UFO Visitor #5: Valentijn Byvanck (Marres House for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht) - kopie
I am director of Marres, House for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht, the Netherlands. In Marres, I developed with my team an interdisciplinary program focused on the senses, the languages of the body and the nature of experience. We also organized numerous exhibitions and programs, including Currents (now coproduced by Z33) for young talent, the Limburg Biennale for local artists, ROOMS, for performance art and Training the Senses, a workshop series for transmitting experience. Extra curricular activities (much needed I believe to keep fresh) include being chair at the Fund for the Performing Arts, board member at the Brakke Grond and guest-teacher at the Toneelacademie (theatre academy) Maastricht. Previously, I worked at Kunstinstituut Melly (before: Witte de With), and was director of the Zeeuws Museum and the Museum of National History. I have a PhD in cultural history from New York University.
What are you currently working on?
Currently I am completing texts for the cahier for Images of the Unconscious, an exhibition with works by Brazilian artists. In addition, I am working on a collaborative project for artists, musicians, choreographers with the ARKO foundation in Korea, and making a plan for a performance festival at the Art Rotterdam.
How would you define your practice?
Eager to escape the everyday, I am always trying to find practices that suggest new ways to view the world, new vocabularies that are non-linear, associative and not necessarily language based. In preparing exhibitions, I often work for a longer period closely together with artists and sometimes curators to prepare them for the context of their work, i.e. the house of Marres, and the setting in which they will conceptualize and bring their work. Periodically I give the house over to artists and give them a carte blanche. I ask them a simple question: how would it be for visitors if they could be inside your work? These carte blanche shows can be quite immersive and transform the house into a baroque palace, a jungle garden, a rooftop landscape etc.
How do you see your relationship with artists?
My relationship with artists is often that of close collaboration. I prefer to work together on the ideas and positioning of the works/installations. I don’t meddle with the work they make, but act as sparring partner, facilitator and critic. At the same time I take very seriously the role curators in public institutions need to take: they need to be mediators between artists and the publics.
What do you expect from the UFO visitors programme?
I hope to familiarize myself (and Marres) better with artists, art initiatives, curators and institutions in Belgium. While interested in new practices and artists, I also hope to participate in the building of a network in which we can find each other to collaborate, share experience, and enrich our respective art ecologies.