Initiative & Institution Symposium

Friday, 07.03.08, 18.30
‘beginners & begetters’, wouter davidts


Wouter Davidts

Beginners & Begetters

In the summer of 2006 (29 June – 16 September), the exhibition Beginners & Begetters was held in the Contemporary Arts Centre Extra City in Antwerp, Belgium, as the second episode in the series Thinking Architecture. Beginners & Begetters the legendary book ‘Megastructure. Urban Futures of the Recent Past’ (Harper & Row, 1976) by British architectural historian and critic Reyner Banham. This obscure but in Banham’s words ‘remarkably forward-looking project’ by Jamagne is but one of the many schemes that architects, museum directors and officials dreamed up for the lacking infrastructure for institutions and museums of contemporary art in post-war Flanders. Due to the fact that it took until the mid-eighties and later for the three major museums in Antwerp, Ghent and Ostend to occupy their proper building, all three institutons have an elaborate pre-history of unbuilt projects and plans. Due to the most diverse reasons – such as persistent policy tussles, a manifest absence of political engagement and a structural shortage of financial resources – most of these initiatives were doomed to remain unrealized and unknown to the public.

Presenting a historical mapping of these manifold often visionary initiatives and projects of the recent past, the exhibition aimed to elicit a discussion on the role and significance of architecture in the initiation, framing and support of new and future art institutions in general, and within the Flemish landscape of art institutions in particular.

In my presentation, I will discuss the historical, theoretical and curatorial stakes of the project, and more specifically how they were articulated in the actual scenography of the exhibition. Departing from the aim to treat in an equal manner the quite diverse range of source materials – sketches, plans, perspectives, but also newspaper clippings, official letters, meeting reports, administrative documents, letters of intent, etc. – and the assorted projects of varying degrees of architectural interest, the show resorted merely to the graphical format and lay-out of posters, presented on straightforward tables.

Beginners & Begetters was conceived of as a sketch for a future book, and was developed in collaboration with graphic designers Vinca Kruk and Adriaan Mellegers and architect Tine Cooreman.


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