Contour Biennale is one of the most easily recognizable, large-scale exhibition platforms in Belgium: a unique initiative engaging with local and international artists who focus on the moving image and its wider representation in installations, sound and performance. The 9th edition of Contour will take on a whole new form.

The projects presented during Contour Biennale 9: Coltan as Cotton are inspired by and relate to the city of Mechelen, its inhabitants and, more broadly, Belgium’s recent colonial history. It also poses more general questions about how to position a biennial, whom a biennial addresses and whether we can find sustainable ways to work on a biennial. The curator, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, has designed this edition in phases: a continuum of projects in various formats, in contrast to earlier editions when the biennial ran for 10 weeks. Between September 2018 and October 2019, three major public presentations and several other events will shape the Contour Biennale 9: Coltan as Cotton. These phases will be aligned with the lunar cycle, one of our most natural rhythms, which induces a cyclical conception of time. The title is borrowed from the poem The Bear/Coltan as Cotton by the slammer, musician and poet Saul Williams.

Artists will show newly commissioned films, installations and performances that explore entanglements between the decolonization of structures, mind and history in Belgium (in particular Mechelen), and the need for practices of degrowth and solidarity to be intertwined more profoundly with contemporary artistic practices. Many of the works have been made collectively with residents and organisations in and around Mechelen. During the three phases (in January, May and October 2019), there will also be a programme of talks and debates, including roundtable discussions and workshops led by the artists and invited contributors.

Contour Biennale 9: Coltan as Cotton will be held on 11-13 January, 17-19 May and 18-20 October 2019.

About the Curator

Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez is an independent curator, editor and writer. Among the projects and exhibitions she curated are Show me the archive and I will tell you who is in power at Kiosk, Ghent (2017, with Wim Waelput), Let's Talk about the Weather at the Sursock Museum, Beirut and Times Museum, Guangzhou (2016 and 2018, with Nora Razian and Ashkan Sepahvand), Resilience. Triennial of Contemporary Art in Slovenia, Ljubljana (2013), transmediale.08 at HKW, Berlin (2008). She was co-director of Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers (2010–12) and co-founder of the network Cluster. She was chief editor of L'Internationale Online (2014-2017), and chief editor of the Manifesta Journal (2012–14).

The Waxing Crescent Moon Phase - 11-13 January 2019

The first of the three phases is aligned with The Waxing Crescent Moon Phase. During two days, lectures, performances, screenings, installation and discussions will address the themes and associations related to a state that comes just before the completion, of a phase that is in progress and in growth.

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The Full Moon Phase - 17-19 May 2019

The second weekend is aligned with the Full Moon Phase. This phase is mainly associated with completeness, sustainability, responsibility, taking care and accountability. The projects presented in this phase are critically engaged with the social and political forms of ecology and the impact that has on everyday life and our food production and consumption, such as circular agriculture or climate grief. Other projects continue the research and conversations about socio-ethical and political conditions and lives in former empires such as the former Belgian colonies.

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Waning Crescent Moon Phase 18.10 - 20.10

‘The Waning Crescent Moon Phase’ is the last of the three public moments of ‘Coltan as Cotton’, the Contour Biennale 9. The main theme of this closing phase is the near future, but just like the moon cycle, it is understood as an ongoing transformation into present and past. Artists were commissioned to research and work on their projects for the duration of one year, which has resulted in several world premieres, presentations and performances. These works will be presented to offer insight into alliances of social or political accountability in relation to the colonial period and contemporary structural racism. Along with this, ecological and societal degrowth and aspirations for hope and propositional thinking have always been important aims. During the closing phase, the biennial will draw conclusions concerning its desire to instigate some relevant discussions for the social, ecological and political realities of the city of Mechelen, its region, and the organisation that hosts the biennial itself.

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Transnational Alliance

A continuum of projects, workshops, debates and events will span from September 2018 to May 2019 and address the current critical political and ecological moment through the lens of the particular urban, social, and political conditions of in and around Mechelen. Topics such as ecological debt, environmental racism, decolonizing social relations, degrowth, hope, care, and solidarity will represent not only the content within which to work, but also the material, technique and method of that work.

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