Grand Bal Exophtalmique: mind the Minotaur!

The nomadic platform E2 is leaving its underground realm for a psychedelic, labyrinthine feast for the eyes and ears at Le Barlok and Le Kabinet.

The myth of the Minotaur – the hybrid creature, part-bull and part-man – must be one of the most inspiring stories Greek mythology has to offer us, filthy contemporary souls. Passion, vengeance, greed, violence, bestiality…there is something in it for everyone. But while we thought that Theseus defeated the hungry beast hidden in the Cretan King Minos’s labyrinth long ago, with a little help from a ball of thread from Minos’s daughter Ariadne, a visit to Le Barlok proved us wrong. It turns out that the beast is still very much alive, and currently in hiding in the underground realm of the nomadic platform E2.

But fear not, ye sublunary spirits: among the guardians of E2’s disturbing galaxy there are experienced tamers of a whole range of beastly delights and terrors, like Bryan Beast, Elzo Durt, Francesco Defourny, Piet Du Congo, and Gwen Tomahawk. Thirty of these warriors attempt to restrain the Minotaur with artistic means. Émilie Ouvrard, responsible for the visual story that E2 supports with great enthusiasm and energy: “All thirty of them are working around the theme of the labyrinth – which to us is an image of that state of being overwhelmed, being lost in images and sounds – and for our second “coffret” they have all made a 15 by 15-centimetre work. The originals will go on display on Friday 18 September at Le Kabinet, as a “Kabinet of curiosities”, while on Saturday 19 September, we will exhibit different work by the same thirty artists here at Le Barlok, as an echo around the labyrinth. But there will also be a psychedelic meal and workshops on how to make silk-screens, monotypes, fanzines, and vinyl records, and Dawamesk will do something with pancakes and chocolate in his workshop – at which children are also very welcome!"
(© Bryan Beast / © Rebecca Rosen)

"In addition, we will have a little market with ten independent publishers and there will be concerts on two stages at Le Barlok.” Léa Roger, responsible for all things musical: “On those two stages, you can witness the rise and fall of artists like the noise project Me Noas’n, Mancunian Paddy Steer, and the Swiss duo Schade. We’re aiming for a psychedelic mix of images and sound that will eventually lead to bottomless perdition.” [Laughter]

The builder of the labyrinth in question is François De Jonge from the Brussels magazine and publishing platform Super-Structure, which assiduously and with an elegant mix of precision and chaos attempts to exhaust the possibilities of the book: “I wasn’t first choice, but I was available. [Laughs] In our magazine Super-Structure, we’re experimenting with combinations of different printing methods on the same page. We’re really focused on the book, the experiment of publishing. That is why we always exhibit prints instead of originals. Our publications are inherently related to the core themes ‘habitation’ and ‘survival’. For example, our latest issue, Forms & Monuments,
focuses on the destruction of heritage in places like Syria. We are accustomed to linking an exhibition or installation to each new issue, but in this case we were able to experiment with something much bigger. It is intensive work and it is still under construction – the walls should be higher and it needs a ceiling – but it is very relaxing. Creating modules and shelters, piecing together spaces… therein lies the pleasure of construction.”

“Meticulously composed chaos” could be the motto of E2. Silio Durt and Deborah Lothe excel at this unique combination. This artistic couple is seizing the opportunity to organise its first real collaboration, under the moniker Debilio. Silio Durt: “We have been talking about it for months already, but this was our chance to work together and do something completely new. Deborah works with textiles, but wanted to try something more bold and spontaneous. And I had never painted a mural before. We really wanted a combination of textiles and painting, two parts that together result in a homogenous whole. And it went quite well. It’s true that we bickered sometimes, but that critical attitude also bore fruit. So if anybody else needs help destroying their walls, they’re welcome to give us a call. [Laughter] But seriously, the whole enterprise was a search for refinement in hard labour. In the end, everything went very spontaneously, but it is a spontaneity that requires preparation. We’re not presenting one composed image, but a kind of visual route, like a fun-packed thread running through the labyrinth. It starts from the myth and has links to themes like the loss of control, the subconscious, temptations, etc.”

The labyrinth leads into four rooms, which each feature new work by resident artists: Quentin Mabuse, Nils Bertho, Arrache-toi un oeil!, and the unpublished duo Marine Penhouët & Mathieu Desjardins: “We have collaborated before, but only as a graphic artist and a silk screen artist. This time, we will both work on both those levels, linking our interests, preferences, and compatible bad taste until something emerges that is made up of inextricable parts. In ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, which stands for a mix of concealment and revelation, we are organising a kind of micro festival within the festival: we’re making a fanzine, creating an installation, making tie-dye shirts… We’re very curious about the results. We want to achieve more than we planned to. Discovery and curiosity are the driving forces behind the collaboration.”
(© Mathieu Desjardins / © Arnus Horribilis)

We’re told the same thing by Quentin Mabuse – together with Rebecca Rosen, the manager of the original Heidelberg press at L’appât – who is starting his residence on Wednesday: “The staging will occupy the whole room. I started from archaeology, as though you’re walking into a room filled with relics in a pyramid, complete with skeletons, sand, and cellar lamps, as though the excavations are still on-going. I didn’t just want to hang up posters. To me, this was the opportunity to do something I had wanted to do for a long time. Moving from drawing and printing into painting and 3D: it’s going to be fun.”

Exactly! Let’s not forget: the fun is part of the fun. And getting lost is part of the goal. It is (very welcome) collateral damage to the psychedelic, labyrinthine feast for the eyes and ears the Grand Bal Exophtalmique aims to be. As Xavier Michaut, alias Bryan Beast, puts it: “We’re halfway there, when the people organising the festival are getting lost themselves. [Laughs] It is a step into the unknown, but it is also extremely rewarding and gratifying work: giving people our trust, organising the residencies, developing the networks between artists, and facilitating experimentation.” It is, in short, what E2 does and what it does so well and so unrelentingly: support and promote the high-quality produce of this bunch of graphic and musical hellraisers we hold so dear. Enough with the flattery get lost! 

Photos © Gautier Houba

18/9, 18.00, Le Kabinet & 19/9, 12.00, Le Barlok,

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