Apparent Departure

My Place
Bruno Herzeele, curator HABITAT

About the installation ‘Apparent Departure’


Bart’s apartment is dark. The windows aren’t just closed, they have been boarded up. The walls are black and even if they’re white, they still seem to be shrouded in darkness. Whatever little light shines through the space comes from slide projectors, tiny lamps and a small hole in a window panel. But it’s sufficient to give the space all the shapes that it requires. People shuffle through the rooms slowly and carefully, at times afraid, feeling their way to whatever they can see with the light  that has been provided. This is the world of remembrance, of daily actions and essentials. This is the world of the dream, of the imagination and the imaginary, where whatever happens outside is filtered through darkness as it enters and is projected in a tiny corner of a lower ventricle.

Bart’s apartment, however, is not a psychological interpretation of the concept habitat. The image that starts off the habitat is the image of this specific and concrete apartment itself, right at the front on the second floor (the third one if you’re an American), which -in steel contours, fragile and shiny- is being placed in an equally concrete environment. This is Luchtbal – the very shape of the apartment as well as the steel volume that makes up the bus stop of line 23 are proof of that. We are here, but we don’t know if we’re now. All material contents have been stripped -no walls, no floors and ceilings, no cars, no people, frames, wall paper, stoves and all the other elements that turn a place into a dwelling- and only the bare essence of the habitat remains, in the same way that only the memory of the building will remain once it’s been demolished: as blurrying contours in people’s heads. This is a visual interpretation of the habitat concept: the teneous image triumphs over decay.

The next room is a camera obscura which, through the minor intervention of drilling a small hole in a window panel, the whole image that everybody associates with Luchtbal is magically transferred to the interior. Six tall blocks floating menacingly upside down. Line 23 racing through the streets on the ceiling, pursued by honking cars. People leaving for and returning from work. Clouds sliding acrooss the floor. No one believes that a camera is not involved here. Nonetheless, we are here now. All of Luchtbal has been squeezed into a single room where childern or child-like adults are trying to stand on clouds.

This ‘upside-downism’ braches off to the adjoining space where the entire room has made a U-turn. A wooden table, two wooden chairs, a salmon colored chandelier, plints and a stove frame all hang from the ceiling, which isn’t a ceiling anymore but a parquet floor. Visitors aren’t standing on the floor but on a whitewashed ceiling. Consumed tables are projected onto the table. Even if its surroundings hadn’t been  projected, the ghostly atmosphere would still give form to the contours of a memory. Turned upside down altogether, however, the bearings of the visitor are being utterly confused, which results in a feeling of alienation. The top corner of a single curtain has been been placed slightly away from the window, as if a light breeze is blowing through the latter.

Rather than describing the other three rooms, I would like to address this particular curtain. I invited Bart to take part in HABITAT because I saw in his work the potential to create, in the context of an apartment, an entire universe that is concrete and tangible as well as abstract and poetic. This curtain sums up the whole idea of Bart’s habitat in a single, powerful image: the accuracy with which a curtain has been hung upside down, barely discernible with the naked eye; a very recognizable homely dimension of a curtain that has, seemingly effortlessly, been turned into a poetic abstraction; the wind that makes the curtain move even though all the windows have been hermetically sealed, making it seem as if the world outside found its way in as well.  Images like these open rooms in my brain. I cherish those places as if they were my own.

Bruno Herzeele

Curator ‘HABITAT – Festival for Spatial Imagination’

Luchtbal, Antwerp, June 2010

Apparent Departure is an installation by Bart Prinsen for Habitat, a festival of spatial imagination.

Artists, utopian architects and radical city planners occupy eight apartments in the Luchtbal district of Antwerp. As the last residents, they present their personal interpretation of the idea that is ‘dwelling’.