The Deep of the Modern: Manifesta 9

Coal Sack Ceiling homage to Marcel Duchamp, Manifesta 9. Photograph: Kristof Vrancken/Association Marcel Duchamp, Paris

This year, the biennial Manifesta is centred on the Waterschei mine in Genk, in in the coal-mining region of Belgium.  Adrian Searle has written a fulsome review of it in the Guardian, and there is a slide show of some of the work here.  
Searle talks about the Bechers and their recording of the industrial landscapes and infrastructure of eastern Belgium, Holland and the northern Ruhr, where Manifesta 9 is being held.  The Bechers are in this exhibition as well, but the arresting image of the coal sacks indicates the interventionist nature of some of the work, beyond the recording of landscapes that shock by their mere presence alone.

The catalogue is here.  The first paragraph of the curatorial concept for Manifesta 9 states, 'The Deep of the Modern intends to create a complex dialogue between different layers of art and history. Its point of departure is the geographical location itself—the former coal-mining region of the Campine in north-eastern Belgium as a locus for diverse issues, both imaginary and ecological, aligned to industrial capitalism as a global phenomenon. Manifesta 9 takes its cue from the previously abandoned, recently restored Waterschei mine complex in Genk.'

The Deep of the Modern.  What a title.  The image above is an homage to Duchamp's 16 Miles of String of 1942. This free ranging through the twentieth century of art and industry, production and politics shows how they inflect each other, rather than presenting the isolation of each of these activities into the discrete silos that they have generally pretended to be.  This is an obvious and natural discussion of the world in which art is an integral part, however it signals a big change from late twentieth century art discourse.

On Site 26:DIRT looked at the surface of the earth, issue 27:rural urbanism investigated in many of the articles how the earth, the dirt, agriculture, the mines and resource-extraction industries locate cities.  On Site 28: geology, next spring, will be continue this discussion of geological consequences and how we are both shaped by them and try to intervene in them ourselves.