Hedwig Houben Borborygmus

19:30 - 20:00: performance Borborygmus by Hedwig Houben
20:00 - 20:15: short break
20:15 - 20:45: a conversation with Zoë Gray (senior curator WIELS) and Michiel Huijben (artist)

Hedwig Houben’s Borborygmus (2017) begins – as many of her recent performances – as an artist’s talk, with Houben seated behind a table on which several objects are placed. They are a black, plasticine motorcycle helmet and a series of long forms that resemble a string of beads, or perhaps sausages, made in a rather discomforting shade of brown plasticine. The tabletop appears at first to be pale pink marble, but later turns out to be made from multicoloured strata of plasticine.

Houben introduces her subject matter in a dry fashion, contextualizing the current piece in relation to earlier works. She discusses the increasing presence of “it” in her recent performances, as sensed by other characters of her recurring cast. There is a rather disconcerting contradiction between her academic language and manner of speaking and the objects before her. The work becomes more outspokenly absurd as Houben begins to make onomatopoeic noises, evoking the physical process of digestion or the mental process of contemplation.

“The intestines play a major role in causing a gut feeling”, Houben intones, deadpan, as she begins to handle the chain of bulbous forms, which we now cannot help but see as a part of a digestive system. Wearing the heavy helmet – with evident difficulty – the artist continues to mould the material in front of her while switching between strange moaning sounds and continuing her hypothesis, becoming increasingly out of breath as she continues. The true subject of her discourse remains slippery, just out of grasp, while her hands continue to grasp and distort the sculptural forms before her. As she claims enigmatically: “On a daily basis, it is very easy to believe in something.


Hedwig Houben (° 1983, Boxtel, NL) is a performance artist, using video and sculpture as main mediums, based in Brussels. She studied at AKV/St. Joost Breda, Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and has been a resident artist at HISK Ghent in 2010/11. Recent exhibitions includes “Theory of forms” (2017) at Permeke Museum, Belgium; “Solid Liquids” (2016) at Kunsthalle Munster, Germany; Lofoten Biennial (2015), Norway; and a participation to the “Unscene” show at Wiels, Brussels in 2015. Her performance “First, you learn to see; second, you try to understand; and third, you’re about to act” (2014) has been presented at the Gallery Fons Welters, Amsterdam. “The Hand, the Eye and it” (2013) performed at 1646, Den Haag; and “Five Possible Lectures on Six Possibilities for a Sculpture” (2012), at P/////AKT, Amsterdam. She was the recipient of the 2017 Charlotte Köhler Prize and a Prix de Rome nominee in 2015.