LABIOMISTA, Genk – The new season at LABIOMISTA, the evolving work of art by Koen Vanmechelen in collaboration with the city of Genk, reopens on 1 April. The main theme this season: Movement. The unique park is the place to be if you want to experience how the artist’s thinking has evolved, following his successful global tour in 2022. This year as well, there will be plenty of new artworks and projects to invite, challenge and inspire the park’s visitors.
Moving Pairs is Vanmechelen’s campaign image announcing the 2023 season, and representing this year’s theme: Movement. A ballerina embraces two white swans. Quietly, the trio waits for their pent-up energy to be released. For Koen Vanmechelen, 2023 is a year of evolution and preparation: “Movement symbolizes the tension between new elements. It arises from the convergence of different worlds. And it is a child of duality.” At the same time, the beautiful campaign image also refers to the swans that reside at the back of the park, on the pond in Protected Paradise.
"Movement symbolizes the tension between new elements. It arises from the convergence of different worlds. And it is a child of duality"
— Koen Vanmechelen, artist
As a work of art, LABIOMISTA is in constant motion. It evolves together with Vanmechelen’s unique vision and life’s work, centered on identity, fertility and biocultural diversity. “Movement is essential to LABIOMISTA, and to life itself, which keeps evolving. To move is to evolve, by and with others”, Vanmechelen says. A key concept is the Cosmopolitan Renaissance, a new, global narrative that is founded on the interconnectedness of all living things. Art, for Vanmechelen, is a means to create new stories within that concept.
The kick-off for all of this was a series of large and very well-received exhibitions in 2022, in the famous Uffizi Gallery in Florence (Italy), in Knokke (Belgium), and in Havana (Cuba). Using tools from other cultures as well as our own, the artist is now setting new things in motion in Genk as well.
As is demonstrated by new artworks, animals and projects, both within the confines of LABIOMISTA and outside the park itself. They are a renewed invitation for visitors to envision new connections for a different future. “We want LABIOMISTA to be a bridge to its surroundings and to the world; to people and animals. This year, we’ll be focusing even more on projects with and in our own neighbourhood, including the further expansion of Mixed Menu (LaVieBreede), and an educational package for local schools”, says Vanmechelen.
Wim Dries, mayor of Genk: “Genk is a city where you’ll find the world in all its diversity, represented by the roots of its citizens. It’s a city that’s constantly moving and developing – just like LABIOMISTA itself. We do this by committing ourselves even firmer to the ‘greening’ of our neighbourhoods, and depaving the city centre. And by creating connections: between residents, visitors and entrepreneurs. That is how we will move our entire community forward, including the neighbours of LABIOMISTA.”
Step inside LABIOMISTA’s gates, and you’ll notice that things are buzzing and moving here as well. Two new monumental sculptures have been added to the park: In Between and Golden Cord. In Between is a giant marble egg that has landed in the middle of the LabOvo pavilion. “The egg symbolizes a moment of origin. The energy that is contained within this pregnant form full of potential is able to create a future we can’t even imagine yet”, says Vanmechelen. And here’s another surprise: the ostriches have given way to zebras. “These zebras join the dromedaries at the back of the park. Their typical stripes symbolize balance and certainty”, according to the artist.
Golden Cord is another new addition. The monumental bronze sculpture is based on the skull of an eagle, plus a golden horn. “The golden horn is an umbilical cord that both represents connectivity and refers to the mythical unicorn, a symbol of ultimate goodness. This new work propels the visitor to the back section of the park, where they will bump into LaMouseion.” Come spring, work will start on Future Garden, a new landmark that will arise behind the large Cosmogolem statue. It will be an ecological statement, with a tapir enclosure and a research lab.
‘Movement’ is also the central theme of this year’s knowledge experiment in LaMouseion. This project, the name of which refers to the Mouseion of Alexandria, the legendary centre of arts and knowledge in ancient times, is explicitly aimed at young people. Under the banner of ‘The Unthinkable Experiment’, LABIOMISTA and its partner organisations (VUB/ULB, UHasselt, KU Leuven, Global Campus of Human Rights, MOUTH Foundation, OpUnDi Genk, and various local associations) this July will again bring together young people in the ‘think boxes’ located in the park. If you’re 18 to 28 years old and interested in participating, please register via LABIOMISTA’s website.
LABIOMISTA will both open and close this season with an Open Studio: on Sunday 2 April and Sunday 5 November, respectively. These are unique opportunities to take a peek behind the scenes of ‘The Battery’, Vanmechelen’s imposing studio, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. Also mark 28 May in your calendar, as this is the Day of the Cosmogolem, a children’s rights party, celebrating the potential of children and young people. The main theme of this year’s edition will be Figure of Speech: what can images tell us? Also this year, there’ll be extra movement on LABIOMISTA’s educational packages, which allow young people to explore the world in a different way.