The virtual, the real and something else in between

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Roaming the Imaginal is the current exhibition at Beursschouwburg that offers an introduction to a broader vision of the world we live in. This first solo show of the artist Eden Tinto Collins in Brussels is the outcome of the collective programming practice of the space, where Sofia Dati works as a programmer.

Sofia, can you elaborate further on your role as a programmer at Beursschouwburg?

Sofia: At Beursschouwburg we work as a team of programmers and program a lot in conversation. Elisa Liepsch takes care of the performing arts programme, Gilke Vanuytsel is in charge of music, I am in charge of audiovisual and visual arts and Melat Gebeyaw Nigussie is the artistic director. I can say that conversation is a key point of my methodology and interest as a programmer. During the three years I’ve been working at Beursschouwburg, I had the opportunity to invite artists, makers and cultural workers to propose and share their own practices. I really enjoy shaping collectivity and shared spaces in the way we design programmes. 

One such programme was Black Archive, which was launched in 2021 with filmmakers Maxime Jean-Baptiste and Stéphane Gérard, and joined by Eden. Since then, we engaged in ongoing conversations around questions of Blackness and / in film, notions of representation and the circulation of images and imaginaries. That is how we first met with Eden.  

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Is there currently something that has been guiding you when it comes to your curatorial research for the place?  

 Sofia: The idea of getting involved in collective processes is an aspect of programming that I really value and appreciate. This is also something we do within Beursschouwburg's artistic team. Each season, we work around something we call a "focus programme", which is a set of questions/issues/notions/ideas that serve as a guiding thread throughout the season's programming. 

The season that opened in January is called Can you imagine?. It is a way for us, in a time of great unrest, to hold on to each other and invite practices that are searching for strategies and narratives that allow us to envision a future differently. Within this framework, we worked together with Elisa Liepsch on a three-day chapter titled Telling Tales: Towards Antifascist Futures (21-23 March), centering strategies, practices and tools for resistance, which we believe are much-needed in the current political climate and the rise of fascism we are facing. 

The curatorial line we are building is rooted in practices of co-authoring, allyship and space-making, as much as in a desire to provide a platform for artists to develop and present work in a framework that gives space to process, risk and trust.  

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You said you met Eden in 2021. What got your attention about her work? 

Sofia: I would say that what first caught my attention is her interest in connection and networks. Back then, as part of Black Archive, Stéphane Gérard and Eden held a workshop inviting participants to let themselves be taken somewhere, trusting the moment and the group.

The processes that were developed throughout this workshop bring together what strikes me the most about the way I understand Eden's practice, which is very much grounded in plurality, and kinship. 

I am very inspired by the way she gives shape to her research around technologies and image-making, through a deep attention to the sensorial and the atmosphere of a space. 

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Eden, now that Sofia gave us some elements introducing us to your practice as an artist, could you explain to us how your interest in technology and digital first began? 

Eden: It all started with the first computer we had at home. I'll always remember the sound of the modem's handshake. A high-pitched sound that modems used to make, almost like a dolphin (laughs). Some details of that period stuck in my mind. I wanted to understand what was happening in a deeper way.

As the digital evolved, it came to the point where we had online avatars. I asked myself “what actually is an avatar?”. This curiosity led me to discover a very spiritual meaning of the word itself. There are many words that we use daily and in this kind of context, we don't know where they come from. My research on the origin of words and symbols linked to the digital had started, leading me to discover that icons, for example, are symbols connected to certain religions. 

That’s how the concept of the Imaginal World came to me, which is also in the title of my current exhibition, Roaming The Imaginal, at Beursschouwburg. My interest for the imaginal started back in 2015 and remains until today. It is one of the main cores of my work. 

My interest for the imaginal started back in 2015 and remains until today. It is one of the main cores of my work

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About the concept of your productions and the place of digital within them, could you tell us more about that?

Eden: My aim is to create around the relation between what is virtual and real, having storytelling as an important aspect of my work. The digital has been taking up a lot of space in my practice, but I also work with sculpture, photography, monograph… Not everything is digital. I see my practice as hypermedia, but the message I'm conveying is more important than the concrete result of the work itself. In Roaming the Imaginal, however, the digital is the main thing.

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Sofia: Since I got to know Eden’s work mostly in the context of film and moving images, it was wonderful to work together on this exhibition and to get to know other forms through which her research materialises. The exhibition encompasses film, sculpture, painting, collage, sound and what we can call an “archaic” version of a hologram. Everything is connected to this idea of the imaginal as the meeting point between the virtual and the real. 


What is Roaming The Imaginal about?

Eden: Roaming the Imaginal is an exhibition that explores the imaginal world, which is a notion that was brought about by the French philosopher Henry Corbin. It’s a world in between, a dimension that embodies realities that are both virtual and material. For me, it’s a dimension very close to the dream state.

Sofia: Yes, it is about the co-existence of worlds that we tend to think about as distinct. Henry Corbin drew on Islamic and Sufi paradigms in order to develop the notion of the imaginal as a way of understanding the double status of icons: material objects contained within them other-worldly entities. So, the space of the imaginal and the icon combines the tangible and real with something beyond, something intangible. In the exhibition, Eden reflects in a poetic way on the virtual world both in its material aspect that is anchored in extractivism, and in its world-making power which takes shape in the form of the avatar.   

 It’s a world in between, a dimension that embodies realities that are both virtual and material

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How was this exhibition born?

Sofia: It all started with a conversation with Niels Van Tomme, with whom I co-curated the exhibition, and argos who co-produced it.  

This invitation inscribed itself in the continuity of Eden’s ongoing research. It was an occasion to expand on the forms and ideas she was already working with, and she proposed to centre the notion of the imaginal, which also resonates with questions and conversations we have been sharing in our several collaborations over the years. 

Eden proposed an exhibition concept that we then translated together in the space. We also imagined a programme around the exhibition, as a way of offering different entry points into the dimensions that are being developed through the exhibition space. It is also a way of extending the invitation to other artists, such as Jamika Ajalon, Sophye Soliveau and Farida Amadou who will perform in the concert [S]cores of our Narratives in Beursschouwburg on May 11th.  

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Could we say that Roaming the Imaginal is about discovering an alternative world? 

Sofia: I would say that it is maybe another way of looking at the world that we know.  

Eden: Yes, I totally agree with you Sofia, and would say, that Roaming The Imaginal's title alone can also be understood as a way of orienting oneself in space, an attitude that operates in exchange, sharing and in movement beyond all borders, even ideological; for me, it is rooted in the attitude of maroonage, seeking and pushing to "multiply vanishing points*", or to "radicalise one's need for balance.

*one of the mottos from the French version of Rock & Scroll - Meditation for a Filter Piece featured in the exhibition Roaming The Imaginal.

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @edentintocollins / @sofia_datey / @beursschouwburg <br/> Visit the exhibition Roaming The Imaginal for free until 25 May 2024 at Beursschouwburg, Brussels. More info here <br/> Don't miss out Telling Tales at Beursschouwburg from 21 - 23 March. 2024. Ticket here </div></div>

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