Divination instrument from Mayombe (Congo)
Divination tools were used in Mayombe by a nganga or ritual expert and exist in many forms. They can be elaborate sculptures in anthropomorphic or zoomorphic form, but also closed and filled shapeless objects such as parcels or existing utensils such as baskets, boxes, and bottles. Horns or shells were filled with indefinable substances and sealed with resin. Stuffed and tightly closed sacks are also known, such as this one with a patina of red earth, a beaded necklace, and a bell. Such locked objects refer to the idea of a stored content of forces trapped in it and brought under control by the nganga.*
Ugo Dehaes is a choreographer who not only wants to make people dance, but objects too. His work always starts from his fascination for movement and a scientific interpretation of the world. Ugo works as a dancer, actor, coach, and dramatist. In recent years he has mainly choreographed objects such as drones, homemade robots, and bacteria. In 2018, he developed a giant stalactite. Stalactites do not move, but are formed by movement. Water seeps down rock walls, taking small chunks of material; they solidify again and form an icicle. Dehaes pays tribute to the long history of movement. He didn’t just make a stalactite, he made one that can dance.
* This object is part of an academic collection and the conversation about the decolonization of this heritage is currently ongoing.
Petri dishes microbiological research
Laboratory of Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
11.5 (#3 2021)
Katelijne De Corte
Materials: Wooden box, petri dishes and other lab equipment, jeans
Artist Katelijne De Corte approached microbiologist Sarah Lebeer (UAntwerp) in 2017 with a question that was both simple and challenging: can a memory be made tangible? And, if so, how? The question presented itself when the artist was confronted with the loss of her partner. During the conversations that followed, the question was put differently: what can a microbiologist and an artist do together to make the memory of a loved one tangible?
Without realizing it, Katelijne’s question touched on the latest insights in microbiology. Huge technological developments have enabled microbiologists to collect data on a global scale. These show that people conduct a continuous exchange of bacterial organisms and microorganisms with each other and with their environment. The greater the proximity, the greater the exchange of material. The DNA involved in these exchanges can sometimes even stay present for quite some time. As such, these exchanges could provide a starting point for efforts to acquire tangible memory.
Mechanical Calculator (Precisa model 117) (ca. 1960-1970)
GUM (UGent), History of Science Collection
Luck of the Draw (2021)
Performance with Rummikub
A calculator can at least perform the four main operations (addition, subtraction, multiply and divide); unlike a counting machine with which only additions and possibly differences can be calculated. This mechanical calculator (so without electric drive and without electronic components) from the Swiss brand Precisa is actually a clone of the Swedish FACIT calculator from the late 1940s. The working mechanism of these devices is based on the use of cam discs (the so-called ‘Sprossenrad’ technique). Such devices were colloquially often referred to as ‘coffee grinders’.
In his performance Luck of the Draw (2021), artist Lodewijk Heylen pits two players against each other in a game of Rummikub. The game can only end if it is completed in one go. When the correct numbers are not drawn, the players must start from the beginning by selecting new blocks. This scenario repeats until the game is won. Next to the game table, a mechanical calculator is on display. The logic of the calculator’s working mechanism is in stark contrast with the fruitless attempt of the players to beat probability.
Lodewijk Heylen completed his doctoral research in the arts at Hasselt University in May 2021. As a contextual artist, he is active in urban space with on-site installations, organizational and long-term research projects, and artistic interventions. With his work he attempts to explore and represent the complexity of human existence.
Mitten Crab Trap
1/20 scale prototype
Caught Fish City Fish (2018)
White natural clay, screen printed poster, live performance
The Chinese mitten crab is a freshwater crab that came to Europe as an exotic species. It ended up in European rivers via ballast water from international shipping. They are mainly bottom dwellers. As they have no natural enemies here, they have a significant impact on local flora and fauna. That is why the Flemish Environmental Agency (VMM) and the University of Antwerp designed these specific traps that only catch this crab species and thus do not disturb other organisms. As a result, in the last two years more than a million crabs were caught in Grobbendonk.
This trap is a prototype to scale, therefore it is a non-functional object. It is connected here with visual artist Karel Verhoeven’s fish project, which is invariably site-specific. Verhoeven is fascinated by fishermen—whose craft is under pressure. He explored urban waters and the fish that live in them. For OVERLAP, Verhoeven is looking for the native fish in the rivers of the Flemish central cities. He moulds the results in white river clay that he deliberately does not bake. At the end of the project, he wants to put the dried fish in the water. The clay will mix with the water and the sculptures will dissolve and transform into sludge. The result of this research is printed and published as a poster (with a text by Emi Kodama).
Bust in Plaster
Didactic museum archeology
16mm / 4K video, 15 min
The classical marble statues were not always completely white. At the time, a large number of copies were painted in hopes of making the images look vibrant. Over the centuries, the pigments faded. Renaissance artists, who often did not know that the images once had a colourful top layer, interpreted the virginal sculptures as ultimate symbols of purity. From this imagination and canonization of ancient sculpture, the urge arose to whiten other images as well. Replicas in softer materials, for decoration or as study objects, were frequently duplicated in plaster, which is naturally white. White was the ultimate canvas upon which viewers can project their dreams. This plaster head is a cast of a marble specimen which is located in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. However, this image is in turn a copy of a bronze original in the style of Myron from ca. 450 BC. Various classic marbles go back to bronze originals that were lost. Didactic plaster collections were mainly popular in the first half of the last century to make antiquity more accessible to the general public. The KU Leuven obtained a large part of its cast collection as part of the reparations by the German government after WW I.
The art production of the Vanuatu archipelago in Oceania is famous and can be seen in the largest museums worldwide. Over time, filmmakers have also discovered Vanuatu and their people and made their culture the subject of their work and imagination. In LAP filmmaker Christina Stuhlberger documents the fictional road trip of a tribal art object from Vanuatu that has magically escaped from a showcase in the Louvre in Paris. It is a sculpture that was taken by a French anthropologist and applications for its restitution have been repeatedly rejected by the French Government. With her small-scale approach, Stuhlberger questions dominant colonial visual regimes.
Parts of the Big Chandelier (2020)
Metal buckets, metal fittings, candles
Chiwara (Ci Wara, or Tyi Wara) mask from the Bamana from Mali with an antelope’s head. Ci Wara — meaning “wild animal that works”—is a mythical creature that taught the Bamana people how to farm. Under the leadership of Ci Wara, people first learned to work the land. Thus, the Bamana became prosperous and skilled farmers. Even today, the majority of Bamana are self-sufficient farmers. These headdresses are made to honour the original mythical creature. They combine traits of animals that are important within the Bamana culture, such as the antelope, the Aardvark and the Armored Pangolin.*
Visual artist Dirk Zoete is fascinated by identity and the link between man and nature. He has often worked with straw, hay, and animal excrement. A few years ago, he made a big chandelier out of ground metal buckets. The engravings are faces, souls of the earth. The buckets lost their functionality and became ghosts. They have crowns of candles. Zoete flirts with mythology and fertility rituals. He plays the game of the elements: water, earth, fire, and air.
* This object is part of an academic collection and the conversation about the decolonization of this heritage is currently ongoing.
Chicken Egg Development (before 1793)
André Pierre Pinson
Egg Terror (2019)
Kasper De Vos
Plaster, sackcloth, wood, tension straps and air mattress
A series of wax models demonstrate the development of the avian embryo in the egg. The bird embryo is not just a concrete example of the development of an entire animal class, the chordates, but also outlines a major part of the development of life on Earth. This is how birds would have been the last living representatives of the dinosaurs. We can learn a lot about the evolution of species from the study of embryology. In this way we, as human beings, are connected with the infinite evolutionary cycle too.
What came first? The chicken or the egg? This apparently futile discussion is the basis of age-old philosophical problems. The discussion touches upon our deep desire for meaning, but also upon the question to our origin. Who are we and where do we come from? Artist Kasper De Vos made a giant egg. The egg is a kind of archetype that raises questions about beginning and end, outside and inside, production and consumption, content versus protection, fragility, tension, and movement. Because of the Covid-19 crisis the egg appears more relevant than ever since eggs (and more specifically protein) are central in viral research and form the basis for vaccines.
Sh(e)(a)rds – Guns are Gay (2014-2021)
Steel, wood, paper, glass
During restoration work on the Infirmary of the Leuven Great Beguinage, large quantities of medieval pottery were found. It concerns tableware and kitchen utensils: glazed and unglazed pitchers, dishes, plates, and bowls that were used daily within the walls of the beguinage. Ceramic is almost indestructible, and therefore very interesting from an archaeological point of view for determining types, techniques, and the chronological development of utensils. For this, especially the most significant pieces, such as ears, rims, spouts, and bottoms are stored. The mould, clay paste, surface finish and decoration of a shard provide a wealth of useful information to archaeologists.
The archaeological potsherds from the KU Leuven collection enter into a dialogue with the work by sculptor Nicolas Baeyens (ARIA, Royal Academy Antwerp). Since 2020, Baeyens has been working on a doctorate in the arts ‘The medium is the memory, the carrier the souvenir’. With this research he investigates how memory functions as a medium for the art work. He also questions the physical work of art that is often merely technically carrying a concept. For example, he questions the material character of a work of art by viewing it as a changeable carrier of an immaterial message that is being shaped and reshaped by the spectator’s memory. The pieces on display are cut-out parts of a large steel artwork that has been transformed. Like the potsherds, they were originally part of a larger piece. The potsherds also evoke the memory of the object that we no longer know, but create cognitively.
Cross-section of Fossil Sea Snail
Legibility Revisited (2008-2021)
Print on different types of paper
The Campanile giganteum is an extinct sea snail species that lived in our region during the Eocene. The house of this species could be gigantic: up to almost one meter in length. The exhibited Campanile giganteum is a cross-section of a specimen of about thirty centimetres. That length matches with a growth period of only three to four years from a snail’s life. During growth, the lime of the cochlea records information about the environment in the subtropical sea in which the animal lived, approximately 45 million years ago. Chemical analysis of the lime from the tip of the shell to the base thus shows annual fluctuations in seawater temperature. In order to do these analyses, the shell was first embedded in an epoxy resin. The brown material is the sediment of the seabed with which the shell was partially filled.
Prof. Dr Ann Bessemans is an award-winning typographic designer, designer, and researcher. She is a readability specialist and founder of the READSEARCH (PXL-MAD / UHasselt). This initiative looks at type-design from practice and confronts this practice with an interdisciplinary scientific perspective. For OVERLAP Ann Bessemans will work with reading rhythm and the visualization of the spoken word. She unravels the usefulness of stripe patterns as a basis for legibility and reading comfort. She considers language, just like images, to be a form of communication. Bessemans gives shape to a total artwork in which rhythm and visualization of language are central. The viewers are invited to influence the work themselves and take some of it home with them.
History of the Sciences Collection
Golden Sun Disc (2017)
Louis De Cordier / COSCO
Gold plated CNC brass plate (95% copper & 5% zinc),
gold (100% gold)
A tellurium is an instrument to demonstrate how the Earth’s rotation, both on its own axis and around the sun, causes day and night and the different seasons. In this copy the sun is replaced by a burning candle behind which a concave mirror is placed. On the plate, applied under the globe, the zodiac is depicted and the different months and seasons are indicated. Based on the geographical representation on the globe, this instrument is dated between 1894 and 1905.
The Golden Sun Disc is a time disc designed by conceptual artist Louis De Cordier. The plate shows sacred geometry, earth sciences, and astronomy. The Golden Disc of the Sun, an archaeological artifact of the Future, is an expression of artistic and technological creation and a symbol of introspection on a human scale. Louis De Cordier creates metaphysical works of art that pursue both a scientific and social impact. Inspired by the relationship between art and science De Cordiers sees himself as a contemporary homo universalis. As an extension of his visual oeuvre, he is also a poet, photographer, documentarian, researcher, activist, and librarian. At the base of De Cordiers oeuvre is an analysis of Western cosmic awareness. Together with artist and biologist Angelo Vermeulen he has been making space-biologically inspired creations for several years now.
Xylarium (petrified tree fossil)
Fluorescent tube, concrete plaster
These tree stumps are part of the Xylarium. There are three stumps, two wide ones and a thin one. The three were placed inside each other: the narrow stump is at the top and takes the entire length of the two smaller stumps. The three stumps have different origins and were brought together for this installation. The Xylarium collection consists of about 500 wooden blocks and includes mainly European and African species. Most present species are known as commercial wood species with specific applications. Some woodblocks from the Xylarium are still used in the university colleges to identify certain species.
Artist Kevin Trappeniers (°1985) develops a tranquil, visual, physical, and often wordless artistic language in detailed, sensory work at the intersection of performing and visual arts. Landscape, silence, light, and bodies in the broadest sense of the word translate themes such as isolation, communication, and the relationship between man-man and man-nature. Influenced by geology and archaeology, a human trace shows as a silent witness from the futuristic past. A Plastiglomerate as a Relic of the modern time. It is an artifact whose scale is deliberately unclear. The object shows a still human-sized landscape—a small-scale island in which an oversized fossil has solidified, or a whole fossil carved out of a larger fused whole. A brittle and fragile, non-functional technofossil that questions people, the environment, and the impact of the former on the latter.
Zeiss Opton microscope
GET AWAY SORROW OF THE WORLD (2017 – 2020)
A0 blueprint / performance report
Silkscreen on Steinbach 220gr., oak frame
This stereo microscope has two eyepieces, one for each eye, to give the user an image with depth. The tripod is a chrome-plated support, mounted on a round black lacquered metal foot. The grey tube with cord is a light source. In this way, a beam of light is aimed at the item to be examined. The microscope was used in the Electrotherm lab for research into industrial heating techniques. The microscope was produced by the Zeiss company. After WWII, the company split into Zeiss Opton (with a branch in Oberkochen) and Zeiss Jena.
Frank&Robbert Robbert&Frank are visual artists, performers, and videomakers. In 2015 they made a small wooden case that they activate in the public space through a performance. In the briefcase is a fold-out panel with the words: GO AWAY SORROW OF THE WORLD! Robbert&Frank repeat this one performance in as many places in the world as possible in many local languages. Consciously or unconsciously, people hear the message, which makes it resonate in the universe.
With their blueprint version of the wooden briefcase, they share the construction plan of their artwork as open source. They not only question the autonomy of the work of art, but also denounce the valuation and framing structure of the artwork within a gallery context. The work is an ode to science, invention, and DIY.
History of Science Collection
Carrara marble, honey, red wine, olive oil, glasses
jars with lid
A bezoar or enterolite is a mass, fossilized or not, present in the gastrointestinal tract of animals. This specimen was recovered from a Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) and was collected by botanist Dr Henri Van Heurck (1838-1909). A bezoar is caused by repeated and frequent ingestion of indigestible or difficult to digest material such as hair. This causes layers of gastric deposits to turn around the indigestible substance. The presence of a bezoar is often asymptomatic unless it causes obstruction. In the past, medicinal properties were attributed to bezoars.
The bezoar seems almost mythical. It is an absurd object. It is an object of patience, almost like a reverse pearl. The link with the three pots by artist Athar Jaber is direct. Jaber is a sculptor (ARIA, Royal Academy Antwerp). Jaber’s works of art are created by taking away material. They are the opposite of the bezoar, which is built up layer by layer in an acidic environment. For this job the artist kept track of the cut marble grit. He put these little stones in pots. Per pot Jaber pours a liquid with the stones: oil, honey, or red wine. Originally, the artist wanted to test whether the stones would become coloured. The destructive environment affected the marble. But while waiting for discoloration, a different consciousness developed: they became objects of worship. They are heavy and bulky. They change internally. The liquids are those from the religious scriptures. The acid of the wine slowly dissolves the lime of the marble. The honey crystallizes. The oil thickens.
Wall Plate ‘Chart of Nuclides’ (1970)
History of Science Collection
Periodic Table of Elementaries 2020 (2018-2020)
Annelys de Vet
A2 print on recycled paper, euro pallet
An atom is the smallest particle that still shows all the properties of a substance. In other words, an atom forms the unique building block of each chemical element. Each individual atom is composed of even smaller particles such as protons, neutrons, and electrons. All atoms of a given element have the same number of protons, but the number of neutrons in the atomic nucleus can vary. Atoms of a particular element with different numbers of neutrons are called isotopes. These can sometimes be unstable or radioactive. Those isotopes decay while blasting charged particles and they transition into more stable elements. We can use a nuclide map as a more extensive variant of the periodic system. In this, each isotope has its own place in contrast to the periodic table. This wall map from 1970 shows all known nuclides at that time.
Annelys de Vet (ARIA, Sint Lucas Antwerp) is a designer, researcher, artist, and teacher. She investigates the role of design in relation to public and political discourse. With ‘Periodic Table of Elementaries 2020’ Annelys de Vet makes a contemporary interpretation of a periodic table based on social and artistic principles. This work has been in development since 2018 and is updated annually. She opts for the same design as that of a periodic card and thus flirts with the emotional charge of in themselves neutral terms.
Scale Model of a Farm
City in Reverse (2017)
Acrylic on plastic in plexiglass box with lid (A4)
This model is part of a historic collection of agricultural models. The model was made by the German State and donated to KU Leuven. In the period after WW1, until the 1960s, Prof. Clement Van Himbeeck and Prof. Vic Goedseels gave the lecture ‘Farm construction’ in which, among other things, the history of farms was presented. This model is the corner of a building with a saddleback roof made of wood and steel elements. The model shows the construction of the roof in different phases. The top of the structure contains a royal style that rests on the truss. It is supported at each end by a corbel. The model also shows the gutters, the cornice, and the top of the facades.
In her research, visual artist Karen Vermeren (ARIA, Sint Lucas Antwerp) discusses the traditional views of landscape painting. Her work searches for new representations of the geological landscape in two-dimensional on-site installations. Vermeren questions the approach of the natural landscape and emphasizes the dependence on human structuring and viewpoint. For her ‘landscapes’ she takes—in the first place from her fascination with the power of plate tectonics—the geological landscape as a basis. In the Earth’s crust, tectonic plates only shift several centimetres per year. They push and they pull, creating mountains and gorges. Karen translates this physical process to society, which also pushes and pulls, moves and changes. These constant changes are often barely visible, but they can be felt clearly. She tries to catch the gentle way physical changes in her environment occur under the influence of time.