“SuperBodies” is the third edition of the triennial for contemporary art, fashion and design organised by the city of Hasselt. The first edition was simply called “Super!” Starting with the second edition, a specific theme was chosen for each edition. In 2009 that theme was “stories”. Hence the title “SuperStories”. For 2012, the chosen theme is the human body. So this edition is called “SuperBodies”.
However, in spite of its name, “SuperBodies” is not an exhibition about super-bodies and super-people. On the contrary, it is actually about just regular bodies. Because even though bodies are not all that extraordinary or perfect, they do do wonderful things—they are, in fact, wonderful machines.
For decades now, the body had been ubiquitous, in art as well as in the popular media, in fashion and in design. Even dance focuses more and more on the body in and of itself, not on the steps that the dancers perform. However, the media in particular seldom shows regular bodies. On the contrary, they wholesale extreme bodies—extremely perfect, heroic, ecstatic or just extremely pitiful. Those bodies are so different from the normal that they fascinate us because of their oddity. That fascination goes hand in hand with a considerable attention to the culture of body. Sometimes it seems as if one expects a final truth—an ultimate fulfilment—from the body.
Our mortal body however seldom succeeds in fulfilling all those big expectations. The body of the media is far removed from everyday life. However, as long as we blindly stare at that extraordinary body, we will not be able to see how extraordinary the ordinary body is. Innumerable bodily processes, which we barely notice, steer our being and our thinking. That is the point of departure of this exhibition. Can one reflect on this and then turn a performance of those unobserved bodily processes into art? How do these processes relate to our conscious thoughts and feelings? And what then is there to see? Curator Pieter T’Jonck asked himself these same questions during the compilation of this exhibition.
He discovered that many, leading artists had devoted (a portion of) their oeuvres to these questions, long in the shadow of the great force of media. Although now they reap ever increasing recognition because they confront us with material things and how we perceive and experience them. Things that we do daily, without thinking but which are all mediated by our bodies.
The beauty of this is that in this artwork about humans and their bodies, there is often no body to be seen, even though that body is unequivocally the key to it all. Indeed, this art often has a distinctly interactive character. Not by having the viewer push buttons or turn knobs, but by explicitly inviting him or her to complete the work—either mentally or physically. Indeed, the idea that a work of art is only ‘finished’ in the act of its viewing is not new. In ‘SuperBodies’ however this occurrence assumes a central role. In the actual interaction with the works, bodily sensations and processes have the upper hand. Rather than imposing intimidating images of perfect bodies or showing the body as an image, ‘SuperBodies’ aims to excite the imagination about what your own body can be.
Of course, not only are fashion, design and contemporary art all present in “SuperBodies”. There are also choreographers present in the exhibition, in some places with physical works of art and in others with performances. All of this in an extensive track along the cultural houses of Hasselt.