Recent writings – late 2017, early 2018

I have always admired the way documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis dissected global issues and presented them in a new narrative to a larger audience via the BBC, like he did with his series “Century of the Self” and his latest film “HyperNormalisation”. Moreover, he has an excellent taste in music. So I was extremely pleased to be able to interview him extensively when he visited The Netherlands for Utrecht’s Impakt Festival. The result of that conversation has been published in Gonzo (circus) Magazine #143 (in Dutch).
For the online version of the same publication I recently wrote a long text, based on an interview, about Belgian artist Elke Andreas Boon, who currently has an impressive solo show at the Annie Gentils Gallery in Antwerp (B). You can find the piece here in Dutch, but the gallery is having it translated at this moment.
In September 2017, I was given the opportunity by the Flemish Art Institute to visit Marocco with the cultural exchange programme “Marocco Intersections“, together with several other art professionals from Belgium. It turned out to be a very interesting and truly informative experience.  We all wrote a report and mine was focused on the ubiquitous image of the Laughing Cow cheese brand, which you can read here.
Lastly, I am an avid fan of the work of Irish artist Elizabeth Magill so I was very honoured to be asked to write a text for the catalogue that accompanies her traveling solo exhibition “Headland”, initiated by the Limerick City Gallery of Art. You can order it from the gallery  and it is beautifully designed by David Caines Limited.



“Betwixt and Between”, 6 May – 4 June, Fotomuseum Antwerp (BE): installation views.

Below you’ll find some installation views of the exhibition “Betwixt and Between”, with Nadine Hattom (IRQ/AUS), Ana Janeiro (POR), Maha Maamoun (EGY), Valentina Stellino (BE) and Malika Sqalli (MOR/AUT), which I curated for the “Braakland” project of Fotomuseum Antwerpen (BE) and which took place from 6 May to 4 Juni 2017 (read more here).

New exhibition: “Betwixt and Between”, 6 May – 4 June, Fotomuseum Antwerp (BE).

Nadine Hattom (IRQ/AUS)

Ana Janeiro (POR)
Maha Maamoun (EGY)
Valentina Stellino (BEL)
Malika Sqalli (MOR/AUT)

A middle ground between different places, different cultures and different identities,
An intermediary position to observe, to wonder, to record, to receive and to make sense from diverse sides,
A sphere in-between real-life and the world of art,
A transitional field between photography and other art media,
A meeting place for open-ended stories of potential and hope.

6 May 2017 – 4 June 2017
Opening Sat. 6 May, 17:00
Fotomuseum Antwerp, in the framework of the Braakland project

“Betwixt and Between” features work by five photographers who address voluntary or involuntary displacement and the effects it generates on one’s identity; artists whose work derives from the notion of finding one’s place in a new context. While culminating different cultural influences, they find themselves in a middle ground, in-between new and former cultures. Although the development of a feeling of belonging is more oft than not difficult and a seemingly never-ending process, other, more positive sensitivities are at play here as well, such as wonderment, enthusiasm about evident potential, deep introspection, hope or pure joy.
All too often, the very complex emotional assemblage that the struggle for fitting in a new environment constitutes, is being shown through photography from a perspective of docudrama. Indeed, there is a lot of activist potential of photojournalism, reportages or documentary series concerning the issue; yet this project consciously aims for different styles of photography, rather with a strong conceptual basis wherein a layered, more personal, sensitive and open-ended reading is possible.
The selected artists share an inclination to photography as their preferred medium due to the distance a camera creates to the subject. This allows for observation and drawing closer to it, thus endowing it with an auxiliary social use. However, in each of their practices, photography is only a means to convey artistic ideas and all of them have expanded their body of work well beyond the limits of it.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that family is an aspect that is frequently covered, as migration often involves entire families and as within the family context, issues such as the role of traditions, diverging assimilation processes and the collective awareness of being other, become pertinently clear.
Another significant common feature is the use of multi-layered, narrative structures. It lays bare the fact that migration cannot be framed in simplistic slogans. This relates poignantly to the main ambition of this exhibition: to show more complex and even positive artistic perspectives on the theme that were born out of the medium of photography.

Nadine Hattom

Nadine Hattom, “Amman Pasha Hotel”, 2017.

Since the earliest stages of her career, Nadine Hattom (b. 1980, Baghdad) has set out to bridge the distance between photography and sculpture, introducing three-dimensional elements in her works or translating images into objects. Moreover, this idea of translation has become central in her practise: she engages the public to read an image analogous to reading a word so that shifts in meaning can occur. Invariably, her series resemble narrative constructions in which identity, the middle-eastern landscape and personal memories play a crucial role. Hattom comes from the Mandaean community in Iraq, a tiny, age-old religious minority. Due to the Iran-Iraq conflict, her parents moved to Abu Dhabi and later to Australia. Now, Hattom lives in Berlin. These multiple, cultural components constitute her identity and through her art, she is able to let them speak in unison. All these traits are clearly present in her new work entitled “Amman Pasha Hotel”. The installation’s primary piece is a print of a cityscape of Amman, Jordan’s capital, a shot that Hattom took randomly, and features the well-known Pasha Hotel. Its flamboyant, entrepreneurial owner is a Palestinian who once moved with his family to Australia, which obviously resonates with Hattom’s biography, and who eventually returned to the Middle East.

Ana Janeiro

Ana Janeiro, “Album India Portuguesa 1951-1961” (detail), 2010.

Although India asserted its independence from Britain in 1947, a few regions remained under French and Portuguese rule. Portugal kept Goa, Daman and Diu on the western coast. The Portuguese presence in India dated back to the end of the fifteenth century and ended only in 1961 after two decades of tension. Artist Ana Janeiro’s grandparents migrated and lived there from 1951 to 1961. After finding photographs and letters concerning this period of her family’s history, Janeiro (b. 1978, Lisbon) matched these with the stories that she had heard numerous times at family gatherings, and assimilated her ruminations in her series “Album India Portuguesa 1951-1961” (2010). However, the work does not attempt to be conclusive history writing, rather, a retelling of a constructed narrative about her family and her country’s past. This is a constant in Janeiro’s oeuvre: taking clues from diverse historical sources and turning them in a new, open-ended narrative. In this case, shots of official documents and letters, original pictures as well as photos of re-enactments are combined. A remarkable feature of the series is the appearance of legs of doorframes that intersect the action in several images and divide the picture plane into two separate spaces. This calls to mind the notion of reframing, as well as the idea of border crossing.

Maha Maamoun

Maha Maamoun, “Domstic Tourism (Felucca)”, 2005.

Maha Maamoun was born in California (b. 1972); however, she followed her parents back to their native country Egypt when still a child. In Cairo, she studied economics and later Middle Eastern History at the American University, where she developed a love for the photographic medium. In 2004, she cofounded the Contemporary Image Collective (CIC), a photography-centred organisation. Maamoun’s oeuvre evolved with the inclusion of film, although her core themes remain consistent. She ingeniously reveals the ways in which a national identity and national symbols are formed through popular culture. It is no surprise that she takes Egypt as a prime example; her stance as an artist and specifically as a photographer discloses a strong affinity that is clearly expressed in an aloof manner. This regularly imbues her photographs with a sharp but tender wittiness. Often, she consciously but subtly manipulates images, consigns them to particular sequences or uses rather awkward points of view to direct the viewer towards new and unexpected meanings and interpretations. “Domestic Tourism” consists of two series, which are a study into the influence of tourism and leisure on the representations of a nation’s identity. As the title indicates, the primary subject matter is Egyptians enjoying the tourism complex in their own country.

Valentina Stellino

Valentina Stellino, “Camping In Spain”, 2016.

Central in previous series of Valentina Stellino (b. 1992, Brasschaat) are the diaspora and lifestyle of specific family branches as well as of some of her acquaintances, which are of Italian descent. In these works, psychological tension and a perplexing ambiance are prevalent; the movements and gestures of her models seem to be frozen, which often results in scenes that resemble tableaux vivants. Indeed, Stellino asked her sitters to re-enact their own domestic rituals and mundane activities in a familiar and unmediated environment. The outcomes are more often than not poses that are neither self-assured nor completely unnatural in depictions of a time in-between actions or events. Moreover, we may well situate Stellino’s work between fiction and non-fiction; it inhabits a zone between real-life events and a reconstruction thereof. Hence, the obvious analogy with film stills; combined with the sequential nature of a series, a narrative aspect comes into play, though Stellino only provides clues for possible readings. In her new series “Cut” (2016-17), she takes this further with a collection of photographs taken all over the world, in which the notions of leaving and returning are imperative. A certain sense of melancholy and of loneliness is inherent to the ensemble’s concept.

Malika Sqalli

Malika Sqalli, “Latitude 34: Chile”, 2012.

Malika Sqalli (b. 1977, Rabat) was born and raised in Morocco before moving to France in her teens, where she would study arts. She went on to live in London while also regularly returning to her native country. Furthermore, she travels extensively, attempting to tie all the different heritages in her to the cultures she visits. Through a holistic personal view on the world and driven by a propensity for optimism, she habitually detects links between places, congruencies in landscapes and weather conditions, similarities between people’s traits and behaviour, and common wisdoms. Fragments of landscapes or skylines, deserts in different parts of the world, patterns and colours as well as moods and feelings are connected in a dense network of references. For instance, for her series “Latitude 34” (2013), initiated in Santa Monica on her 34th birthday, she travelled to cities along the thirty-fourth degree of latitude, on which her birthplace Rabat lies. Aptly, motives such as lines and threads appear regularly in Sqalli’s work. However, one line always returns home. The artist’s nomadic lifestyle estranges her from the feeling of belonging, which translates in a position neither here nor there, in terms of identity as well as physically; thus, questions about the idea of home are raised prominently.

Some recent writings.

articlesimageLately, I wrote quite a few articles about several topics. Firstly, I would like to mention a short, biographical text I did for art photographer Valentina Stellino, which you can find here. For Antwerp’s Fotografiemuseum (Fomu), I was appointed as an expert to write pieces about five selected artists for the Portfolio Days of the museum, in the framework of a project called Braakland. My contributions about Ville Anderssen, Zaza Bertrand, Hendrik Braet, Aurore Dal Mas and Dieter Daemen were written in Dutch and translated in English, and can be read here. Furthermore, I produced an extensive feature about the twentieth anniversary of UK techno label Blueprint for the online platform about dance music Pulse, including interviews with artists James Ruskin, Oliver Ho, Mark Broom and Surgeon; read it here. This summer, Antwerp’s M HKA museum put up an exhibition about rave culture; I reviewed it critically for the cultural magazine Rektoverso. This is Dutch only and is published here.

National awareness campaign about abortion stigma (in relation to the 25th anniversary of the Belgian abortion law): the final result.

In a previous post, I mentioned a national awareness campaign about abortion stigma I was working on with six Belgian photographers. It was organized by LUNA and IPPF Europe in relation to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Belgian law concerning pregnancy termination in 2015. We have now finished the project and I’m proud to present you the result:



National awareness campaign about abortion stigma (in relation to the 25th anniversary of the Belgian abortion law).


The last months, I have been coordinating a project that perfectly combines my work in the arts with my interest and activism in sexual and reproductive rights. It is a national awareness campaign about abortion stigma, in relation to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Belgian law concerning pregnancy termination in 2015.

The actualization of this law came after a very long period of feminist activism, public debate and outrage, political procrastination, catholic obstruction and even a short but precarious constitutional crisis. Nowadays, Belgium has a solid system of easy access to safe abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy which is covered by health insurance. Moreover, it is one of the three countries with the lowest abortion rates worldwide. Still, the taboo persists.

On April 3 2015, LUNA and IPPF Europe, two associations in the field of abortion care and sexual and reproductive rights, jointly organize an international conference about abortion stigma in Brussels, in relation to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Belgian abortion law.

The primary aim of the conference is to introduce and discuss the issue of abortion stigma on several levels; the topic will be enclosed and highlighted from the perspective of women who had an abortion as well as from professionals working in abortion care. Furthermore, the prevalence and mechanisms of abortion stigma in different regional parts of the world will be discussed. Lastly, abortion stigma in Belgium will be tackled in relation to the 25-year old legislation, and a resolution with points for the (near) future in regard to abortion care will be presented to Minister of Health Maggie De Block. Thus, a current state of affairs in research and in practice will be given, which can be of interest for professionals, academics and activists as well as for people who are simply interested in this topic.

Speakers at the conference are dr. Anne Verougstraete, MD (Sjerp-Dilemma, VUB, Erasmus Hospital Brussels; chair woman), Vicky Claeys (IPPF Europe), prof. Piet Bracke (Dep. Sociology, UGent, Ghent), dr. Anu Kumar, PhD, MPH (Executive Vice President IPAS), Krystyna Kacpura (Executive Director Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, ASTRA Network), Jon O’Brien (President Catholics for Choice) and Ann Furedi (Chief Executive BPAS).

Now, the campaign I came up with and organized for LUNA and IPPF, was inspired by the action “No More Names”, set up in 2012 by the English organization BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service). Here, photos of various women were combined with the slogan “How do you call a woman who’s had an abortion ? Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Abortion: no more names ” (more info can be found on

For our version we have retained the basic idea of the BPAS campaign. However, we did not work with professional models but instead launched a call to Belgian women who had an abortion and who agree to be photographed. This call coincided with the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion (Sept. 28th) and was immediately picked up by all important news outlets in Belgium. All portraits were taken by Belgian art photographer Charlotte Lybeer and a team of five young colleagues: Ulla Deventer, Eva Donckers, Vesna Faassen, Ingrid Leonard and Valentina Stellino. I am extremely grateful to these people for all their efforts and their commitment and I am stunned by the beauty and diversity of all the portraits.

At this moment, photographer and graphic designer Charlotte Boeyden is compiling the photos into an image, which will be combined with the slogan “25 years abortion law in Belgium – For your sister, your friend, your daughter, your colleagues, your mother“. This image will be distributed to the press and used for all activities around the conference organized in 2015.

If you like to know more about the conference and/ or the campaign, please visit the website! Facebook event page for the conference: here.

2015! News.

At the start of this new year, I felt that Popperola’s old graphic costume had gotten worn out a bit and that it could use a fresh touch. I hope you like the makeover!
Other news: I’ve started writing for dance music website Pulse Radio. So far, I’ve done a review of the ‘Cookies Vol. 3’ compilation EP from Terminal M, a review of ‘Unknown Landscapes Vol. 2′, Christian Wünsch’ mix compilation for Pole Group, and an interview with Boris Werner. There’ll be more this year, so keep an eye on the site!