Tuesday April 22
The day before the opening. The text is up on the walls. All is complete. Tonight there is an opening at Camouflage, the art space which under the direction of Angolan artist Fernando Alvim is playing an important role in introducing the artists of Africa to Belgium. The artists showing tonight are Michele Magema of the Congo and Tiago Borges da Silva of Angola. Michele shows a video in which closeups of a dissolute looking president Joseph Mobutu alternate with shots of traditionally dressed women dancing at a rally . Fabienne brings over Enrico Lunghi, artistic director of the Casiono Luxembourg. a contemporary art space in Luxembourg. He tells me he will shortly be showing new work by Frances Goodman, and also that he will open a Camouflage space in Luxembourg soon. Thanks to initiatives like these, Europe is becoming increasingly receptive towards the contemporary art of Africa.
Wednesday April 23
The press lunch for the show starts at noon. Fabienne says she expects about 20 journalists to come, but twice that number arrive. Copies of the new catalogue, with text in English, French and Flemish are handed out. This is it's first public airing. There are speeches, and a walkabout, and delicious food on small plates and chocolate mousse in little glasses. A televised interview is taken to be shown next week.
In the evening, the official opening. Neither Fernando or Kendell are in Brussels at the moment, so I hardly know anyone, but Herman Daled is there, and Iris, Fernando's dedicated administrator from Camouflage. People crowd the room where Can't forget, can't remember is playing. The evening ends with an excellent dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant.
Thursday April 24
The morning after an opening is always marked with a feeling of relief that it's over. That people came, and that they spent some time there, seemed reasonably interested, and that nothing fell off the wall or stopped working. Now I'm free to relax.
Opposite the Centre for Contemporary Art is the monolithic Museum of Art and History, with a vast collection, galleries full of exquisite decorative and functional objects and artworks. Kendell has recommended particularly the Museum of the Heart, a small gallery inside the museum devoted to the donated collection of a doctor who specialised in the art of the heart - in silver and in gold, valentines, many of the images religious, in paper and in fabric. Case after case of highly desirable and admirable objects.
This afternoon I have an appointment with the curatorial staff of Africalia - I am making a new series of video portraits for Transfers, the big group exhibition which opens in the Palais de Beaux Arts in June. I will share a gallery with Tracey Rose, with a dry wall between our work. Spaces, sound, lighting are discussed.
Friday April 25
I'm off to Paris today, but there's a photo shoot first for a local magazine - the journalist brings props - I'm to wear a blue overall and hold a spray can. Do I really have to do this? In the end, I go along with it.
An hour and twenty minutes after leaving Brussels on the Eurostar, we glide into the Gare du Nord in Paris. I have felt impelled to take the opportunity to see the once-only Kendell Geers/ Patrick Codenys performance Red Sniper in the Grand Salle at the Pompidou Centre that will take place tonight. The fact that Kendell has been invited to make this project at such a prestigious centre is a measure of the high regard in which his work is held in Paris.
Laurie Farrell of the Museum for African Art in New York has come over to catch the performance - elements of it may be included in the forthcoming 'Looking Both Ways' which opens at the Museum in September. "I think we're in for a treat", she says, as we enter the steeply raked Grand Salle, a theatre in the lower level of the Pompidou which seats 471 people.
As the performance begins, a screen drops from the ceiling to cover the tables with their loads of computers on the darkened stage. Operating behind the screen, the two artists operate video and sound equipment to spontaneously throw images on to the screen accompanied by sound, which on the state of the art 5 to 1 system, whizzes round the theatre. There is a startling clarity to both the sound and image quality which makes the experience very immediate, very intense. Footage has been taken from old movies, documentaries - at one stage, a live television broadcast flashes on. One of Geers' leitmotif's, Coppola's classic movie Apocalypse Now is compressed to an astonishing four and a half minutes. Every frame of it flashes by at almost subliminal speed. River, helicopters, river, jungle, Brando. The hallucinatory rush this engenders is offset by being followed by a slowmotion repetition of a soldier raising his arm in a beating action again and again. A shot from Platoon. And so it goes. Suddenly the action stops. The screen rises and huge banks of lights on stage go on, blinding the audience. People cover their eyes. The attack of the artists. After what seems minutes, the lights mercifully dim again, and after-images dance in the air as the performance continues, ending with the infinitely slow dance of a massive billowing of smoke which spreads from screen left to fill the screen. The final shot of the evening is us, the entire audience in our red plush chairs, pinioned and hiding from the lights.
A tour de force. At the post performance dinner at the President Restaurant, a collector who has come from Cologne for the evening excitedly insists that Red Sniper must be seen in Germany!