Kristof Vrancken – The Sustainist Gaze at Z33

Z33 in Hasselt presents the first major retrospective of Kristof Vrancken in which ecology, activism and photography meet each other.

The portrait of Vrancken in a lab coat, studying an unknown specimen in a post-industrial landscape sums it all up. There’s the part of the mad professor that has led him to drink, not without danger, his selfmade concoctions made out of plants growing on industrial wastelands. But there’s above all this willingness to enter into an intense relationship with that landscape for which he advocates a more sustainable relationship with nature.

As a photographer Vrancken therefore consciously opts for natural materials, avoiding the use of polluting chemical products in analogue photography. He experiments with emulsions of algae, berries and knotweed, and uses sunlight to develop his photos. This slow, traditional way of working is a reaction against today’s flash culture and the fleetingness of images. By making prints using plants, nature is not only present on the image, but also literally in the image. Vrancken transcends classical photography and interweaves his practice with other disciplines such as design, new media and science.

Kristof Vrancken is part of an ecological and climate conscious movement in the arts. How can you be active and constructive as an artist instead of merely critical and documentary? How do you not only show an alternative view, but also turn it into a concrete action? Can an artistic view lead to a new way of looking at nature and the relationship with mankind? These questions are central to his artistic practice.

The exhibition The Sustainist Gaze shows this artistic research practice of the past seven years in five chapters. In these Vrancken takes on three different personalities – that of artist, scientist and guide – as a reference to the film Stalker (1979) by Andrei Tarkovsky. The notion of the forbidden wasteland that is also central to this film, a kind of in-between nature as symbol for the Anthropocene, with its own ecosystem, is omnipresent. It results in various kinds of images that mostly have a melancholy mood due to using alternative ways for developing his ephemeral photographs that result on brown or purple prints, but also because of the nature of their locations.

At the same time Vrancken instigates various initiatives for a creative and positive approach of the anthropocene. In A Possible Sustainocene (2021) he engages for instance in scientific research into local pigments and electro-active bacteria at the University of Hasselt.

Kristof Vrancken – The Sustainist Gaze

Curator: Ils Huygens

With contributions from: Niek Kosten, Frederik De Bleser, Lieven Menschaert, Giacomo Piovan, Jenny Stieglitz, MFPF & X-LAB (UHasselt)

12 June until 22 August 2021

Z33 Bonnefantenstraat 1
3500 Hasselt (Belgium)

More info here

This text is partly based on that which can be found on the website of Z33. All images by Kristof Vrancken.

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