De Brakke Grond

March 20th, 2011
by imagitect

Thursday saw the launch of the short festival Belgium!? in the Flemish Cultural Centre de Brakke Grond in Amsterdam with amongst other things. an exhibition by photographer Jimmy Kets. The central theme of the festival is the country Belgium with all its problems and the serious political crisis in which it's stuck. By some it is even baptized the most difficult country in the world.

De Brakke Grond
It is the first time I enter the building on the Nes. More spacious than I thought with a cafe-restaurant, various theatre halls, a studio and large exhibition spaces. The name “Brakke Grond” has its origins in the fact that the area was once swampy land with brackish groundwater, a mixture of the salt water of the IJ and sweet water from the river Amstel. For centuries monasteries dominated this area but demolition of a monastery church at the end of the 18th century gave rise to the current square which is situated in front of de Brakke Grond. It's been a monastery, an inn and for a long time an auction house. In the 1960s it was taken into use by a theatre group, in the seventies it was squatted for a while and in 1981, after a renovation based on the design by the Amsterdam architect Arthur Staal, it became a Flemish Cultural Center. De Brakke Grond wants to show what's happening in Flanders in the field of theatre, performance, dance, music, visual arts, photography, film and documentary, but also wishes to be a place of international exchange and encounters in a broader sense.

At 17:00 It is already crowded and after a short speech the exhibition of photographer Jimmy Kets is officially opened. But more about that in a while.
First I let myself be carried away to the Red Hall where Yves Desmet (1959) gives a lecture. He is a journalist and editor-in-chief of the newspaper De Morgen and tells what is going on with Belgium. A fascinating but far from happy story.
Paul Scheffer (1954) is next. He is a writer and professor and best known as author of an article in the NRC (a Dutch newspaper) about the failure of multiculturalism. His lecture inspires no optimism.
And what do we actually know as Dutch people about Belgium? Even though it seems a very important country within the European community with Brussels as the focal point. In practice there already appears to be an unbridgeable separation between the different language parts. Will the country ultimately collapse in Dutch/Flemish and French nations?

Jimmy Kets
Munching on toast with salmon I hurry into the exhibition halls.
Jimmy Kets (1979) works as a photographer for the Flemish newspaper De Standaard. There are two series of photos to watch in two seperate rooms of the Brakke Grond. These are “Brightside” , a series from 2009 and the newer “Shot in Flanders”. Both can be visited until April 17 for free.
In “Brightside” we see pictures that are partly shot in the USA. .. photos of a superficial make-believe world emphasized with hard flash light. Regularly there is a humorous approach but the whole nevertheless gives a sad impression of people in Western society. The photos are printed on thin paper and pinned to the wall without frames. Unfortunately, the spots that throw bright light on the images here and there are rather annoying. I usually prefer a somewhat more even illumination.
In the other room Kets further elaborates in his own way upon the Martin Parr-like style but this time the scene is mainly set in Flanders: “Shot in Flanders”. He shows how a part of the American disney-culture has been given a place in the Belgian society, just as superficial and plastic. Here, incidentally, glass and frames. Kets himself can be admired and listened to on a tv screen hanging on the wall, as a moving picture. A boy and a girl are watching, meanwhile also busy on their mobile phones. They see me taking a picture of them and take a picture of me. The photographer photographed while taking pictures of the photos of the photographer.

On Sunday March 20 at 21:00 Canvas hours sent out an interview with Jimmy Kets, as part of the program Cobra TV. Here you can watch it

Click on the photos for larger images

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