GUEST CURATOR - Harlan Levey                                        

Harlan Levey

Apr. 5 – 9, 2021

Harlan Levey is the director and founder of Harlan Levey Projects in Brussels. He has worked tirelessly for years as a gallerist, curator, writer, lecturer, and vocal advocate for art as a vehicle for social change.  Harlan lives and works with uncompromising critical conviction that is echoed in his views and opinions of the news media, current events, and historical understandings.

Levey is a Cleveland born, Brussels based arts worker. An early voice in the activist aspects of "street art," he was the editor in chief of Modart Magazine and co-founder of the No New Enemies network, a non-profit organization that supports cross-disciplinary artistic production. In 2011, he opened Harlan Levey Projects with his partner Winnie Kwok. In April 2021, they will open HLP 1080, a new exhibition space in the city's Molenbeek neighborhood. Levey has been an invited guest lecturer at institutions including the Willem de Kooning Academy, The Royal College of Art (Den Hague), the Jan Van Eyck Academie, The Higher Institute for Fine Art (HISK), the Waag society, Burlington City Arts and others. He is an external expert for the European Commission's "Science, Technology, Arts (S+T+ARTS) program, a member of the Brussels Gallery Weekend committee and advisor to Art Brussels. Together with Amanda Sarroff, he recently co-edited “Emmanuel Van der Auwera: A Certain Amount of Clarity,” which was published by Mercator Fonds & Yale University Press in 2020.

1) Ella Littwitz, The Elephant in the Room, 2019, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Sankt Gallen. Photo: Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Gunnar Meier.

2) Emmanuel Van der Auwera, installation view of Open Skies, 2019, WIELS, Brussels. Photo: Alexandra Bertels.

3) Haseeb Ahmed, THE VORTEX FACED BEING, 8 seconds, looping GIF, Non-fungible token,1920×1080 pixels, Open edition

4) HLP 1080, Gallery view


I live and work in Brussels, Belgium.⁠

“Belgium has been in a semi-lockdown since October, with restaurants and bars closed, and rules requiring residents to work from home and limiting social contacts to one person per household. Up to four people are allowed to meet outside, as long as they wear face masks and respect social-distancing rules. Last week, in response to an increasing number of new cases and a rise in the number of hospitalized patients, the Belgian authorities tightened the rules, ordering hairdressers and beauty salons to close and allowing nonessential stores to serve customers by appointment only.”⁠

My contribution to the Artist News Network will not be headlines or articles or suggestions related to news or personal political sensibilities. Reading news these days often makes me depressed, frustrated, sad or angry.⁠

So first, I’m sharing an image of an artwork by Emmanuel Van der Auwera that deals with media aesthetics, criticality and white noise, along with a picture I took yesterday.⁠

I spent Easter Sunday working with my partner Winnie and then in the studio of two artists we collaborate with. Manual labor is always rewarding. It’s all matters and that absurd extra mile is where you often cross the most interesting ideas.⁠

Belgium tends to make the international headlines for one of two reasons: surrealist political disgrace or excellence in contemporary art and culture. If you check the news about our neighborhood (Molenbeek), you only find dark stuff. “10 reasons you should never visit,’ “why it’s a no-go zone,” and worse and worse and worse and worse. Just google "Molenbeek" and you'll see what I mean. Yet if I walk around the neighborhood it’s so vibrant and full of promise. The energy is infectious. So today instead of sharing news, I want to share info on a few of the many inspirational cultural organizations in the area including some of the most avant-garde dance companies like Meg Stuart’s “Damaged Goods” (@megstuart_damagedgoods @megstuart33) and Wim Vandekeybus’s Ultima Vez (@ultimavezofficial @wimvandekeybus), projects harnessing youth potential like the Molenbeek Rebels (@molenbeek_rebels) and Molengeek (@molengeek), the dirty old VK (@vkconcerts) where your shoes always stick to the floor as you dance or Art2work (@insta2work), the company of a true social entrepreneur and political activist named Wim Embrechts (@embrechts.w).

Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods:

Wim Vandekeybus/Ultima Vez:

Molenbeek Rebels:⁠



Art2work/Wim Embrechts:

Here are pictures of my local supermarket and the flea market nearby. They were taken by Abner Preis as part of his “Superhero Project” a decade ago. The type of civic imagination and care this project stimulated seems far too absent in the city today. The notion of solidarity falls apart at the political level, is further diluted by unhealthy media narratives and new communication strategies are needed to rebuild trust and a sense of togetherness. News and government have left people confused, emotional and constructing opinions on opinions instead of facts. There is a need for enhanced civic responsibility, but lately that seems to be lacking too. I’m hoping common sense will make a comeback.⁠

Something we won’t see in the headlines, but in Belgium I don’t understand why supermarket employees who have been on the “frontline” for so long now, don’t have access to vaccines as other “essential” workers do. From the toilet paper hording to the odd April snow, these folks have been dealing with challenges minute by minute and smiling all the time. At some point the government stated that plain clothes officers would be inspecting and fining shop owners for failing to maintain new regulations. It would be just as easy to ask uniformed officers to stop in and help improve the situation. Why bully, scare, threaten and punish when you could actually help out? It’s an ugly top down approach that hasn’t changed in over a year of semi lockdown.⁠

The flea market, a cultural staple in Brussels, has been closed for the whole period. Merchants are left to wrestle with the riddles of why their businesses must remain closed while similar areas of endeavor have been able to open. They then must wrestle with the bigger question of how to pay bills, taxes and survive.⁠

No matter what your situation is this year, you’ve had a lot of challenges: psychologically, physically, emotionally and financially. Here’s a headline: be nice, be super, be grateful …. Nobody has had a good time, but some people have had it much worse than others. The future is now.⁠

I have this friend I've never met. Every so often he sends me a book out of the blue. He's added four to my library this year.⁠

In our last correspondence we exchanged a bit about Bruce Conner and a sort of game began. I said Conner was something of a theosophist and a true seeker. He asked if Conner was a true seeker or a real finder, then he jumped to Mondrian. Conner to Mondrian? Mondrian: A real theosophist or a true finder? And on it went, artist to artist, decade to decade - real to true, true to real, how both fall apart in the 21st century. ⁠

A few days later I received a book in the mail.⁠


Since telling Max that I prefer not to share more 'news,' I've been trying not to check the news either, but this is tough. I'm addicted. Instead of a full fast, it's been more of an intermittent one, but today this big beautiful book is my go to when I get that craving for info.⁠

Very hectic since before sunrise. Sky is blue. Air is crisp. April snow all week, but today slightly warmer. Pleasant. City is only somewhat slower than usual as semi lockdown continues..⁠

In the spirit of another day of not sharing news .... more books!⁠

Yesterday I mentioned IT'S ALL TRUE.⁠
Other books I've been enjoying this week⁠

Notes from the Woodshed - Jack Whitten⁠
Particular Cases - Boris Groys⁠
zen concrete & etc - d.a. levey⁠
The Brummstein - Peter Adolphsen⁠