Artist Run Spaces: Glimpsing into a contrasted creativity at After Howl
Glimpsing into a Contrasted Creativity at After Howl
Walking through the streets of Molenbeek we experience a slightly different atmosphere than in the hectic center of Brussels. The stream of cars is not dominating the townscape and the area seems almost calm a winter morning at 10 AM. We turn into Rue Vanderstraeten and at 33b we ring the bell saying After Howl on it.
After Howl is an artist collective consisting of seven young artists who met at the art school ERG in the district Ixelles in Brussels. Four years ago they decided to collaborate gathering inspiration in art and life. Building up their studio from the ground After Howl has turned an old garage into a spacious energized working place in two floors in the center of Molenbeek. Entering the studio different colorful sculptures made of various materials are occupying the room. The lively space is functioning both as a studio, an exhibition place and a space for sharing life; here multi-facetted shapes are used in different contexts as a continuous on-going part of a creative process.
To After Howl the recycling element is essential. Here ‘the collective’ as a working tool is expressed in their re-shaping of materials and forms from past exhibitions. The collective is suspended between economy and ecology turning their work into experimental constructions.
“At ERG we started using recycling in our art because we did not have enough money to buy new materials. Then it became a concept and we began recycling our own art works. The repetition of our work is our collective identity. In the end it became our vocabulary – our own language coming from the recycling process.”
To After Howl food constitutes an undeniable part of being a collective and is a part of art itself:
“Food is essential to us as a collective because the moment we all sit down together over a meal we can talk about everything. To us food is part of the creative process – as it is the case with our furniture and the surrounding space. There is a funny analogy between what is on your plate, the furniture you are sitting on and the things we are doing in the studio. We are mixing all different kinds of food and therefore the process is analogous to the way we work with concrete materials. There is an aesthetic concerning the taste, the feeling and the visual appearance which we explore making food at the same level as creating art. Also the social part of cooking is comparable with the way we collaborate in the work of art.”
Asking questions concerning After Howl’s main drive in the creation of art it appears that there is a close relationship between the recycling element and the process of developing ideas:
“The main goal of the collective is to experience the collective practice of art. The main drive in your creation of art is revealed in the creative process. It is all about the way something is happening – something you are not always aware of and not always except things to become. This is happening collectively at After Howl, hence we have to find reference points from where we can create art. The work is continuous because we use materials from past exhibitions, then we reshape and change them. Looking back at what we have done is really essential to us – that everything is connected. Here the recycling helps us finding emerging ideas.”
“It is an ongoing process that feeds itself. It is a working progress, where you always have an excuse to start something new. You can always use the same shape three years later in another exhibition or in relation to another concept. It is about creating an interest in life and here we derive ideas from our collective experience; as in school we had the idea of reinventing civilisation and playing on problems of young artists. Our main interest is to work together; to live like an artist and work together every day.”
Talking about the general agenda of artistic collectives compared to cultural institutions driven by the government it is clear to After Howl that artistic collectives are capable of attaining something else. Being independent – outside the institutional scene – have certain benefits to After Howl.
“We’re capable of creating art” says Arthur from After Howl laughing. Though the collective does not work within an institutional agenda they invite curators to be part of their artistic projects.
Concerning the up-and-coming art scene in Brussels we ask After Howl about their views on the future of the alternative art scene in Brussels – and the answers are quite positive:
“Hopefully there will be more spaces as ours in the future” says Arthur. “Some years ago there were more small galleries in the area of Saint Gilles and Forest in Brussels. Now we are actually experiencing an increment of alternative spaces, artistic collectives and studios like ours; in our neighborhood in Molenbeek a few new spaces are opening. I would say the new art scene is placed in Moolenbeek and in Anderlecht.”
Founded in April 2016 along the Canal of Molenbeek the mission of MIMA Museum is to be the defining museum of contemporary art in Brussels.
Even though MIMA is placed side by side to After Howl non from the collective have visited the new museum. To After Howl MIMA appears as a political tool hence the question comes up; why go visiting the museum to look at street art when the museum is surrounded by street art in the real streets of Molenbeek?
To After Howl MIMA can be seen in the light of a gentrification occurring in Molenbeek. That will say socio-economical and commercial changes in the city area that, to After Howl, pushes the immigration and local people outside the city.
“With MIMA we can fight with culture, but which culture are we talking about? Will people from Molenbeek really visit MIMA? There is an edge between the real Molenbeek and MIMA and placed at the canal it functions just as the facade of the city”.
Furthermore in 2020 the neighborhood of Molenbeek will get a new museum of contemporary art. This new museum will work with the French Centre Pompidou placing artworks of the French museum’s collection and providing expertise to contribute to the development of the collection and the program of the new museum. Arthur from After Howl expresses his doubts about this new project:
“I am very suspicious about Belgium bringing French cultural institutions to Brussels. Nobody in Belgium will contribute to this new museum because the collections will be from France. On the other hand with Centre Pompidou in Brussels it is clear that the museum is separated from the local scene in Belgium – compared to MIMA that constitute a confusion whether it represents the local scene in Molenbeek or not.”
Since there is no big budget for art in Belgium After Howl expresses doubts whether or not building a museum near Molenbeek similar to Centre Pompidou will influence the art scene of Brussels. But hopefully the new museum will bring more people to the area of Molenbeek After Howl concludes.
Asking the last question ‘What can Brussels offer the more alternative artist’ it seems obvious to After Howl that Brussels incorporate an interesting position compared to Paris and rest of the international art scene.
Arthur tells: “I moved to Brussels from Switzerland. Since most of us from After Howl are not Belgians, I think we as artists have certain reasons moving here to Brussels rather than somewhere else. In Brussels there is quality of life. In Switzerland we find many big institutions, and as an artist you really have to work with these institutions. Of course collaborating with these institutions is not a problem but it depends on what you are interested in doing. Brussels is a city with absence of big institutions – for instance there is no museum of contemporary art as Centre Pompidou in Paris. Here we only find estimated galleries and the alternative art scene which therefore leaves space to artists like us.”