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 lunar cycle is one of our most natural rhythms. We are attuned to it either consciously or subconsciously. Its movement in time is cyclical, and it resembles the mediaeval hermetic symbol of the Ouroboros, the snake biting its own tail. In our conception of linear time, the three phases of the Biennale that will be aligned to the lunar cycle – the three public presentations that will be held in 2019 – can be seen as forming a dramaturgical triangle with its peak at the full moon, growth as its prologue and degrowth as its epilogue. It includes an opening onto a future that repeats itself, at least to an extent, time and time again. In one of his recent talks, the choreographer Faustin Linyekula evoked the word lóbí in Lingala, which literally means adjacent day, and can stands for either yesterday or tomorrow, according to the context and verbs in the sentence. In analogy to lóbí, the three phases of the Biennale will place an emphasis on the present moment in which they are actually happening, but in that presence, there is always a certain evocation of the past and the future.

The first of the three phases is aligned with The Waxing Crescent Moon Phase, the moment which follows the New Moon. 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. With a special attention to the past and how it carries within it the seeds for any moment in time, particular questions will be situated in contemporary Belgium: who is writing the history of colonisation and migrations, who is struggling for decolonisation, and who is creating the futurity of blackness within Europe.

The Full Moon Phase - 17-19 May 2019

The second weekend is aligned with the Full Moon Phase. This is mainly associated with completeness, sustainability, responsibility and accountability. The projects presented in this phase are critically engaged with the ongoing state of colonialism in former empires such as the former French and Belgian colonies, where colonialism makes itself felt in multinational extractivism activities or national and international laws for newcomers.

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.