Zwart Wild – pushing the boundaries of temporary use

Zwart Wild is an artist-run platform which brings together different art disciplines, gives space to the art scene of Ghent, connects networks and suffers from achievement pressure. Zwart Wild designs, curates, builds, occupies, questions,…

The platform took off in the spring of 2012 after a gathering of a dozen artists with the same enthusiasm of organizing exhibitions and performances and the same need for affordable studio space.

In a meeting with the REFILL network, Tim Bruggeman and Wiebe Moerman, describe the successes and boundaries of their platform:

“We heard that partners were sought to breathe new life into the former furniture factory Vandenberghe – Pauvers, in the centre of the district ‘Brugse Poort’ in Ghent. After a visit, it soon becomes clear that the building has more potential than only artist studio’s. So, from March 2013 we open a salon twice a month that we connect to musical performances and exhibitions. During the first two years we organize, often in collaboration with other collectives / organizations / schools, about 50 various events with great success. In our own way, we provide a platform and audience for young and experimental talent. Gradually grows a frame of reference against which we weigh up the many proposals and we try to do better each time. Not only events are the engine of Zwart Wild, especially the studios and many unplanned moments in between, where people meet and announce big ideas, are important.”

When the neighbourhood starts protesting against the plans of the owners and project developers of the site, the temporary use activities get intertwined and the situation gets confused. Zwart Wild is primarily looking for space, out of necessity rather than for a political statement concerning city development. Though they never directly engaged in the neighbourhood protest, Zwart Wild shares the general indignation about the plans and approach of the owners. Together with the other partners of ‘De Vergunning’ they invested in a positive temporary use of the site. And by doing this, the dialogue and discussion around the possible future destiny became present.

Then, after an occupation of one and a half year and contrary to earlier promises, Zwart Wild gets told that the temporary use contract with the owners is ended. The black flag is hoisted.

“The reason for the early eviction is never explicit, but I suspect the owner keep us for a Trojan horse. In retrospect it is strange that the owner was not involved in the temporary filling. If he had bothered to get to know us truly he could see beyond his own project. But this way of working, which could benefit the development of the site, clearly was not part of his strategy.”

“Our powerless position results in many discussions on the role of an artist collective like us in relation to the development plans of the owner, wider to urban development in general. Where before the space is used to organize all kinds of exhibitions, suddenly the precarious space itself becomes point of discussion.”

Inventory of the premises is the last event at the furniture factory and takes the topography of the owner in mind. Extern artist describe for a last time the factory and are doing a visual intervention at various locations across the whole site.

 

In September 2014 Zwart Wild moves to a nearby location ‘De Binnenweg’, although they only have certainty for a 9 month during occupation. They start adapting the new place: walls are built, temporary filling grants requested, a crowdfunding launched, artistic choices discussed and updated.

“Where everyone was formerly satisfied with all opportunities, there are more demands, expectations expressed, agendas pushed through. Much talk and tune restores balance. More and more we start to have doubts about the ability to continue voluntarily on such a scale and intensity.”

During their stay in ‘De Binnenweg’ Zwart Wild organizes the expo’s: ‘I can live in a livingroom’, ‘MAGIC BE:’, ‘Now, go back into the dark woods’, ‘Wild Grid’, ‘Booamm’ and ‘Meubelexpo III’. The exhibitions are showing the diversity in the ateliers and certify the persistence of all the stakeholders of Zwart Wild.

 

Towards the end of the temporary use at ‘De Binnenweg’, Zwart Wild continues its public activity as a label, organizing their exhibitions at different locations. The studio spaces of Zwart Wild moved to different spots.

Also, since the beginning of ‘De Binnenweg’ a process is started around another vacant site in the district. After a short tour and many meetings, and filled with beliefs and doubts, ‘De Vergunning’ decides to take full responsibility for the revaluation of the site ‘De Meibloem’.  Negotiations start with the owner, the city, and the current still active organisations.

“A project of this magnitude needs to grow and this takes time and a lot of thinking and negotiating. We realize that our own agendas become less important and we start from an understanding and reflection on the layered meaning of the place and what can possibly grow from here. The decision to partly postpone the renovation and the development plan for the building seems appropriate, but difficult to reconcile with business as usual. A slow and thoughtful process, with many different partners involved, will eventually lead to a reallocation of ‘De Meibloem’. Will it eventually become a workshop, a social restaurant, a multipurpose room, a storage room, …”

“All these choices will be the result of a broad research which cannot be blind for the financial reality. And this is new for us, because we always worked with volunteers, we had no renting costs and our plan never looked further than the next year. Making sure that the long term mission and funding is guaranteed is the challenge we face at the moment.”

 

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