Like the Wall Awaiting the Ivy: a group show at the MACS with work by Fiona Tan, Daniel Turner and Oriol Vilanova

Occupying two identical rooms in the former “Engineers’ House”, of which only the outside walls of its original architecture now remain, the exhibition proposes a poetic, critical meditation on the theme of ruins, based on an installation by Oriol Vilanova belonging to the Museum’s collection, a double projection of films by Fiona Tan and a sculpture by Daniel Turner.

Several mosaics of images are arranged along the walls. Vues imaginaires (2017) consists of a collection of hundreds of postcards depicting ruins, mainly archeological or as a result of wars, which Oriol Vilanova gleaned from flea markets. In response to this, Ruins (2019) presents two films shot in the former Machines Room at Grand-Hornu by Fiona Tan during her recent residence at the MACS, the first a High-Definition video and the second on Super 16mm film. They are projected separately on screens placed at a distance from each other. As a sort of intermediary between these two installations and in response to Bertolt Brecht’s poem, a line from which inspired the title of this exhibition, Daniel Turner’s sculpture, RH2 (2012), extends our image of architectural ruins to a critique of the capitalist economy and its ‘creative destruction’ process through his salvaging of old refrigerator door handles, which he elevates to the status of archeological artefacts and whose incrusted grime from so many already ancestral hands is conserved. In this sense, the exhibition suggests that the equipment and edifices which we build to last are less “sheltered from time” but rather “shelters from time”, just like the societies and institutions from a time that is not so much long gone as in fact rediscovered in their vestiges and archives.

By making use of supports like the postcard and gelatin silver film, which have become obsolete through the rise of digital technology, Oriol Vilanova and Fiona Tan thus propose devices that slowly draw the spectator’s attention away from “the picture of the ruin towards the ruin of the picture”. For Vues imaginaires, this awareness of the duration of images is the result of a work in progress based on the exploration of flea markets, the selection and classification of his discoveries, the choice of the device to present his collections and finally, the “spaces” that are waiting for future discoveries. The artist-collector thus envisages an economy running counter to the industrial production of snapshots, in his search for “difference in repetition”. In Ruins, the preservation of technical defects in the cinematographic image, notably the grain of the photograph and scratches on the film, enable us to intuitively capture the duration by escaping from scientific time and our lack of imagination, echoing the effect of gaps in the actual ruins: “Things which were once inside, private and protected are laid bare and revealed,” notes Fiona Tan in relation to this reversal of the viewpoint.

“The rooms, walls, corners and crevices are exposed to the elements. The building has been turned inside out, so to speak. I become aware of negative spaces and of what is missing. Like the terra incognita, the blank spaces on a map, each space or hollow is a puzzle and can point to potential creative possibilities.” 

By exploiting such “negative spaces” each in their own way, according to an entropic vision of a world that is evolving in the wrong direction, the three artists take a doubly critical look at the paradox of modernity driven by obsolescence, and at the duration of works, “like the wall awaiting the ivy”, awaiting a future.


- Denis Gielen, Curator of the exhibition

Like the Wall Awaiting the Ivy
Fiona Tan / Daniel Turner / Oriol Vilanova ​
23.05 > 29.08.21
MACS Grand-Hornu
Press conference : 21 May 2021, 14:00

James Welling : Cento

In parallel with the exhibtion Like the Wall Awaiting the Ivy, the MACS invites the American artist James Welling to present his current photographic work on architecture and ancient Greek and Roman statuary.

The exhibition’s title, Cento, refers to the ancient practice of assembling fragments of various poetic or musical works. This latest series began in 2018 at the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) in New York, when James Welling photographed the bust of a Roman empress of Syrian origin, Julia Mamaea, which he then printed in a range of colours based on the early photographic printing method of collotype. Moved by the fluidity of the dyes imbuing the portrait and the statue’s stone and returning colour to the face, James Welling realised that this faded, translucent rendering achieved a twofold step back in time: to the polychrome statues of Antiquity and to the black & white photolithography of the first albums that documented 19th century archaeological missions.



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