Beaufort is a triennial art project that extends along the entire Belgian coastline. It is a project, launched in 2003, in which the sea often plays the main role. In Beaufort 2018, the sea will be illuminated as a place that is both uncontrollable but at the same time links us to the rest of the world. Every participating artist comes from a country that borders on the sea. An underlying theme of this edition is the role of permanent monuments. How do they lend meaning to a place? How are they interpreted by local residents? And to what extent is the power of their message shaped by the Zeitgeist?
Monuments have traditionally been erected to honour individuals who made a significant contribution to society. On the other hand, they are also often symbols of tragic events like disasters and wars in which many people died. They remind us that we cannot always control every social process, such as power and governance. Despite the human longing for order and peace, history is subject to the rhythm of ebb and flow.
Monuments are in a sense an effort, in material form, to immortalize ideas. They do so while the meaning and force of ideas are determined by the spirit of the age. Certain colonial monuments, for example, glorify heroic deeds, but nowadays their message is obsolete. Recent debates about the statues that recall the Belgian colonial past are a consequence of this uncomfortable situation. Should they be removed because they no longer reflect today’s views or should they be allowed to stay but accompanied by a revised text providing explanations? The same debates took place in former Communist countries, where statues of past leaders have been pulled down from their pedestals. The intrinsic value of a monument or of heroic deeds that may or may not command respect only becomes clear after the passage of considerable time. It is inextricably linked with changing social attitudes and growing knowledge.
Do we need new monuments? If so, how can they accurately reflect the view of our own age? Is it even possible to do so?
The reality of climate change has brought us to a turning point. We feel obliged to deal more humbly with the elements. While in the past, human beings arrogated to themselves supreme rule over the earth, we are now discovering limits to our powers, and thus also limits to our entrenched Western thought. The mirror of the sea rises, and our imaginary control takes a step back. Millions of people are at risk of become climate refugees as a result of our global environmental mismanagement.
Our vulnerability in the face of nature comes into sharpest focus on the coast. The artists of Beaufort 2018 have given expression to the changing relationship between humans and nature. Their works embody at the same time a reflection on the limitations of the quest for material perpetuation through the construction of monuments. It is in this sense that Beaufort 2018 is permeated by an ancient but also eminently relevant homage to the supremacy of the sea.
Visit Beaufort from 30 March to 30 September 2018.
Curator Heidi Ballet
Heidi Ballet (born in 1979 in Hasselt, Belgium) works from Brussels and Berlin as an independent curator.In 2017, she curated the Lofoten Biennial (LIAF) in Norway in collaboration with Milena Hoegsberg under the title I Taste The Future, and in 2016 she curated the series of exhibitions Our Ocean, Your Horizon in Jeu de Paume in Paris and the musée d'art contemporain (CAPC) in Bordeaux, working with artists Edgardo Aragon, Guan Xiao, Patrick Bernier & Olive Martin and Basim Magdy.In the same year she also curated The Morality Reflex, a group exhibition in the Vilnius Contemporary Art Centre (CAC).Between 2013 and 2015, she worked as a research curator for the After Year Zero exhibition in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (2013) and the Museum for Modern Art in Warsaw (2015).In 2012, she was assistant curator of the Taipei Biennial and before that worked from 2008 to 2012 as gallery director for Jan Mot in Brussels.
The first edition of Beaufort took place in 2003 and was organised by then director of the Ostend Provincial Museum for Modern Art Willy Van den Bussche who would also remain the triennial’s curator in 2006. Monumental works found their place against the unique backdrop of the Coast, resulting in images like Louise Bourgeois’s spider and the human figures of Antony Gormley.
Current director of Mu.ZEE Phillip Van den Bossche took over for the 2009 edition, focusing on works that interacted with the sea, the surrounding heritage, local residents and the region’s rich history.
He was also curator in 2012 too, this time focusing mainly on Europe and collaborating with an artistic committee and intendant Jan Moeyaert.
Then in 2015, the exhibition entitled Beaufort Beyond the Borders was put together by curators: Phillip Van den Bossche, Hilde Teerlinck, Lorenzo Benedetti and Patrick Ronse. Three compelling natural and heritage locations played a central part in the edition: the Zwin nature park, Raversyde provincial domain and visitor centre De Nachtegaal.
Over the years, several works were bought to create a park of sculptures along the Belgian coastline.