Smell the oil... at 'Conflict & Design' in C-Mine, Genk
After the coalmines closed, the mining site in Winterslag remained empty for years. When I was a teenager, the beautiful and impressive buildings just stood there, as a silent reminder of the past, surrounded by sheep happily feasting on the high grass. We used to go there for walks, secret parties or to take those 'look-at-me-being-cool-in-old-buildings' pictures.
These days, C-mine has given a second life to the area. Right now you can go visit the expo Conflict & Design there.
Design these days is more than new pretty chairs, vases and posters. Designers focus on our society with all its needs, problems, curiosities and characteristics. They are well aware of the impact they can -or maybe even have to- make with their work. The seventh Design Triennial shows design inspired by the many conflicts we are confronted with on a daily base.
One of the first works presented, MIOS (Museum in our Street) by Studio Dott and Pantopicon, is also one of my favourites. Do you know who your neighbours are? Do you ever talk to them or invite them over for coffee? Do you water their plants when they're on vacation? Or is your neighbour just a stranger? MIOS provides you with a kit to turn your window into a small display, and encourages you to visit, like or comment on the displays of your neighbours. Cleverly using the tools we know so well from social media, MIOS attempts to bring your neighbourhood closer together.
Studio Dott and Pantopicon, 'Mios'
Of course I also have to mention Socialmatter's gorgeous installation on Farming Pollution. Many home oil tanks in Flanders are leaking, contaminating the soil. Giacomo Piovan presents a system where plants and microorganisms actively clean polluted ground. Piovan's work is closely related with Genk and its coalmines and automotive industry, giving the polluted industrial soil a new chance for the next generation. What better place to show his work than C-mine, risen from the remains of those old mines?
Giacomo Piovan (Socialmatter), 'Farming Pollution'
And then there's Niek Kosten's 'Manifest voor Winterslag Cité', the chair that grows like popcorn by Carl De Smet, Bart Lens's Blue Table, Cohen Van Balen's video about machines that become a part of ourselves, the beautiful material-oriented objects by Linde Hermans...
If you frequent exhibitions about design, you won't see much new at 'Conflict & Design'. Yet, seeing work in a new context can lead to fresh insights. Furthermore, the old mine buildings are worth a visit anyway. And most of all, you don't want to miss out on the superb illustrations of Jenny Stieglitz that spruce up the expo.
Niek Kosten, 'Manifest voor Winterslag'
(part of an) illustration by Jenny Stieglitz
Conflict & Design runs until the 7th of March at C-Mine in Genk. The exhibition is open daily and can be visited for free.