by Dilpreet BhullarAug 11, 2022
The paradise as an idea has been a popular site of exploration for philosophers and creative minds alike. The interest to find a paradise-like place on earth has been a quest that does not seem to be ending anytime soon. What does a paradise entail that keeps the curiosity around it unabated for many? The inability to find an easy answer to it is reflected in the regular opportunities when the concept of paradise has been evoked. The philosophers such as Thomas More, Plato, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Nietzsche and Walter Benjamin among others have time and again shared their distrust towards the perfect world, yet constantly dealt with the human need to imagine, trace and define an ideal world. The Paradise at Kortrijk, Belgium, is one such interactive art event. The second Kortrijk Triennial is the successor to Play Kortrijk 2018, which transformed the city of Kortrijk three years ago into a playground of contemporary artworks at various indoor and outdoor locations.
The curators of the Triennale, Hilde Teerlinck and Patrick Ronse, selected the works of 32 contemporary artists including nine Belgians - who with their works presented their interpretation of paradise. Some prominent artists are Berlinde De Bruyckere, Jeremy Deller, Kendell Geers, Ugo Rondinone and Yoko Ono. Not limited to this, Paradise 2021 also includes the work of fashion designer duo Viktor & Rolf, scenographer Albert Dubosq and choreographer William Forsythe, to name a few.
In an interview with STIR, the curators Teerlinck and Ronse take us through the importance of the concept of paradise and how the artists respond to it through their works, “It was very clear to us from the beginning that, when you reflect on the questions of ‘What is Paradise?’, ‘How do we get there?’, ‘How do we create a better world?’, you need to ask artists to open up a myriad of visions and approaches. The way you respond to these questions does not only depend on your history, background, the community in which you grew up but also on the reality in which you live the questions you raise. We unquestionably wanted to offer a platform to a large spectrum of visions. We have spent a great deal of time on an in-depth exchange with all the artists. The COVID-19 period was a good moment for this as everyone was at home and had the time. And, as Ryan Gander wisely said: time is your greatest asset.”
Furthermore, it is always of significance to understand if the artists were given the freedom to express a personal and critical view about how they see and interpret paradise. “Artists have the power to engage us on a personal level and mirror our situation or condition so that we can set our mind in motion and act differently. The Kortrijk Triennial invites these contemporary artists to participate and reflect on modern questions: What are meaningful values today and how can we construct a better society? By installing artworks in the heart of the dynamic city, the significance of the artists’ vision becomes present in public. When the audience participation is crucial to the project, the curators add, “The active experience and interaction is activated by the visitor. Through this experience, the visitor is offered the opportunity to modify their way of thinking, both about themselves and about our current society.”
Given the current times ridden with grim politics, imbalanced nature, cultural violence, paradise as a concept could be mistaken as an escape: an abstract rather than concrete place enough to challenge real-time scenarios. Teerlinck and Ronse explain, “We started to develop the project based on different talks and exchanges with the artists. Although many philosophers and thinkers have reflected on the theme of paradise and of a utopian world, we focused on contemporary thoughts and concerns brought up by the artists. This became the framework for the Triennial: the realities of today’s society. A second aspect we wanted to keep in mind while developing the project was the interaction with the visitors. Besides asking ourselves the question, how do you set the mind in motion, we also reflected on actively setting the body in motion. Inviting the visitor to participate in an artwork can offer the visitor a different experience and can awaken another sense of understanding.”
The current time of global pandemic has paved the way to question the idealist world of nature. When ecology and economy are intertwined, paradise, as an extension of utopia on earth, remains a step away from being a viable option. The curators confirm that Paradise Kortrijk 2021 invites the visitors to reflect on the values we should adopt to bring about change and create a better world. Yet, Teerlinck and Ronse are quick to maintain, “The question of how we can achieve this remains open, as the answers are very diverse.”
Paradise runs at the city of Kortrijk until October 24, 2021.