Defining identity and a role of institutions

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Shamisa Debroey is an illustrator and activist who works on the programming team of DE SINGEL. Later this month the latest multidisciplinary production DE SINGEL’s _END_ Festival will allow talented young artists to showcase their work, giving them a platform to express their identity, confront their work and deconstruct cultural dogmas. Over a warm cup of coffee, we asked Shamisa about her work and cultural expertise.

Could you tell us about _END_ Festival, coming June 24th to DESINGEL?  

During the year we invite promising young artists and offer them a residency at DE SINGEL’s black box - ON_OFF_SPACE, and the end result of these residencies is collected in _END_. It is an opportunity for them to find and try themselves in more professional circumstances. For the audience, it’s a chance to see DE SINGEL in a different light as well. It takes place in various spaces and it lets one tour the building in search of cultural bric-á-bracs.

It is an opportunity for them to find and try themselves in more professional circumstances

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What and who can we expect to see?

The festival is centred around topics of communities, confronting and establishing one’s identity, as well as deconstructing contexts of institution, beauty and concepts of good and bad art. In Helen d’Haenens’ and Marina Delicado’s By Her Hands, the performance is based on a contemporary classical piece for piano Shadow by Rebecca Saunders. The dance deconstructs both the movement as well as the piano as a ‘sacred’ instrument, which I like very much. In Arthur Decock’s Biecht the performance confronts us with the topic of depression and suicidal tendencies. Oftentimes there is a certain feeling of façade while addressing this topic, but here one can feel they’re inside of his brain. The Biecht feels almost bare naked, with the depth he dares to show. In the middle of the festival, I wanted to surprise people with DÉSIRÉE 0100’s & Luis Miguel Ramirez Muños’ La Fiesta de Delfina - a multidisciplinary performance led by masked characters combining Latin American culture with a grotesque party and search for identity. Perhaps we’ve had enough beauty and we should allow a certain transgression in culture. Oftentimes there is a certain feeling of façade while addressing this topic, but here one can feel they’re inside of his brain.

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I like the tension in the audience as well. Oftentimes when people don’t like someone’s art, they don’t ask themselves why. They see it as cheap or badly prepared but perhaps it’s because they don’t understand the culture or they can’t read its codes. Maybe it’s supposed to make you angry? Or maybe bad preparation is also a valid form of art? All those questions and concerns are a huge part of this performance, which confronts the grotesque with high art within the Latin American cultural context. In La Verita’s Observer one can experience a similar tension but within the topic of existentialism and technology. We often act as if everything is fine, but mostly we are very lost. That’s usually how we express searching. In a way this piece although again very confronting it’s also comforting. It tells you we are all lost but it also implies you are not alone.

Perhaps we’ve had enough beauty and we should allow a certain transgression in culture

<img class="editorial-image-50-left" src="https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/64885405e6bcc7f99f9dad33_Shamisa%20Debroey%20(c)%20Irma%20Janssens39590020.webp"/>

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How do you see institutions in allowing spaces for communities to join, having in mind its power and responsibilities?

In harsher economic times the role of institutions is more important than ever. Not only do we have physical space but also resources - things that a lot of minorities are missing. I think the classic approach of ‘they come to us’ is changing: we should come to them. In the end, it’s about establishing trust. A lot of people trust institutions and see them as fundamentals of culture. But for many that’s the main issue. I meet a lot of people, going to their shows and visiting lots of residencies and by showing them around DE SINGEL we both share our visions and stories. In the end, there are faces and real people behind all institutions.

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What do you think prevents people from building identity and how this festival would encourage them to do so?

I think it’s much more difficult for us than for the generation of our parents, where a huge part of your identity was kind of scripted. I think that thanks to the internet we have all the possibilities in the world, and this worries us. We tend to think of Gen Z as a whole, which implies a collective identity and which is not true. Sometimes you meet artists who are unapologetically themselves and stand by their work, but sometimes you face a lot of anxiety. In some cases, it’s about practical means. If I’m working in order to survive I don’t have time to think about who I amWhat we do is that we give artists a carte blanche; in other words, we give them an opportunity to impress themselves by using the freedom we provide. We give them means, they give us an answer.

If I’m working in order to survive I do not have time to think who I am

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<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @shamillustrates / @desingelartscentre </div></div>

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