MUSEUM PLANTIN-MORETUS

Vrijdagmarkt 22
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In the 16th century, Christoffel Plantin (1520-1589) ensured that “through work and determination” his Officina Plantiniana grew into the largest publishing house in the world. He published numerous works by prominent scientists and humanists, including Justus Lipsius (1547-1606). In 1576, Plantin moved his business to the Vrijdagmarkt, after which his family would live and work there for another 300 years. This location later became Museum Plantin-Moretus and is UNESCO World Heritage since 2005. 

Room 1: Small drawing room

Walking into the small drawing room (Room 1) one sees Sofie Muller's (°1974, St. Niklaas) series Fungus Anatomicus (2022), presented in antique cabinets. The series consists of oil paintings on old topographical maps, visualising fungi and their correlation with the human body. Since 2015, Muller has been collecting botanical fungi models, which led to the series Fungus Genetalia. For FINIS TERRAE, the artist was inspired by topographic maps, in which the network of navigation points reminded her of the Wood Wide Web – an endless underground network of fungal threads (hyphae) that connect all life on earth. This network has been active for millions of years and will continue to do so long after man disappears from the planet. It is the ultimate form of 'end-beginning', a recurring cycle of death-birth-life. After medieval connotations with witchcraft, a renewed interest in the study of fungi arose during the Renaissance. Thanks to the art of book printing, this knowledge could be dispersed, and Mycology became an important branch of study. Subsequently, Muller enters into dialogue with the permanent collection: a selection of woodblocks with different types of mushrooms.  

Room 2: Large drawing room

In the 'the large drawing room' (room 2), the monumental wooden table forms the pedestal for an installation by Louis De Cordier (°1978, Ostend). On the right side he placed Metatron Core (2009), a bronze geometric figure – conceived out of circles, straight lines and cubes – that constantly refers to itself (cf. METAtron). This mysterious object unites (just like the museum) art, science and religion. It can be found in ancient religious writings, in works by Da Vinci and Dürer (among others), and has been researched by scientists such as Pisano. Since it has been studied for centuries, it can be seen as a messenger of human intellect, an archaeological artifact for the future.

 

In the Time Tablets series (2022), the artist translates geometry into a simple interplay of lines. Each clay tablet shows a variation of the golden rectangle (an application of the golden ratio). The artist was inspired by, among other things, clay tablets from Mesopotamia (possibly the first supports of writing). This installation reflects on old and new ways of transferring information and how these can be preserved for the future. The printing technique of De Cordier forms an interesting dialogue with the history of the museum. 

Room 3: Second large drawing room

In the second 'large drawing room' (room 3), Philip Aguirre y Otegui (°1961, Schoten) places a trail of worn out and turned-over slippers, collected in Senegal in the 1990s. Exodus (1998-2022) touches a nerve. Looking at the 'flip flops' – in our Western view a cheap disposable product – it is striking how often they have been repaired, and therefore cherished. The winding path with large and small footprints calls for reflection. Are they remnants of a life that people have left behind? Do they show the way to a better existence or rather to an unreachable Utopia? Moreover the installation enters into a dialogue with the theme 'Utopia', which is further explored in the display cases. 

Thomas More published Utopia in 1516, a title that has gained an iconic status into the 21st century and in which Antwerp played an important role. In display cabinet 1, one finds the first edition (1516) and the first Dutch translation (1562). Abraham Ortelius's map of Utopia from 1595 is the only known example to date, in which he closely followed the representation in the book. Showcase 2 is dedicated to travel in the 16th century. Finally, show case 3 contains a monumental etching by Aguirre y Otegui. Reflecting on current migration policies, the drawing shows an overcrowded city on the one hand, a barren desert landscape on the other, and the island of Utopia in the center, surrounded by fences and police boats. 

Room 4: The shop

In 'the shop' (room 4) you will find a copper signpost with blank arrows, Directions (2022) by Kris Martin (°1972, Kortrijk). The work refers to the enormous impact of the printing press in the 15th century. Ideas could spread all over the world, leading to a wider dissemination of knowledge and the reduction of illiteracy. And this at a time when the modern world was still fully developing and America was still unknown territory. On the other hand, the blank arrows refer to the oversupply of information and direction options, which means that we sometimes lose our way and get lost in the chaos of over-information.

Room 6: House the wooden compasses

'House the wooden compasses' (room 6) contains the installation Les villes Invisibles (2022) by Elise Peroi (°1990, Nantes). Inspired by the book Vivre de paysage or L'impensé de la Raison by François Jullien, Peroi explores – through the process of weaving – an all-encompassing vision of the world, where everything that surrounds us  “n'est plus affaire de “vue”, mais du vivre”. The artist herself writes about this: “My work is a search for a way of how translating the breath of the landscape, or the landscape as an inhabited place, in my art. (…) Just like in a forest, the voids in my work leave space for light, people and the emergence of new life. As humans, we are part of the planet, which can in fact be seen as a large landscape.” The installation correlates with the pastoral tapestries, on which idyllic representations of landscapes can be seen.

In the 'laundry room' (room 8) When You Whistle, It Makes Air Come Out (2019) by Ana Torfs (°1963, Mortsel) fills the room with rhythmic breathing. Sometimes loud and rough, sometimes soft, whistling. Phrases like “When you breathe, it comes into the mouth” and “Breathe, Blow” appear rhythmically. These are fragments of answers given by children to questions such as “Where does the wind comes from? Where does breath comes from?” from the book The Child's Conception of Physical Causality by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. In the context of recent developments such as the death of George Floyd, Covid-19 or the contemporary problems concerning (air) pollution, this work takes on a new layer of meaning. 

Room 8: Laundry room
Room 9: Correctors' room

In 'The Correctors' Room' (Hall 9) Bilal Bahir (°1988, Baghdad) opens our western view. On the mantelpiece, two works depict 'Utopia' according to the vision of Abu Nasr Al-Farabi, an Afghan philosopher from the 10th century, who describes democracy as an ideal form of society. This utopia can only be achieved by working together.


A 2nd series (Dystopia) on the table depicts female figures. Under the influence of Islam, the body disappeared from tradition and was replaced by suggestive jars. The works have antique glass bell jars that once contained the body of Jesus (cf. East vs. West).


A 3rd series refers to fairy tales. To the left is Gilgamesh, a Sumerian tale of eternal life. The middle work depicts a fairy tale by Nils Holgersson and the Siege of Baghdad (1258), in which the library of historical reference books was destroyed. The story goes that the ink colored the water of the Tigris black (cf. the sculpture on the table). The 3rd drawing depicts Hansel & Gretel, a fairy tale that fascinated the artist when he arrived in Belgium.

In the next room Bahir finally alludes to the fact that Utopia is a philosophical invention. On the writings of Jean de La Fontaine, he shows different visions of an 'ideal society' (including Marx, Sadam Hoesein, Le Petit Prince). 

Room 11: 'Justus Lipsius' room

The 'Justus Lipsius room' (Room 11) shows portraits of various philosophers, including Seneca Dying by P.P. Rubens. The male dominance in this space is the main source of inspiration for De Tranquillitate Animi (2022), an in situ installation by Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven (°1951, Antwerp). In front of the windows, the artist places Anya Proportionnalit Gated, in which four genderless women stand in direct opposition to The Four Philosophers. Each work is a print, with each version slightly different from the previous one causing the original to fade slowly – a process that taps into the history of the museum. Van Kerckhoven places the painting Renaissance_Mandala_Amygdala opposite her grandmother's chair (with self-designed textile). Colorful, organic shapes emerge against a dark background. The work reflects on 'black holes' and how they are not empty at all but on the contraryconatin a mass of information. The work feels like an explosion of emotions, which in turn contrasts with the idea of​​ rationality that reigns in the existing works of this space. 

Room 13: The type store

Old and new come together in the 'type store' (room 13) with the Planned Obsolescence series by Nicolás Lamas (°1980, Lima). The artist is inspired by copiers and printers, unsustainable machines designed to, one day, fall to pieces (cfr. the term Planned Obsolescence). These machines serve as plinths for objects that refer to different timeperiods such as: (copies) of antique busts, fossils or  human bones. The works open a dialogue with the old printing presses in the adjacent space. It makes the visitor reflect on the transfer of knowledge nowadays versus 500 years ago, but also on the desire to archive and to hold on to ideas that once originated in a far past.