Art is an alternative lifestyle. Conventionally, an air fair is what turns an alternative into its alternative - the accessible consumption fitting into the general expectation. Yet, when it comes to a self-declared “alternative art fair”, the seemingly borderless metamorphosis becomes quite unsettling. Fortunately, it turned out to be quite a stirring experience for me to visit “Poppositions” in Brussels, a counter statement against the high-end Art Brussels that opened at the same time, through an Easter attachment with the Tintype Gallery from London.
In its 7th edition, "Poppositions" is an off-pitch satellite art fair situated in Atelier Coppens, an abandoned banana warehouse set against the mainstream "white cube" in the fashionable Dansaert neighborhood in Brussels this year. In the four-storey historical building including the basement, 29 European galleries and artist-run spaces responded to the theme, “In Watermelon Sugar”, a term borrowed from Richard Brautigan’s post-apocalyptic’s novel published in 1968, conjuring the imagination of contingent versions of our world in this age of anthropocene.
The curated nature of "Poppositions" is what differentiates it from mainstream art fairs, allowing itself to safeguard the style of the work and deliver a consistently experimental and critical dialogue in the four-day event. In "Poppositions", forbidden were the tacky white booths, and instead you would find an indoor greenhouse filled with gymnastic equipment, a Fiat Multipla transformed into a sauna, a live hair salon where gossip with the artist-cum-hairdresser would be recorded and get podcasted, as well as a tarnished bathtub which served as the main venue for public events, to name but a few.
Thanks to the Tintype Gallery, I had the exciting opportunity to work directly with the experienced British artist and the co-founder of Exploding Cinema, Jennet Thomas, in setting up her work, “Animal Condensed > Animal Expanded”. Jennet’s work is an immersive sculptural installation with a looped movie short in which she created two creatures challenging the binary category between human & non-human. Named as "Effect" and "Authenticity" respectively, the creatures embarked on a philosophical dialectic meditating on the post-truth casualty with the trauma of a mass bio-technoviolation.
Much hard work, heavy sweating and problem-solving went into the installation. Yet it was also a precious occasion to see how a work of art took its shape prior to the opening of the show, plus a lot of intellectual and interesting conversations with the gallery team on art & politics, moving image culture, British football and Belgian beer. The contemporary mode of art today stretches way beyond the mere studio and this is exactly what fuels my passion for it – as it always holds dearly a human element, and strives to stay close to critical issues humanity is facing today in the most unexpected, radical and humorous ways. As sweet as watermelon sugar.