This series of images originates from Harry Gruyaert’s (Belgium, 1941) complicated relationship with his native country. Already in 1962, the artist left Belgium for his new home town Paris. He was driven by a longing to be freed from the catholic and strict environment in which he was brought up, and by an urge to discover new, culturally exciting horizons. In the early 1970s, after living abroad for several years and traveling the world extensively, Gruyaert had acquired enough distance to look at Belgium as an outsider, with a fresh eye. To his surprise, what he saw was a visually interesting place, one he started to travel to regularly to photograph.
The resulting images perfectly capture the Belgian Zeitgeist of the 1970s and 1980s. Watching these village festivities, carnival parades and processions, today’s spectators may be filled with melancholic feelings. Belgium, characterised by a lack of true national sentiment, was portrayed by Gruyaert in all its diversity: from silent country side views and catholic rituals and devotions to expressions of the Burgundian nature of its inhabitants in wild parties and alcohol-drenched evenings spent at the local café until the break of dawn. Belgian surrealism is never far away in these humoristic images that show Gruyaert’s skill in perfectly capturing the specific atmosphere of a given place and time.
In this screening, two images of the series are simultaneous confronted in a dyptique. The montage, accompanied by the atmospheric music of Tuur Florizoone especially created for this film, offers the viewer the chance to experience Gruyaert’s work in a new way. It is an illustration of the way the artist explores the photo montage to present his work to the public in future projects.