a name for itself far beyond Belgium. It is a unique platform for anyone interested in the moving image. Since 2003, Contour Biennale has occupied a distinct position in the visual arts in this country, with a name that resounds far beyond the national borders. It focuses on the moving image, but also features installations, sound and performance. For its ninth edition, the Biennale will take on a very different form. The curator, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, has chosen the name “Coltan as Cotton”, inspired by the video poem of the same name by the American rapper, slammer and writer Saul Williams.
Contour has been part of nona arts centre since January 2017.
Contour Biennale 8
The eighth edition of Contour Biennale was held in spring 2017, shaped by the South Asian curator Natasha Ginwala. More than twenty local and international artists presented new and recent cinematic work at various locations in Mechelen. Contour Biennale 8 showed contemporary art against the backdrop of the 400-year history of the Great Council. This court in Mechelen was the judicial centre of Europe. Each of the art works explored the theme of justice from its own perspective. Films, videos, installations and performances immersed visitors in a world of law, jurisprudence and justice.
Contour Biennale 8 was held from Saturday 11 March until Sunday 21 May 2017.
CONTOUR 7, the seventh edition of the Biennale, was dedicated to the humanist, statesman and writer Thomas More. Viewed by some as a martyr, by others as a monster, he was also an artist and philosopher. Either way, he was a brilliant fool far ahead of his time. During a stay in Flanders in the summer of 1515, during which he also visited Mechelen, More wrote the lion’s share of his book on the ideal state, the island of Utopia.
CONTOUR 7 presented work by more than twenty international artists at various locations in Mechelen. These works, including many new creations, drew their inspiration from the utopias, monsters and martyrs of the past and present. The curator was Nicola Setari.
Contour 2013, the 6th Biennale for the Moving Image, was shaped by the Danish curator Jacob Fabricius. Entitled Leisure, Discipline and Punishment, it explored social functions and relationships in society.
Visitors could enjoy the sixth edition of Contour at four exhibition locations in Mechelen: the prison, KV Mechelen football stadium, the Church of Our Lady over the Dyle and the Hof van Busleyden museum. People come to these semi-public spaces for all kinds of reasons: pleasure, necessity, because of their beliefs or to sit out a prison sentence.
Contour 2007, the third biennale for video art, was given the title ‘Decoder’. It presented several video works in the context of a double exploration. It investigated the mechanisms of knowledge production that help to shape the way humans understand the world. Within that investigation, the exhibition also analysed the way contemporary media arts deal with the question of knowledge production, whether or not they do so while reflecting on their own role as media.
Two artists, Dara Birnbaum and Kerry Tribe, provided the impetus for Contour 2005’s curator Cis Bierinckx to bring together a coherent group of works and artists. What fascinated him was not just the confrontation between two generations of artists, but also the manifesto statements made in personal ways by Dara Birnbaum, as the ‘godmother’ of video art, and Kerry Tribe as a young artist. In selecting the other artists, Bierinckx was inspired by the intensity and vision that can be found in the two artists’ work.
At the first edition of Contour, fifteen artists – mainly from Belgium and the Netherlands – exhibited work at eight locations in the centre of Mechelen, showing how contemporary video art can incorporate historic spaces as a new form of painting or sculpture. Artists including Hans Op de Beeck, Franciska Lambrechts, Honoré δ'O, Orla Barry, Rui Chafes, Sven Augustijnen and Els Dietvorst exhibited their work at locations in Mechelen including St. John’s Church, the Beguinage Church and De Garage.