Bruges Triennial 2021: TraumA

From 8 May to 24 October 2021, Bruges once again becomes the host city for an exploration of contemporary art and architecture. During the third edition of Bruges Triennial, 13 artists and architects present new temporary installations in the historic centre of the World Heritage city. The theme of this third edition is TraumA—which sees The Triennial shifting focus from the public space to a number of hidden dimensions of the city and its inhabitants.

Bruges Triennial is a thematic exhibition featuring creations by artists and architects in the public space. Bruges Triennial 2021 opts for a polyphonic discourse, with space for imagination, beauty, darkness, and participation.

The curatorial team, consisting of Till-Holger Borchert, Santiago De Waele, Michel Dewilde, and Els Wuyts, has selected 13 artists and architects—with 3 Belgians among them—who each in their own way react to the theme of TraumA.

Participating artists and architects:

  • Amanda Browder (US) creates large textile installations by working in collaboration with local Bruges residents, whom she involves from the very start of the project. With vibrant colours and playful patterns, the scale changes from what was first private (donating fabric as an individual, or assisting during the Sewing Days) to a public and accessible artwork. Happy Coincidences is an installation that can be surprisingly overwhelming, set amidst the bricks of the bridge, across the span of the canal, and between the windows of the houses.

  • Nadia Kaabi-Linke (TN/UA/DE) presents a circular installation of public benches that shine attractively, but are rendered inaccessible by the sharp pins in their surface. The visitor cannot sit on the benches, or experience an encounter with others. The sculpture Inner Circle shimmers and catches the eye, but ultimately leaves a defensive circle and void in its centre. Kaabi-Linke takes inspiration from the egg-shaped city ground plan and its former ramparts, from family structures and ties, work situations and employment contexts, and from the exclusive clubs and privileged communities that often use a circular shape in their logo.

  • Joanna Malinowska & C.T. Jasper (PL/US) bring attention to a forgotten monument with Who is Afraid of Natasha? Natasha is the nickname for a sculpture that stood for many years on a square in Gdynia, a city in Poland. After the end of the communist Soviet era, the statue was moved to a less visible spot in the city. The monument was originally erected as a personification of a regime that came to symbolize oppression: a beautiful woman in the countryside announcing a triumphant presence.

  • Nadia Naveau (BE) places her gleaming masks bedecked with decorative and folkloric patterns in several niches along the waterfront of the Augustijnenrei. She thereby brings attention to this hidden piece of city architecture, which does not feature on the route of the tourist boats and is often overgrown by plants from the gardens behind. In Bruges, the mirrored masks take on the function of imaginative signage, and perhaps also of a dreamy welcome.

  • Nnenna Okore (US/NG/AU) stretches a fabric around the Poertoren in Bruges, inspired by the typical red-brick colour of the region and by the technique of lacemaking. With And the World Keeps Turning, she creates a beacon that reminds the city of its past and takes up the challenge with the future. The starting point for her project was the question of the identity of Bruges.

  • Henrique Oliveira (BR) bases his installation on the last historic remnant from the stone ramparts of Bruges, which is located at the Pottenmakersrei. The place forms the basis for an installation that starts from a specific element used in the construction sector of São Paulo. Plywood, consisting of glued layers of wood, is a cheap construction material and is often thrown away after use, in waste containers or onto the street. It makes the visitor reflect on how contemporary art shows itself in a historic city.

  • Hans Op de Beeck (BE) is exhibiting Danse Macabre, a full-size (1:1) merry-go-round that operates in the environment of Bruges in a static, silent, and monumental way. The installation is monochromatically coloured in shades of grey, has a diameter of 12 metres and is about 4 metres high. The staged series of sculptures of horses and carriages appear to be fossilized. In his carousel, time freezes, and the mechanics have stopped as if the cheerfulness has been wiped out.

  • Laura Splan (US) displays her work amidst the permanent collection of the former 13th-century hospital ter Potterie. During the spring of 2020, at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Splan continued her practice related to care and disease. The textile patterns, digital animations and woven structures appear in the Museum Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Potterie as if they have always been there. At the same time they evoke a peculiar feeling. ​

  • Gijs Van Vaerenbergh (BE) translate a site-specific concept into a timeless aesthetic experience: Colonnade. The pavilion housing their installation is composed of a series of intertwining columns to create a maze-like space in which visitors can become lost. The colonnade is located in the north of the city, in the green area of the Baron Ruzette park. Colonnade is not a traditional pavilion, but a spatial construction without an interior. ​

  • Adrián Villar Rojas (AR) is placing a number of unusual birds’ nests in and around the Porter’s Lodge. They form part of his work From the Series Brick Farm, an ongoing project that was previously shown at the Lahore Biennale. ​

  • Héctor Zamora (MX) is showing work in the walled garden of Gezellehuis, where he is showcasing an intervention around a large, solitary tree, an Austrian pine. During an initial visit to the site, his eye fell on that particular tree because it reminded him of the ‘ceibo’, a tropical species of tree in the Amazon jungle. This tree has sacred status and is surrounded by creepers.

Information on the content of the works by Gregor Schneider (DE) and Jon Lott (US) will follow later.


In addition to a series of interventions in the city centre, Bruges Triennial 2021: TraumA also presents a group exhibition in which these themes are further represented. About 40 sculptures, photographs, drawings, paintings and videos connect the ‘uncanny’ character of the peculiar spaces of the Porter’s Lodge with dissonant voices, virtual storylines, and wonderful worlds. The group exhibition A Porous City in the Porter’s Lodge includes work by Willem Boel, Joëlle Dubois, Daan Gielis, Geert Goiris, Ronald Ophuis, Sarah&Charles, Ana Torfs, and Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, among others. The final list of artists is yet to be announced.

Trïënnale Brugge 2021: TraumA
8 May – 24 October 2021
On view 24/7 in the heart of the city centres of Bruges & Zeebrugge


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