The ego is alive

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What do we mean when we talk about our ego? On March 31st, 17 young artists between the ages of 16 and 27 will tackle this question as a part of Nightwatch, a coaching program and museum takeover at FOMU, Antwerp. The artists are given the unique opportunity to enjoy intensive coaching and workshops in which they develop and work towards the nocturne. 

Our writer Jeremy Tawedian sat down with curator Céline Lafrikh and partnership manager Brecht Swinnen for some behind-the-scenes insights into this year’s edition of Nightwatch.

How does this edition of Nightwatch differ from the rest?

Brecht: Since the team changes every year, there’s an opportunity to redefine what Nightwatch can be. It used to be based on individual artistic coaching. This year, we also focused on professionalization, community-building, and networking. Before Céline started curating, we decided on the selection criteria together: a motivation to professionalize and to take their practice a step further.

Céline: It’s about meeting in the middle, not just art purely for the sake of it. Of course, that’s super valid. I love that. But in this context, we decided that this was the way to go.

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Brecht: We try to give them professional tools by including partners such as Copper&Light, Charistar and Kunstenpunt. The latter gave a workshop about fair practices in the art sector. This is something most artists learn by trial and error and by getting fucked over. We want to give them as much information as possible to not be exploited. They also get networking opportunities thanks to the museum and our personal network.

 

Can you tell me more about the theme of the museum takeover, ego?

C: We were throwing things on the table, and Brecht said the word 'ego-death'. We knew there was something there. We constantly question who we are, what we’re supposed to be, how to re-invent yourselves… It’s very alive today.

B: No pun intended.

C: Ego-death is alive! (Laughs)

B: We first started with ego-death and then we simplified it to 'ego' to keep it more open and less edgy. The ego is everything and nothing. You make your own definition, but it’s also defined by the context you’re in. Also, people mostly perceive it as such a negative thing. Ego, in the purest form, is just the beauty of self-confidence, for me at least. It’s about us together and how we influence each other’s images in life.

C: And the theme is represented so differently in each piece. It’s refreshing to see.

B: If your ego is ready to get triggered, come pay us a visit!

We constantly question who we are, what we’re supposed to be, how to re-invent yourselves…

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How does the museum takeover take form?

C: The works will be spread throughout the museum. Their works will be shown inside and in between the ongoing exhibitions. It’s actually quite a challenge. You have these beautiful exhibitions that are so well curated, and we’re gonna put other works inside of it… it’s hard to make it work and find the space for everything. That’s a puzzle I had to deal with, to make sure the works have enough breathing space and that they don’t clash.

If your ego is ready to get triggered, come pay us a visit

And how do you think this creates a sense of community?

B: The fact that they had to send in work around the same theme already creates a sort of connection, even before the project starts. We do whatever we can to foster connections, creating a community of young people where they can be themselves, share what they want and share their opinions with us. Through the workshops, people from different backgrounds were relating to each other’s stories.

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Speaking of the diversity of backgrounds, I wanted to ask about the profiles of the artists. How was the curation process?

B: It was intense!

C: After the open call and pre-selection, we looked at the list together as a team. I think our final selection is a good reflection of our society: people from different backgrounds, sexual orientations, social backgrounds… We also selected people who don’t have a formal art education. You don’t need that to want to make it in the art world.

B: Also, crazy thing is, every age group that falls in the requirement is also represented. We have people from 16 to 27 years old. That wasn’t a coincidence: it’s just a consequence of really paying attention to the art and how it reflects today’s society.  It’s really beautiful.

That wasn’t a coincidence: it’s just a consequence of really paying attention to the art

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What type of practices do these artists have?

CSince we want to create our ideal museum experience, it’s important to reflect on what type of mediums could be shown. Traditionally, it’s paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture… We want to widen that scope. We have someone who’s performing an album, another who’s doing a theatrical monologue…. There’s 3D art, video installations… There’s also a duo who are involved in design, so not just strictly 'art'.

B: There’s also… I don’t want to spoil anything. You have to be there to see it!

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Any last words for the next Nightwatch generations?

B: Nobody is ever prepared for an open call. Every time, you learn more about yourself, your art and how to sell yourself. Interacting with institutions helps with visibility but don't put yourself in a dependent position. Maintain ownership and control your own narrative!

C: I also really want to encourage even people who don’t consider themselves artists 'in the traditional sense' to apply. For example, it would be so awesome to have a nail artist in a museum or someone who does hair in an interesting way, an architect who works in VR or uses AR… To really break these boundaries that defined what is art and what isn’t.

This year’s edition of Nightwatch is organized by Sonia Mutaganzwa (project manager), Bogenna Ivana (communication & social media management), Céline Lafrikh (curator & programmer), Brecht Swinnen (public & partnerships) and Fouzia Sadala (production manager).

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Photo credits: Young Artists & Young Entrepreneurs © Monday Agbonzee Jr. / FOMU Antwerpen

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @fomuantwerp / @nightwatch_fomu / @lafrikh / @grootheidswaanzinnig</div></div>

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