Nuit Blanche: The weird thing visited the European Quarter

The European area: that cold place invaded by tons of noisy cars and cyclists wearing Ralph Lauren shirts during the day but completely empty by night. For one day,  gleaming loafers were substituted by shabby sports shoes brought from the jungle of Calais, while some of the classiest venues, such as Bibliothèque Solvay or Concert Noble, didn’t host expensive sushi cocktail receptions but more than 20 art works reunited under this year’s topic: Borders.

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During the night of the 1st of October, Brusselers could experience these challenging  art expressions where most of the people wonder: “What the heck is that?”

Satellite dishes on the Léopold Park’s lake? An Orwellian protest  against the power of mass media”.  Dozens of magnetic tapes running while a strange mantra song plays in the background? “A way to experience music like a constantly moving fragile sculpture”. A circle of crazy lights blinking in different cadences on the Esplanade of the European Parliament? “A large circle of columns, using ephemeral and intangible materials to formalize an experience based on motion perception!”.

“Too alternative to me”, said a friend I bumped into. Maybe? But Brussels loves it. After 13 years of Nuit Blanche, its popularity is so high that volunteers had to talk attendants out of waiting too long at the queues formed to see some of the art proposals (more than an hour of estimated waiting time I got to hear at Bibliothèque Solvay).

Probably one of the most interesting features of this year’s Nuit Blanche were the different ways artists had to interpret the topic Borders. Several of them used the proximity of the European institutions to reflect on the situation migrants are living in the old continent: projected on the basketball court behind the European Parliament, a group of refugees offered a video version of the Address of fear speech given by European Union’s father Henri Spaak where they exposed a fresh view on Europe’s current issues: “Don’t be scared by terrorism because it’s more likely to pass away in a car accident” -is still echoing in my mind.

Another story of migration could be found in the work of Céline de Vos, where a collection of maps and mockups denounced the existence of Immigration Removal Centres; using only a 10-metres line of administrative papers from institutions like the Belgian police and several embassies, she told the story of an anonymous migrant, coming to Belgium from Liberia, who is retained at the Caricole centre in Steenokkerzeel, next to the airport of Zaventem.

Here you can see a video of de Vos’ project:

Other artists opted for a more poetical interpretation of Borders. Both artists Bixas and Labspace Studio used the concept of doors with two very different meanings: the first for questioning the freedom of movement in Europe, while the latter made audience think about the freedom of choice. Another installation, for instance, reflected on the concept of home -a  daily discussion in our Expat-city-, by setting a typical house layout with a couch, a carpet… and inviting us to share this space with other attendants.

Nuit Blanche has been running since 2013 but they showed in this edition they are not lacking fresh views: I am sure the city can’t wait for the next year to see what’s the next crazy genial idea organisers have.

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