New Year’s letter from artistic director Adinda Van Geystelen

We are not going to mince our words. It has been a difficult year. For you, for me, for all of us. Everyone experienced a setback: big or small, young or old. A missed opening party, a lost friend, a lack of prospects. Grief is not a competition. We will probably not hear again next year that everything used to be better.

The Grand Opening (or not)

Z33 was facing an important moment in 2020. After years of hard work, March 14 was our big day. Francesca Torzo designed a new architectural gem, the eye-catcher in the heart of Hasselt. The guests had already prepared their best outfit, the DJ’s had chosen their records and the rooms were filled with many beautiful works of art. We were ready for a grand opening party that would be talked about for years. But everyone in Belgium remembers that press conference on March 13. The country was locked, our doors remained closed.

The party was not only ruined for the public, but also behind the scenes the lockdown came suddenly and unexpectedly.  And there you have it, as the new director. The familiar faces of every day suddenly became small, vague miniature screens. The warm proximity and Limburg cosiness had to make way for physical distance and poor wifi connections.

Yet something immediately struck me: the resilience of the people. The news hit us like a bomb, but we quickly started to clean up. New guidelines, walking directions, strict protocols and online registrations: the speed at which we transformed our building into a safe haven was impressive. When I saw the strength of my team, I was very proud.

I saw this resilience not only in us, but in many organisations. The surrounding shops started selling online, the restaurants redesigned the terraces and the hospitals braced themselves. I noticed the courage to keep looking for new ideas and perspectives. That was really heartwarming.

Creativity as the ultimate lifesaver

The crisis also forced us, as an art institution, to think. To a new way of thinking even. Society was expressed in essential and non-essential professions. What place do art and culture occupy? Because art should be seen, felt and experienced. Where do you get your inspiration when the streets, social places and theatres are empty? How many people can safely enjoy an exhibition at the same time? What is public space? Where does the workplace end and the private space begin when you work at home in a flat?

The word ‘crisis’ of course has a very negative connotation. Whereas the origin of the word has meanings such as ‘decide’, ‘settle’, ‘direct’ and ‘judge’. So a crisis can also be seen as a ‘moment of truth’, with decisions that strongly influence the future.

Creativity was the ultimate remedy. Precisely the area in which artists, designers and architects excel. They think where others stop. They stimulate a different way of thinking. They look into the corner that everyone just passes by. They question the self-evident.

Showing talent from Limburg

Although it sometimes seemed that way, the world did not stand still in 2020. The world is still changing. Migration flows have an impact, the population is ageing, the gap between rich and poor is widening, we are concerned about political polarisation and the climate. Art helps us to deal with that complexity. Imagination helps us shape tomorrow’s society. That is the place Z33 wants to occupy.

The absence of travel and flights, however, makes our world smaller. But don’t look too far. We will do even more at Z33. We will keep our broad view and look around us well. Because Limburg is bursting with artistic talent.  We want to show that too.

We are going to do what we do best. Share stories and wonder. Stimulate conversations. With ReFORMAT, we will let ten young designers and architects have their say. All ready to (finally) show their work. With Déracinement we bring the world to Hasselt. We show poetic, personal migration stories.

Light us with your curiosity, share your questions about everything that is different. More than ever we look forward to those conversations with you as a visitor. Above all, let’s see each other soon. Our doors are open.

My best wishes for the new year.

Adinda Van Geystelen,

Artistic director Z33, House for Contemporary Art, Architecture & Design

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Adinda Van Geystelen