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Encounters between Sculpture and Performance

30 March 2024

With COME CLOSER, Middelheim Museum and international art centre DE SINGEL jointly explore the space between sculpture and performance art. Discover remarkable sculptures, installations, performances, and presentations by about 25 artists from Belgium and abroad. 

Pushing boundaries

What do the artists have in common in this artistic project? They all give way to new relationships between the artist, the artwork and the audience. In COME CLOSER, the traditional distance between the three is replaced by an exciting exchange and connection. 

Sculptures in bronze and stone go through the same living processes as performers’ bodies. Spectators help create the artwork. Artists replace the object on the pedestal with a living body. Images are changeable, fluid even. 

Gone are the days when an object in a museum was rationally categorised and preserved, as are the days when it was only the spectator’s turn at the end of an artistic process. COME CLOSER shows that artists today continue to push the boundaries of where the artwork begins and ends. They do not simply provide objects to be shown, but remain involved themselves or invite other creators to complete their work. And they ask for the same involvement from the audience, which does not simply play a passive role, but can actively participate in the creative process itself too. 

SUPERFLEX - One Two Three Swing! 2019
SUPERFLEX - One Two Three Swing! 2019
Anthea Hamilton - Mash Up (installation view M HKA 2022) - © Kristien Daem
Anthea Hamilton - Mash Up (installation view M HKA 2022) - © Kristien Daem

Art about our everyday life

Thus, COME CLOSER says something not only about art today, but also about our everyday life. Because in the countless interactions we engage in daily, we assume different roles each time. As such, we are always ourselves and also partly someone else: online or off, among colleagues, with our parents, with friends. It is ‘performing’ in constant exchange with our environment, and subject to all kinds of factors. 

As such, we are constantly making choices, either actively or passively. Do we show ourselves as individuals or do we commit to the collective? Do we want a personal or a social experience? How much do we make visible, and what do we keep hidden? This is mostly subconscious. Until someone offers us another role, or starts a conversation about it. 

COME CLOSER is a playful invitation to discard our role, and try a new one. 

Kiluanji Kia Henda, A City Called Mirage (2014-2017)
Kiluanji Kia Henda, A City Called Mirage (2014-2017)

How can you experience the exhibition?

Between June 7 and September 29 in the Middelheim Museum, you can visit the thrilling installations in the collective exhibition. Be astonished, amazed and entranced by the sculptures and interactive installations by some 25 artists from home and abroad.

DE SINGEL is programming a number of complementary stage shows in the same period that test the boundaries of the performance. Some artists performing in DE SINGEL are also exhibiting work in the museum. The forecourt of the artistic venue will feature a new permanent installation by the Nigerian artist Temitayo Ogunbiyi. The playful open space invites people to interact. 

A festive opening weekend in the Middelheim Museum and grand closing party in DE SINGEL mark the boundaries of the summer show. Between both events, there is also a monthly performance weekend in the art park during which you can enjoy unique and repeated performances. 

Blurring boundaries

Perhaps you thought that the artist’s work is done once you get to see it in a museum or on stage? The shows, sculptures and interactive installations at COME CLOSER invite you not only to look carefully, but sometimes also to assume another role. And in doing so, make other and new connections. This role can be very different from one piece to the next. 

Some artists or makers instruct you, as the spectator, on what you can do with the artwork. Others prefer to transfer the task to performing artists. There are makers who do their own performances, others leave them to performers. Or perhaps to you, to other spectators, or both together. This creates a new exchange between artist, art and audience. 

The line between ’active’ and ‘passive’ becomes fluid too. Certain pieces put your mind to work, others your entire body. Sculptures can also exist in various forms. As with performances, each one is that little bit different. Other artworks seem alive and therefore ‘unfinished’. They change colour or shape. Or they are brief and intangible, made of foam. The transition process is a performance in itself. 

At the installations and performances in this exhibition, we invite you to take a close look at your own contribution. How does your body relate to that of the maker, performers and actual artworks? What happens to you when you get involved with a piece and when somebody else does? At each performance you are briefly part of a social construction, and you really have an impact. The effect is often unpredictable, the artwork is different each time. 

Change your role for once!

The installations and performances in this exhibition invite you to make choices. Like you do all the time in everyday life. We make decisions with every contact. Do we simply walk past each other or do we stop and chat? Do we show our cards, or keep some secrets? We are actually the performers in our own life. Always in interaction with others, with our environment and with society. 

With each social contact, we automatically return to a particular role. You can be a son, brother, father and friend all at the same time. The person you come into contact with determines your role at that moment. The same applies when you visit the museum or DE SINGEL. Whenever you look at an artwork, you can do it as an art expert, curious walker, coincidental passer-by, on the way to another place. During an encounter a little further on, you may be a colleague, mother or friend. During each interaction, you assume another role. Sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously. 

The artworks in COME CLOSER invite you to adopt other roles for a change. In doing so, you can mix or play different roles side by side during the show.

By adopting a new role for a short moment, then leaving it behind again, you may become aware of it. This can get you thinking about the roles you play in your daily life, with other people and in different environments, beyond the museum. The performances invite you to shed your role safely and try a completely different one. Allowing you to do this later in a completely different context. 

An exhibition in two places

The Middelheim Museum and DE SINGEL are nearly neighbours. On the map and in the art world. The museum with its art park focuses on evolutions within sculpture, the international art house is rooted in performing arts and architecture. In both places, contemporary sculpture and performance come together. This exhibition brings both institutions even closer. 

The Middelheim Museum was founded in 1950 as a sculpture museum. Remarkably enough, the performing arts began its development in the same period. Sculpture and performance have since evolved independently. Only some 70 years later, in 2009, were performing arts first given a place in the collection at the Middelheim Museum. 

That was the case during ‘Beam Drop’ (2008) by Chris Burden. A high crane dropped more than 100 steel beams in a hole filled with liquid cement. The striking sculpture, that is still there today, emerged during a spectacular live performance with spectators. In subsequent years, the museum has increasingly launched sculptural work with performances. 

The international art centre DE SINGEL has also made a big transition. For a long time, the focus lay on performing arts. In more recent years, DE SINGEL has also integrated sculpture. Today, the art house is actively testing the contemporary opportunities of ‘sculptures in the public domain’. 

Therefore, the Middelheim Museum and DE SINGEL are growing ever closer. Sculpture and performance have encounters in both institutions, in different ways. COME CLOSER invites you to discover those ways, and to find your place. 





Middelheim Museum and DE SINGEL jointly explore the space between Sculpture and performance. Discover remarkable sculptures, installations, performances, and presentations by about 25 artists from Belgium and abroad. 

Middelheim Museum and DE SINGEL jointly explore the space between Sculpture and performance. Discover remarkable sculptures, installations, performances, and presentations by about 25 artists from Belgium and abroad.