HERITAGE LIBRARY HENDRIK CONSCIENCE
Hendrik Conscienceplein 4
The building – De Sodaliteit – was built in the 17th century by the Jesuits for brotherhoods or sodalities. In 1879 it was bought by the city to house the City Library. The Nottebohm Room is located in the oldest part of the Library. In addition to a book warehouse and exhibition space, it serves as a repository for special gifts and masterpieces such as the Blaeu globes.
In this space Gideon Kiefer and Jeffe de Brabandere present new work for which they were both inspired by the location on the one hand, and St. John's Revelation (The Apocalypse) on the other hand. According to the Revelation, there was a book with seven seals on the throne of God. As soon as the Lamb of God (cf. Jesus) broke the first four seals, four horsemen appeared and announced the end of times. The first rider on a white horse, symbolizes the antichrist who wants to conquer the world. A second rider on a red horse represents bloodshed during wars. A third rider on a black horse represents famine. And the last rider on a pale-yellow horse symbolizes death.
In a series of four sculptures, Jeffe De Brabandere (°1998, Antwerp) shows his own interpretation of the horsemen. De Brabandere's oeuvre has two main subjects: history and animals. We don't know how animals experience the world, how they think, what they feel. We see them as 'the other', while we are also an animal species ourselves. The same applies to history. Historical stories will always be interpretations, so an uncertain element remains.
De Brabandere investigates these themes by assembling – and almost cherishing – found, old and recycled materials, and animal bones, teeth, and skulls. The artist was directly inspired by the collection of the library and the globes in the room, which can be seen, among other things, in the round terracotta shape in De Ruiter van de Dood (2022). The translation of terracotta is 'baked earth', a symbolic reference to global warming. Finally, pages from the book De vier uyterste van den Mensch are an important element. This book was printed around 1750 at the Melkmarkt, which is just around the corner of the library. Through relics of time and animals, De Brabandere confronts the viewer with the concept of finitude: everything is transient.
Gideon Kiefer (°1970, Neerpelt) investigates his own memories and how they fade, distort, or even turn out to be completely wrong over the years. He links these memories to universal social and geo-political criticism, and more specifically to the current climate crisis. For his new series, he also based his work on Apocalypse, a series of wood engravings from 1498 by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), who in the 16th century lived just 200 meters from the current Heritage Library. The series enters into direct dialogue with an authentic wood engraving by Dürer: Appearance of the Apocalyptic Woman and the Seven-Headed Dragon. Kiefer cleverly interweaves his own memories with a growing fear for global warming and Dürer's vision of the end of times. Something that doesn't seem very far off when we look at the accelerating speed of climate change and the warnings of scientists that we are heading towards a ‘Climate Endgame’, after which there is no turning back.
In 1500 it was believed that the world would end. Now, more than 500 years later, such fears once again seem a reality. With their work, both De Brabandere and Kiefer encourage the viewer to reflect on the temporality of our existence and the transience of our planet.