Contour Biennale was established in 2003 as the Biennial of Moving Image, a platform to curators and artists working with different forms of moving image, from film and video to installation. The biennial has progressively expanded its horizons to produce public events and installations.
Contour Biennale has made a name for itself far beyond Belgium. It is a unique platform for anyone interested in the moving image. Since 2003, Contour Biennale has occupied a distinct position in the visual arts in this country, with a name that resounds far beyond the national borders. It focuses on the moving image, but also features installations, sound and performance. Contour has been part of nona arts centre since January 2017. So far 9 exhibitions took place. The tenth edition is planned to be held in the autumn of 2023. The curator will be appointed in June 2021.
Contour Biennale 9
Nona arts centre appointed Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez as curator for the ninth edition of Contour Biennale. She challenged the existing Contour format by no longer opting for a continuous exhibition in several places in the city. Under the title “Coltan as Cotton” she asked pertinent questions like “What can a biennial be today and how can we organise it in a more sustainable way?”. Contour Biennale 9 therefore became an elongated continuum that began with an introductory phase on 25 October 2018. Three long weekends formed the spine of the biennial. Petrešin-Bachelez engaged more than 50 contributors to shape this edition. This led to more than 20 new projects. The curator also initiated an educational programme called the “Transnational Alliance” that ran parallel to the biennial and explored similar themes. Contour Biennale 9 ended in the weekend of 18, 19 20 October 2019.
Contour Biennale 8
The eighth edition of Contour Biennale was held in spring 2017, shaped by the South Asian curator Natasha Ginwala. More than twenty local and international artists presented new and recent cinematic work at various locations in Mechelen. Contour Biennale 8 showed contemporary art against the backdrop of the 400-year history of the Great Council. This court in Mechelen was the judicial centre of Europe. Each of the art works explored the theme of justice from its own perspective. Films, videos, installations and performances immersed visitors in a world of law, jurisprudence and justice.
Contour Biennale 8 was held from Saturday 11 March until Sunday 21 May 2017.
CONTOUR 7, the seventh edition of the Biennale, was dedicated to the humanist, statesman and writer Thomas More. Viewed by some as a martyr, by others as a monster, he was also an artist and philosopher. Either way, he was a brilliant fool far ahead of his time. During a stay in Flanders in the summer of 1515, during which he also visited Mechelen, More wrote the lion’s share of his book on the ideal state, the island of Utopia.
CONTOUR 7 presented work by more than twenty international artists at various locations in Mechelen. These works, including many new creations, drew their inspiration from the utopias, monsters and martyrs of the past and present. The curator was Nicola Setari.
Contour 2013, the 6th Biennale for the Moving Image, was shaped by the Danish curator Jacob Fabricius. Entitled Leisure, Discipline and Punishment, it explored social functions and relationships in society.
Visitors could enjoy the sixth edition of Contour at four exhibition locations in Mechelen: the prison, KV Mechelen football stadium, the Church of Our Lady over the Dyle and the Hof van Busleyden museum. People come to these semi-public spaces for all kinds of reasons: pleasure, necessity, because of their beliefs or to sit out a prison sentence.
The 5th Biennale for the Moving Image, was curated by Anthony Kiendl from Canada. Entitled ‘Sound and Vision: Beyond Reason’, the exhibition made connections between music, the moving image and society.
The fourth edition was curated by Katerina Gregos. ‘Hidden In Remembrance Is The Silent Memory Of Our Future’ was an exhibition that asked penetrating questions about history as it is passed down to us and its importance. Contour 2009 offered more than five hours of film to watch.
Contour 2007, the third biennale for video art, was given the title ‘Decoder’. It presented several video works in the context of a double exploration. It investigated the mechanisms of knowledge production that help to shape the way humans understand the world. Within that investigation, the exhibition also analysed the way contemporary media arts deal with the question of knowledge production, whether or not they do so while reflecting on their own role as media.
Two artists, Dara Birnbaum and Kerry Tribe, provided the impetus for Contour 2005’s curator Cis Bierinckx to bring together a coherent group of works and artists. What fascinated him was not just the confrontation between two generations of artists, but also the manifesto statements made in personal ways by Dara Birnbaum, as the ‘godmother’ of video art, and Kerry Tribe as a young artist. In selecting the other artists, Bierinckx was inspired by the intensity and vision that can be found in the two artists’ work.
At the first edition of Contour, fifteen artists – mainly from Belgium and the Netherlands – exhibited work at eight locations in the centre of Mechelen, showing how contemporary video art can incorporate historic spaces as a new form of painting or sculpture. Artists including Hans Op de Beeck, Franciska Lambrechts, Honoré δ’O, Orla Barry, Rui Chafes, Sven Augustijnen and Els Dietvorst exhibited their work at locations in Mechelen including St. John’s Church, the Beguinage Church and De Garage.