exhibition: DEPARTURES at Gravensteen Castle, Ghent

I stumbled upon this exhibition when escaping the party streets of the Gentse Feesten. Residents of the town can wander into the Castle free of charge after all and I was looking for sanctuary. The castle is a bit creepy already with its big empty stone rooms with swords, armor and historic torture equipment. There’s even a guillotine. DEPARTURES therefore isn’t so very far off theme. A group show of artworks which reflect upon death, dieing, saying goodbye, and grieving.

The overuse of actual photos of dead people, dead children especially, seemed a bit cheap to me. It was the artists who chose to deal with the subject more subtly who were in my opinion the highlights.

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IMG_0440 Writer, Griet Op de Beek’s audio installation “Woorden en waarvoor ze dienen” (a great title, meaning “Words and what they’re used for”) surprised me in an interstitial space in the courtyard where I entered and sat in-between two doorways. A voice could be heard telling a story of the last time the narrator saw a man with whom she’d had an affair. The issue of language is always a sensitive one. I feel awed, still, after 14 years that I can understand the words when someone speaks Flemish. A second language and a sharing of universal grief.

Appropriately I saw the first installation in the expo last. The tour should have begun in the sub basement carefully labeled as the “Torture Room”.
The work installed there “Ash Tree” by Sarah Vanaght was impressive.

The videos were recorded in the very cemetery where a young Mary Shelly was taken by her father on visits to her mother’s grave. So, it’s about a graveyard trip. And you know I have a thing for Graveyards. The eerie sound of a little girl learning to read fills the room. Occaisionally saying “MARY” …chills.

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