George Rippon at WIELS

Artist: George Rippon

Exhibition title: Upper Lower Middle

Venue: WIELS, Brussels, Belgium

Date: April 3 – 28, 2019

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and WIELS, Brussels

A body of work from George Rippon, resident at WIELS in 2017

This was planned to be fun and easy, so let’s try to make it something.

The title Upper Lower Middle refers to order, position, status. This also gestures above to the three terraces attached to the side of the WIELS building. Directly underneath, the Project Room at WIELS is the context for nine silhouettes painted on two of the walls. These are portraits of some of the people involved in the WIELS residency during my one year stay. They are given equal standing, being placed at the same height in no hierarchical order. Facing these are three different versions of an American made industrial trash can, the middle of which is from the basement of my father’s apartment building. Inside these are handmade oil diffusers, each with a different, unique blend of essential oils.

I would like this part to be heartfelt and personal. Anna and I arrived in Brussels on January 8, 2016. I had applied the previous year for the WIELS residency and wasn’t accepted. After reapplying, I was selected for the following year. In the beginning, there were 10 of us: Eitan Gregor Jannis Jelena Kim Pedro Sinzo Sirah Teresa and myself. Our studios could only be accessed by first walking through the institution, then out on to one of three catwalks up above the parking lot. Of course, Willem Simon and Sylvie were there to catch us. We would meet on Wednesdays in the cafe at WIELS for coffee and sometimes a snack, then normally go around the studios for a while. After we would visit the Bar à Nelson. Sometimes we would watch films in the auditorium, such as The Day is Done, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One or the film montages of Peter Roehr. We would also screen our own work for each other. We learned about the vacuum form machine in the belly of the building. We gave presentations to the public about our work. We began to know each other. There were studio visits. In February, Monika had her show Woman Function at Etablissment d’en face. Unfortunately, by the end of March Sinzo’s time was up. He was replaced for the remainder of the year by Kos. We prevailed, and managed to make many trips around Brussels, visiting places such as the Atelier de Moulage Cinquantenaire and Clabots. We also went to see events in Belgium, like the Carnival de Binche. We travelled to Munster and Kassel, we had dinner at Sylvie’s house. We emailed each other: songs, pictures, notes, invitations. Then it was summer, and some had to leave. There was a dinner at Jour de Fête, we ate we drank we laughed and we danced. Then seven were gone, and only five more took their place; Anna Susanna Dareen Elizabeth Sine and Timmy arrived in July. It was sad to say goodbye, and strange to stay on. There was more of the same again, and sometimes something new. More coffee, more visits, another public presentation. Rita McBride had an exhibition in the Museum titled Explorer, while simultaneously an exhibition Something Stronger Than Me* unfolded over several months. It was framed as “an exercise … echo[ing] the primary practice of the WIELS artist residency programme.” Anna and I visited Pedro in Lisbon in September to show at his space, Marquise. Dana had her show Made in Decision here in the Project Room in October. She had been living in the same street as us since we arrived the previous year. Another trip, to the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp, was very nice. The Female Genius Club had an evening in the Project Room, pink drinks were served and there were some readings, screenings, music. A Kathy Acker documentary was sent around. There was a trip to Oostende that I missed, where they visited the Mu.Zee and De Ooievaar, a Modernist villa built in Oostende in 1935 by the Belgian architect Jozef De Bruycker, which Lucy McKenzie owns and is restoring. We made our own trip to see Willems’ Geheugenspoor tapestries at LLS 387 in Antwerp. And then, so quickly, the year was coming to an end. A rewatching of The Day is Done felt appropriate, books should be returned, and another evening at Nelson. Eva and her mother made us paella at her apartment on top of Altitude 100, and we ate and drank together. I made this body of work to reflect and celebrate this time. I also stayed in Brussels.