Billy Bultheel and James Richards’s “Workers in Song”
              Kirsty Bell
              “Workers in Song” inverts the current artworld logic of exhibitions augmented by performance programs, and instead positions the live event as the centerpiece and the exhibition its supplement (some of the performance elements, along with a soundtrack, remain on show at WIELS until October 8.) Borrowing their title from a Leonard Cohen song, Belgian composer Billy Bultheel and Welsh artist James Richards staged a collaboration that examines the elasticity of such live events, questioning the relations of appropriated artifacts (poems, films, artworks) to newly constructed material (collaborative videos, sound, banners), of spoken word to music or imagery, and of live performance to pre-recording, thus the very nature of liveness itself. It takes place in an exhibition room sparsely adorned with banners, rudimentary props (folding chairs, desk, piano), and two large screens hanging opposite each other. Four angled bleachers sit the audience “in-the-round.” A reperformance of Ian White’s Ibiza (2010) is the first of a nine-part program that is dense, heady, jarring, tender, anxiety-inducing, and shot through with moments of beauty and pathos. Liveness was central to the late artist and curator White’s thinking: he saw the rehearsed gesture and performer’s presence as a “false promise” of the live, finding liveness …
              Brussels Roundup
              Chloe Stead
              Often referred to as the chocolate capital of the world, it’s said that no visit to Brussels is complete without a trip to one of the city’s famous chocolate shops. In Hank Willis Thomas’s exhibition “Donnez votre main” at Maruani Mercier, the American artist shows a new body of work which posits an uncomfortable truth: Belgium’s predilection for chocolate is explicitly linked to its colonization of Congo under King Leopold II. The grizzly practice of cutting off the hands of the wives and children of workers who didn’t meet the king’s strict quotas for natural resources like cocoa, ivory, and rubber is represented throughout the exhibition, most notably in a collection of framed Antwerpse handjes—traditional Belgian chocolates shaped like hands—which Willis Thomas has arranged into patterns traditionally associated with Congolese textiles. The rest of the exhibition is dedicated to a number of screenprints mostly based on archival photographs of Belgium and Congo during colonization—made on retroreflective material that is only fully revealed when photographed. It can sometimes feel tedious, if not downright gimmicky, to view an exhibition through a cellphone screen, but this is an admittedly clever way of linking historic examples of exploitation and human rights abuses in Congo …
              Brussels Roundup
              Arielle Bier
              Brussels, still reeling from the ISIS nail-bomb attacks at Zaventem Airport and Maalbeek metro station in March, was raw and rough around the edges when the time for its scheduled art fairs arrived—the more traditional Art Brussels and the progressive New York transplant Independent. Needless to say, cautionary sentiments preceded all the fanfare this year. Partial closure of the airport’s departure halls and rerouted flights steered away many would-be visitors, while the subways operated at half-capacity with travelers favoring the perceived safety of Uber taxis. The doubling of machine-gun-touting military, Humvees, and tanks patrolling the streets and train stations didn’t necessarily help to calm nerves. Yet the bombings didn’t come as a surprise for many in town, considering the now evident links between disenfranchised radicals in Brussels and Paris. Endemic violence is all too familiar in this polyglot city, rife with racism and economic inequality—both sustained vestiges of its colonial past, riding on the shoulders of contemporary socio-political issues. Despite the major funding cuts in 2014-2015 to established institutions for dance and theater like La Monnaie, BOZAR, and Beursschouwburg, Brussels’s contemporary visual art scene is flourishing. Why? This is a historic city that offers rich creative fodder, but that’s already a …

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