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Exhibition 'La Vie matérielle' attempts to dent preconceived ideas on 'feminine art'

Twelve artists from Italy and Belgium participating in La Vie matérielle at CENTRALE for contemporary art offer a broadened understanding of what constitutes the female art.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Mar 12, 2022

Should the art be pushed within the brackets of gender stereotypes? As the debate around sensitivity towards the body and its representation garners the attention of all and sundry, the discipline of art addresses the complexity of the situation. Of the many struggles pertaining to the body, it is of pertinence to dismantle the stereotypical gendered approach to the act of representation. Making such attempts is the exhibition La Vie matérielle at CENTRALE for contemporary art, Brussels. The exhibition aims to break the prejudices against 'feminine art' only to raise the key question, “How does art allow us to connect our body and our inner world?” The work of 12 Italian and Belgian female artists highlights the creative processes as a bridge between their artistic path and their personal experience. La Vie matérielle focuses to broaden the understanding of viewers towards female art and offers a more sensitive and non-stereotypical alternative to this art form, which is often associated with vindictiveness and protest.

Untitled, Arlette Vermeiren| La Vie matérielle | STIRworld
Untitled, Arlette Vermeiren Image: Vincen Beeckman

The exhibition conceived and initiated by Marina Dacci (member of the Scientific Committee of Palazzo Magnani) is a collaboration between Palazzo Magnani Foundation and CENTRALE for contemporary art. Dacci, who co-curates the art exhibition with Reggio Emilia, invited Italian artists including Chiara Camoni, Alice Cattaneo, Elena El Asmar, Serena Fineschi, Ludovica Gioscia, Loredana Longo, Claudia Losi and Sabrina Mezzaqui. Despite being trained in very different practices, the Italian artists use materials that are often humble and traditionally associated with craftsmanship, but which occupy a considerable place in their artistic work. The four Belgian artists - Léa Belooussovitch, Gwendoline Robin, Lieve Van Stappen and Arlette Vermeiren - were selected by Carine Fol (artistic director of CENTRALE) whose works are in complete harmony with those of their Italian counterparts.

Beating Wings, Making Words, a screenshot from the video Shape producing other shapes, Claudia Losi | La Vie matérielle | STIRworld
Beating Wings, Making Words, 2014-2017, a screenshot from the video Shape producing other shapes, Claudia Losi Image: Courtesy of Claudia Losi

The title of the exhibition, La Vie matérielle, is borrowed from a book by Marguerite Duras, which rightly serves as the umbrella for the participating artists. In an interview with STIR, the co-curator Dacci talks about the brainstorming sessions that led to the discovery of a perfect synthesis for the exhibition: found in the form of a 'wonderful' book by Duras. “It is like an album made up of everyday interiors, it is a dialogue, a confession, it is a bridge between the material and the inner life in which the materiality of the bodies is linked to the materiality of the invisible. It was curious and interesting to rely on literature for an exhibition, but words, narration and sharing are part of the artists' researches,” she says.

Série, Processions, 2021,LéaBelooussovitch | STIRworld
Série, Processions, 2021, Léa Belooussovitch Image: Courtesy of Gilles Ribero

At the conceptual stage, some ideas or a few of the ‘keywords’ that connected the research of some artists were shared collectively. Gradually as the project progressed the series of dialogues and connections began to emerge between the projects undertaken by the participating artists. As Dacci likes to puts it, “Making this exhibition a real web of references.”

To disturb the shackles of feminine art, the immersive exhibition undertakes the exercise to explore the relation running between art and life. The works (assemblages, videos, drawings, sculptures, installations) even if at times seem provocative are staged without denying their “fragility and energy”, a mix of “finished and unfinished”, “formal and informal”, “imagined and experienced”. Along with it, the artists bridge the gap between low art and fine arts with the use of atypical or discarded materials for fine arts. The artists imbibed an intimate approach to share a piece of their understanding of arts with others. Dacci mentions, “An approach in which the ability to remember and live experiences generates contents that are always ‘virgin’ and unknown, like a body in continuous construction.”

Tirapugni champagne, 2017, silver, glass splinters champagne bottle, Loredana Longo | STIRworld
Tirapugni champagne, 2017, silver, glass splinters champagne bottle, Loredana Longo
Image: Courtesy of Loredana Longo, Francesco Pantaleone, Milan

She further adds to this thought when she says, “I was, and I am interested in deepening what is the natural link that women have between art and life in its complexity and fertility. Each of the artists expressed her own interpretation, gave her own personal vision in which intimacy and sociality, individual and collective, go hand in hand. The exhibition presents possible ways of 'being in the world' and sharing it. Avoiding any reference to a possible stereotyped 'feminist' connotation.”

Owl, 2019, Chiara Camoni | STIRworld
Owl, 2019, Chiara Camoni Image: Courtesy of the artist and Arcade, London/Brussels

The curators are conscious to display the works at the exhibition that "not only offers something to see but something to perceive” to the viewers. The exhibition is an experience – an invitation for the viewers to absorb the works with “openness to make a dialogue and not see them as the object of consumption”. The exhibition opens “doors”, as Dacci mentions, to the many understanding around the artworks – depending on viewers’ position be it personal or social.

04 mins watch La CENTRALE: Material Life, a dialogue between 12 artists, Italian and Belgian, around the link between art and life| STIRworld
La CENTRALE: Material Life, a dialogue between 12 artists, Italian and Belgian, around the link between art and life Video: Courtesy of Club Paradis

The exhibition La Vie matérielle runs at CENTRALE for contemporary art, Brussels, until March 13, 2022. 

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