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'Body Speech' shows the body in unexpected ways

FIVE internationally known Belgian artists are exhibiting imposing installation-video works in a provocative show at the Minsheng Art Museum titled "Brussels Body Speech."

The five major works in the spacious museum all feature the human body in five "art attitudes," encouraging new ways of looking at the body and thinking what it means to be human, said curator Hans de Wolf.

The show runs through October 7.

The five artists from art, dance and film worlds are Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, David Claerbout, Joelle Tuerlincks, Frank Theys, and Ann Veronice Janssens. All are making their China debut.

Curator Wolf said the exhibition arose from two questions: What aspects of Belgian arts are most intriguing and how can these aspects be presented in a way that promotes ongoing dialogue between art worlds in China and Belgium?

The exhibition is accompanied by lectures and seminars at Fudan and Tongji universities, the Shanghai Institute of Visual Art and Intermedia Art and the China Academy of Art, said Zhou Tiehai, executive director of the Minsheng Art Museum.

"This will be a thrilling visual experience for local art lovers," he said.

Each work is daunting, inviting viewers to use their imaginations and interpret the body and its movements in new ways.

The spotlight of the exhibition is the ultra-minimalist and baffling "Rosas Danst Rosas" created by choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in 1963. The film of the dance shows four female dancers who rarely move, and then perform mundane gestures: a sudden turn of the head, a hand run through the hair, a shirt pulled straight. There are long periods without any movement. There are also four chairs.

The piece is very important in dance history, but not much fun to watch; it's more performance art than dance.

Dancers sit on chairs, put on clunky shoes, iron their clothes and do other pedestrian things.

"Shall we dance and celebrate the human body? Or shall we try to improve its shape out of fear for what the future has in store? Or shall we leave it behind all together?" Wolf said.

Perception is also key in the monumental work "Mist Room" by Ann Veronica Janssens, who showed the work in the 1999 Venice Biennale.

The space is transformed into a place of dense mist, creating a startling effect and obscuring the clearly modernist lines of the space itself.

When entering the "Mist Room," visitors cannot determine their position and become integrated with the artwork itself. The distance and relationship between viewer and artwork lose their meaning.

Trained as a sculptor, Janssens gradually moved away from using physical materials, preferring to work with experimental environments dominated by elementary conflicts between light and the obstruction of light, between the appearance and disappearance of color.

"Observing and being observed in the 'Mist Room' is an interesting part in this work," Wolf said.

Frank Theys has produced a three-part documentary "Technocalyps" that asks the question: Are we prepared for dealing with the prospect that humankind, as we know it, is not the end of evolution?"

The film shows technological advances such as nanotechnology, biogenetics and artificial intelligence, their influence in the future and impact on our view of the world and of intelligent life.

"We are honored to present the artworks by the five artists without any doubts among the most gifted, and most internationally acclaimed of their generation," said Jean-Luc Vanraes, minister of budget, finance and external relations for the Brussels capital region.

"And I cannot think of a better occasion and event to bring that excellence to new audienwces than Shanghai's fabulous World Expo 2010."

Date: through October 7 (closed on Mondays), 10am-9pm

Address: Bldg F, 570 Huaihai Rd W.


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