De Noker

Nokerstraat 6

CONTOUR 7 culminates at the carefully restored chapel and classic inner courtyard of de Noker. The fourteenth-century House of God of the Holy Trinity was known for the hospitality it extended to the sick and marginalized. The Alexian Brothers took over the building at the beginning of the seventeenth century and at the beginning of the eighteenth century built the chapel and ambulatory as we know them today. The scale and variation of the stuccowork on the late-baroque ceiling makes it unique in the Low Countries. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Franciscan nuns moved into the building. They did community work, providing children with an education and adults with training. As the headquarters of the non-profit welfare organization Emmaüs, the site is still associated with care today. During the Biennial the inner courtyard and chapel where the sick, plague-stricken and mentally ill once came to pray provides the setting for a high mass of contemporary video art.

Chiara Fumai

The Book Of Evil Spirits

ink and collage on paper, mixed media, video, 26′ 24″
Commissioned and coproduced by CONTOUR 7

The characters appearing in Chiara Fumai’s installation are all remarkable historical figures. Beside the fact they all are women, they appear to have little else in common. Among them are feminist activists, writers, terrorists, freaks and occult mediums. The key figure in this eccentric company is Eusapia Palladino. This early twentieth century Italian peasant woman became well known as a spiritualist medium possessed by mysterious powers. Many of the greatest authorities in science, from psychologists to physicists, attempted to verify her claims to mystic faculties. Was she truly remarkable, or simply an imposter? The ambiguity of this mysterious figure is the central attraction for Chiara Fumai.

Angel Vergara

De Nekker Tree

hdv video installation, multi-channel sound, 13′ 11″
Commissioned and produced by CONTOUR 7

Angel Vergara chose the garden of the former monastery De Noker as both the backdrop and the subject of his installation. Vergara was inspired to muse on the theme of the enclosed garden, and links this to the idea of an artificial paradise. There is only one tree here, while the rest of the garden is organised in highly decorative geometric forms. It is secluded, inaccessible for outsiders as a utopian island. The presence of the singular tree calls to mind the biblical Garden of Eden, with its centrally located Tree of Knowledge. Knowledge appears to deliver an ambiguous advantage, bringing enlightenment but also a burden. It brings to light the monstrous element in human nature. Similar ambiguity can be found in the idea of the secluded garden. One can ask whether it is to protect or to imprison the people frequenting it. These places can be seen as sources of both delight and torture. Perhaps it is even so that monsters and saints are two aspects of the same, multifaceted human nature. The best example of this is Thomas More himself: sentenced and executed as a dangerous enemy of the Anglican Church, he became a catholic saint several centuries later.