From November 1st to 11th, Villers Abbey and Numeric’Arts will be presenting its first digital art exhibition, "Digital Contemplation", staged in our beautiful grounds. Throwing bridges between digital art and ancient heritage, past and present, the exhibition will be offering a new angle on the ties that bind old and new through today's foremost mode of expression: the digital spectrum.
Digital Arts at Villers Abbey
From Victor Hugo to current day, Villers Abbey has fed the imagination of many great artists. Our era's most-coveted media, the digital sphere, has fostered hybrid works, combining sensitivity, humility and greatness. "Numeric’Arts" – a non-profit association specialized in the promotion of known and emerging Belgian digital artists – has decided to dip into Belgium's finest pool of talent and invite them to exhibit their work in the Abbey's beautiful grounds.
In the heart of autumn, Stéphanie Laforce, in collaboration with Raymond Delepierre, Kika Nicolela, Cédric Dermience, Thomas Israël, Raphaël Vens, Vincent Paesmans (posthumously) and a selection of young talents from the Mons Arts2 visual arts school (Emergences numériques et sonores led by the Transcultures Interdisciplinary Centre for Digital and Acoustic Arts) – will be inviting the public – adults and children alike – to enjoy a new focus on the historic abbey and its ancient stones.
Ancient stones that anchor us to our past... Ce qui nous lie (The things that bind us) by Stéphanie Laforce uses acoustic vibrations to create a surprising and exhilarating exploration of sound using elastics cleverly placed in the nave and cellar. With their lines cutting through each space and underlining its architecture, the Nola and Cela installations play both indoors and outdoors, producing music through a digital device created by the artist. These singing "strings" all have different resistances and behaviours: their sounds vary according to the stress and weight placed on them. The public is invited to touch this interactive instrument and become the composer of a collective improvisation, striking up a dialogue between the site and "players".
Raphaël Vens uses technological prowess to capture the Fréquences antiques (Ancient frequencies) buried in the Abbey. Evoking an ancient custom, his work takes its inspiration from Roman theatres and certain, more-recent churches, where vases were inserted in the walls to transform the site's acoustics by acting as soundboxes or frequency absorbers. Although based on this architectural artefact, the artist's approach is resolutely universalist: Raphaël Vens is convinced that over the centuries, every human life has contributed to carving out the world we live in today and that our human societies are the sum of these billions of voices, whatever their role and function, era or environment. His installation uses the same principle: each unique voice helps build and enrich a collective musical work which, just like the world itself, never ceases to evolve.
Contextual visual arts
The visual arts often invite us to see things from a new angle. Black Box, by Cédric Dermience, plays on the theme of remanence, exploring the links between human interpretation of a reality defined by our experiences, culture, psyche and, especially, our ability to register light, and the capacity of cameras to capture moments in space and time invisible to the naked eye, to envisage a multifaceted reality. His work is designed to criticise the modern world and mankind's often-dramatic impact on the environment. Cédric Dermience will be presenting Arbres Fenêtres (Window Trees): an itinerary comprising backlit photos taken on site. The works light up as visitors approach, then sink back into darkness as they move away...
Thomas Israël is fascinated by time warps... both on and under the surface. On the surface, his stained-glass work What You See Is What You get is an ode to colour, pure beauty and the immateriality of light representing transcendence. It is an invitation to spiritual elevation – what some would call the divine, others the sublime. It is also a wild dream born out of Big Data, questioning the omnipresence of overabundant information made tangible, comprehensible and accessible thanks to the manner in which it is presented. This presentation, which is never neutral, raises as many questions as the information itself, in that it is intrinsically tied to our conception of a dual world where good fights evil.
His underground Ventre du monstre (Belly of the monster), produced by Transcultures, offers a successive dive into deeply-seated imaginary worlds. Through a series of works, the visitor penetrates a fantasmagorical universe portraying titans, medusas and hell, anchored using an acoustic creation by Gauthier Keyaerts, and witnesses the re-emergence of these profoundly-entrenched myths and legends: the symbolic base on which today's societies were born.
Kika Nicola invites us to descend into the shadows and back in time in the dungeons of Villers Abbey, still redolent with the atmosphere and sensations so vividly described by Victor Hugo. With her installation Entre-temps (Between times), the battle between light and dark, and freedom and constraints, takes the shape of a cathartic dance by Anna Tenta accompanied by the music of Gauthier Keyaerts. Metanoïa is inspired by incarceration, seen as a symbol of the world's inner darkness and intrinsic part of the painful process of transformation. This new, interactive installation presents a projected body whose obsessive actions are triggered in real time by the light present in the dungeon. The artist's works often adopt a participative approach, alternating questions on the themes of identity, otherness, communication, self-representation, narrative, discourse, cultural stereotypes and social roles.
Last but definitely not least, Vincent Paesmans (Belgian digital and visual artist, engineer and programmer who sadly left us in 2018) is present posthumously at the exhibition with a work loaned by his family: a digital mandala presented at Château de Corroy-le-Château in October 2017 during the Saison des Cultures Numériques digital festival.
Digital & Acoustic Young Talent
Numeric’Arts & Transcultures are partnering the initiative Emergences numériques et sonores (Digital & acoustic young talent), aimed at young artists from the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, which will be professionally distributing a variety of multimedia installations and others works linked to today's digital cultures.
Designed by Numeric’Arts and co-produced with Villers Abbey, Digital Contemplation weaves a symbiosis between heritage and digital art to offer visitors a voyage combining intellect and culture.