Creative Workshop Bruges – The Challenge

Written by Willem Roose - 05/03/2019

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We come together with our team of 20 international creatives for the first time on URB festival in Bruges, 6-8 April 2019. This text is the creative brief for the On The Point network. It contains the background information necessary for co-creating our first On The Point artwork in Bruges.

The novel that declared Bruges dead

In 1892, the Albrecht Rodenbach wrote his short novel “Bruges La Morte” (“The Dead City Of Bruges”). It’s commonly considered as one of the first archetypical Symbolist novels (and the first fiction work to include photographs!). It evokes the image of Bruges as a decaying city. A city that’s empty and asleep. A city in a mysterious, almost eerie silence. 

The novel and the reactions to it are somewhat symbolic for Bruges in two respects. Firstly, it started the common (mis)conception of Bruges as a silent city with not much to offer for (young) people. Secondly, while inhabitants of Bruges were outraged by the depictions of their city in Rodenbach’s book, it paradoxically attracted hordes of tourists that became interested in this mysterious place. 

Tourists are money

Indeed, Bruges is a city that gets flooded by millions of tourists every year. They are attracted by the overwhelming heritage and museum-like, romantic city centre. Bruges has some of the best fine art museums in Western-Europe that classical art lovers will absolutely love. The music temple Concertgebouw Brugge has an astonishing music & dance programme and perfect acoustics. Every 3 years, TriĆ«nnale invites the world’s top architects and artists to use the city as their canvas. So yes, there’s definitely something on offer in Bruges! 

This overwhelming high-brow cultural offer is in large part a city marketing story and a policy strategy. It seems that policy makers in Bruges learned this from the Sex Pistols: “Tourists are money”. 

Is there place for young creatives?

Bruges is a great culturally vibrant city. But there’s work to be done to make it an attractive and lively place for young artists and creatives. Currently, many young creatives fail to find a place in the current local art-scene of Bruges which is mainly focused on attracting large numbers of tourists via prestigious projects rather than responding to the needs of the local young population. Consequently, we are faced with a braindrain of artistic and creative talent from Bruges to surrounding bigger cities such as Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels.

Making Het Lab a creative hub

Het Entrepot wants to answer this need by creating a co-working artspace called “Het Lab” (The Lab). It’s one step towards a cultural offer that is fully catered to the needs of young creatives and artists. Het Lab is a collection of 5 open artistic studios for 5 disciplines: print (Printlab), woodworking (Houtlab), video (Videolab), makers (Makerslab) and gardeners (Tuinlab). Members of Het Lab can come by any time they want to work on their own artistic projects. Het Lab is a community. Learning, meeting likeminded artists, experimenting, organising expo’s and workshops, … are central aspects of the system.

Het Printlab

One of the central questions today for us is how we can make Het Lab a central creative hub in Bruges and how it can play a role in reversing the braindrain from local talents to surrounding cities. 

The challenges for the international workshop

We want you to think about the following questions. These will broadly be the thematics of the co-created artistic work that you will make together with the crew of 20 international creatives from The Netherlands, Belgium, UK and Macedonia.

1)How can smaller cities retain their local artistic talents even though they are surrounded by bigger cities that are perceived as being artistically more interesting?

2) How can a co-art space such as Het Lab cater for a young creative scene in a small city? Does it matter that we’re not “in the centre”?

3) How can smaller cities that have big artistic neighbouring cities (Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, …) be places that are artistically relevant, contemporary, young, vibrant? 

4) How can young artists interact with/make use of/find a place next its overwhelming World Heritage and high-cultural world renowed classical art collections?

5) How can a dynamic young art scene develop in this context and how can the brain drain from young artists that migrate from Bruges to other cities be tackled?

The artwork

Don’t feel too limited by these specific questions, it’s a broad thematic to keep in the back of your head. The artwork can take the form you and the other artists that come to visit Bruges decide. It can be a videowork, printwork, interviews with tourists or museumdirectors, sculptural, installation work, … 

Inspirational conference on URB

On our festival about urban creativity URB, we will host a mini-conference with 4 speakers that will talk about our thematics from their own perspectives. It will give you the necessary brain-fuel to create and build together. 

On Sunday, the team of 20 creatives will be facilitated in a brainstorm, prototyping and building phase by experienced workshop wizards from iDrops

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