Masks off: visual artist Gwendoline Robin

Every week we ask artists in Brussels about new insights that they have come to behind their mouth mask. This time, we spoke to Gwendoline Robin, who is concluding a neighbourhood project with a fire show in Schaarbeek/Schaerbeek as part of the five-day open-air event of the Kunstenfestivaldesarts.

GWENDOLINE ROBIN

  • For more than twenty years, Gwendoline Robin has worked with elemental materials (fire, sand, water, ice, glass) in installations, performances, and videos.
  • Since 2005, her work has been shown at various international festivals. For the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, she created the performances Cratère N° 6899 (2016) and AGUA (2018).
  • Since 2016, Robin has combined scientific research with graphic research. Robin is a lecturer in higher arts education.

What influences has Covid had on your professional life?
Many performances have been cancelled, of course, or were postponed and then eventually cancelled anyway. I did keep teaching at the art colleges ESA Le 75 and the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Tournai. But online. This had a great impact both on me and on the students because there was far less structure and great efforts had to be made to find solutions for the students' practical, mental, and familial problems. On the other hand, this also brought the students and teachers closer together.

What influence does the current situation have on you as an artist?
I already often worked in public spaces, and this also for people who are not members of regular arts audiences. I would like to expand that work in public spaces because it enables you to meet people that you would not otherwise meet. I think that the lockdown has made the value of cooperation and encounter with other citizens even clearer. I noticed this during collaborations with Cité de la Jeunesse, Bridge-City, De Kriekelaar, and FabLab. We have all discovered more about the city, which is enriching in any case, but it also makes us better equipped to envision a communal future.

What everyone will be able to see for free on Sunday is a short and fiery conclusion to a longer neighbourhood project.
We work with a group of fifteen, which includes young people but also children and their parents. People who engaged to spend four weeks building something together, which on Saturday will disappear in a few minutes as firework. On the Lehonplein/place Lehon, which is a lively place that is used by many locals. A long collaboration for this one festive and collective, but very fleeting moment emphasizes our collective process all the more.

Did Covid inspire the participants in their work?
One small sculpture of a Covid virus was built that made everyone laugh. But what struck me particularly was that the participants did not pin themselves down to anything that they specifically wanted to make. Everyone allowed themselves to be led by the materials, and was very patient in seeing what would result from the experimental creation process, rather than being frustrated that the result was not something they had imagined beforehand. I think that may be a consequence of Covid. Our relationship with time has changed somewhat. During the workshops, it is very calm. We talk, everyone works on the sculptures until they're really finished, without being in a rush to achieve a result. There is more time to work on things and to look forward to something. The fact that all the work will have disappeared after the short fire show teaches us something about letting go and about our obsession with possessions and the material.

Kunstenfestivaldesarts: Every inside has an outside > 8/9, www.kfda.be
Gwendoline Robin: Fire Show 6/9, 16.00, Lehonplein/place Lehon

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