Hugo Roelandt + Nightlife
film by Jess De Gruyter + performance by Simon Van Schuylenbergh, Helena Araújo and Charlotte Nagel
Hugo Roelandt (1950-2015) was a pioneer in photography, performance and installation art and a prominent figure of the Antwerp avant-garde of the 1970s and 1980s. He deliberately operated outside the art market and had an eye for social questions, for example, he depicted ‘fluidity’ of identity and gender as early as the mid-1970s in a way that is still relevant today.
In the early 1990s, poet and filmmaker Jess De Gruyter (1973) studied photography at the Academy in Antwerp. In the third year, he was taught by performance pioneer Hugo Roelandt, who soon became his visual arts mentor. The two remained friends until Hugo’s death in 2015. Jess found it tragic that he only got to see the works Hugo had talked about at length all those years for the first time at a posthumous retrospective. Heavily impressed by the diversity and freshness of this body of work, which is barely known, De Gruyter conceived the plan to make a film about Hugo’s life and work, as a tribute to his mentor.
For this, he interviewed colleagues, friends and partners and gained access to the entire archive housed at the M HKA. It culminated in a 45-minute trip through the Belgian avant-garde art world of the 1970s and 1980s. The enormously imaginative enthusiasm, but also the inescapable tragedy of this enigmatic performer run like a thread through this documentary.
In 2016, Netwerk Aalst paid tribute to Hugo Roelandt in collaboration with New Reform Archive. The exhibition Hugo Roelandt – Post(ume) Witness focused on the art activities he realised in his hometown Aalst in the 1970s and 1980s.
Under the name ‘Nightlife’, Helena, Simon and Charlotte will host a series of events within Brussels that combines the context of ‘queer cabaret’ (performative short acts, performance of the self) with Performance Art in collaboration with queer performers and peers that are not used to operate in the context. For this performance, the two hosts will host each other. Through a mixture of personal stories, situations, accidents, they cheer each other and the space up in crave for the potential of transformation. They do this by activating questions that are already on the space, until the political and the poetic start to intertwine.
As a preparation for this performance, Simon shares his practice of crave and disgust, good bad taste and performing failure with Helena’s dreaming make-up practices and performance, mostly by mixing voice, sound and theatre tools with improvisation.
Film by Jess De Gruyter
BE – 44′
Simon Van Schuylenbergh and Helena Araújo