It is true that the collapse of the art installation by Arne Quinze will be remembered as one of the flops of Mons 2015. However, to reduce the urban art displayed in Mons to this Flemish artist alone would be a deplorable mistake. Having designed and coordinated the opening ceremony for Mons 2015, Philip Kauffmann has added another string to his bow by taking care of all urban installations across the city. Initially, this was not really a specialty for the scenographer, but that did not stop him from taking the plunge, with the help of several big names in street art (Bonom, Momo or Ox) and the city’s brand new look.
It is obvious from the locations he selected that he did not want to make the installations too ostentatious. “I wanted the works to surprise the people of Mons who were regularly using these lanes. I wanted them to pass by without noticing them at first…,” explains Kauffman. The surprise will be even more dazzling. Go Rue d’Enghien to discover the work of Atelier Pica Pica. The collective spent some time strolling through Mons in search of inspiration, and eventually based its Panorama on memorable images from its urban wanderings: a shop front, a sign, a person passing by… The hieroglyphics by the Liege artists served on Mons tiles freshen up what used to be a much duller, if not cut-throat, alleyway.
Square Saint-Germain, just opposite St Waudru Collegiate Church, passers-by will be able to take “angelic” selfies of themselves. These ephemeral ego trips are made possible by Filip Gilissen’s Spread your Wings. A stone’s throw away, on Rue Samson, the installation by the artivist Ox features billboards whose slogans will become more and more hard hitting over time. As for those looking for something to read, they will have fun following La Phrase by Karelle Ménine and Ruedi Baur. They should watch where they are going though, while this 10-kilometre sentence takes them past lamp posts and over treacherous cobble stones and pavements.
Let it be known that, in 2015, Mons is focussing on its street cred, displaying an eclecticism that is both comprehensive and refreshing. Philippe Kauffmann has achieved his goal with his selection: he avoided “off-the-peg” mindless art, giving the public total freedom in understanding the installations. Of course, it would be hard not to see a mischievous reference in Elodie Antoine’s Paresseux (Sloths) hanging from the trees on the university campus. The same goes for the Cascade bibliographique (Bibliographical Cascade) by Alicia Martin, falling onto Place Warocqué. There is another parallel Rue du 11 Novembre between the Hell’O Monsters eyeing the shack of Mons’s mayor, Mr Elio Di Rupo himself.
Mons is not interested in intellectualizing art; rather, the 2015 European capital has chosen fun connotations to stimulate dialogue, with a desire to change codes. “I took inspiration from other festivals precisely so that I would not copy what I saw.” Mission accomplished? You decide.
How long does it take to see all these works?
“I once completed the circuit in 1 hour and 17 minutes,” assures Philippe Kauffmann. Difficult to question the words of the artistic advisor/director. Yet, in the case of an average family, a whole tour of the street art will take at least two hours, as they stray off the path or get distracted by other frivolities. Not really an issue in a city that is literally transformed. And if they are lucky enough to get some sunshine, ambling visitors will have all the ingredients for a successful holiday afternoon.
Don’t wait too long, however, because the “contracts with the building owners run until September 21st,” explains Philippe Kauffmann. After that, the works will go back to the wild. From then on, depending on the political good-will, their fate will be like a lottery: conservation, deterioration, destruction… That’s what I call street art!