‘Eurasia – A Landscape of Mutability’ exhibition at Antwerp’s M HKA modern arts museum

Thanh’s favourite room in the museum.

On Friday, the ‘Eurasia‘ exhibition opened at Antwerp‘s modern arts museum M HKA or Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst in Antwerpen. As museumPASSmusées holders, Thanh and I visited the exhibition on a beautiful autumn Saturday. 

Thanh contemplating a map.

What is Eurasia? Wikipedia describes Eurasia as “the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia“.

Science

Primarily in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, it spans from the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula in the west to Japan in the east. The continental landmass is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Africa to the west, the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and by Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean to the south.

The division between Europe and Asia as two continents is a historical social construct, as they have no clear physical separation between them; thus, in some parts of the world, Eurasia is recognized as the largest of the six, five, or four continents on Earth.

Eurasia covers around 55,000,000 square kilometres (21,000,000 sq mi), or around 36.2% of the Earth’s total land area. 

It is home to the largest country in the world, Russia. The landmass contains well over five billion people, equating to approximately 70% of the human population. 

Humans first settled in Eurasia between 60,000 and 125,000 years ago. Some major islands, including Great Britain, Iceland, Ireland, and Sri Lanka, as well as those of Japan, the Philippines, and most of Indonesia, are often included in the popular definition of Eurasia, despite being separate from the contiguous landmass.

There are not enough penises exhibited in art and museums.

Humans

Physiographically, Eurasia is a single continent.The concepts of Europe and Asia as distinct continents date back to antiquity, and their borders are geologically arbitrary and have historically been subjected to occasional change. 

Eurasia is connected to Africa at the Suez Canal, and Eurasia is sometimes combined with Africa to make the largest contiguous landmass on Earth called Afro-Eurasia.

Culture

“The concept of Eurasia evokes myriad different ideas across geological, ideological, cultural, racial and artistic paradigms. Housing three quarters of the world’s population (as well as three quarters of the world’s energy resources), the Eurasian supercontinent is also home to a great plurality of cultures. It is a space where historical, contemporary and futuristic visions coexist, interact and mutate. From the ancient world to the cultural horizons to come, Eurasia has hosted the free-flow of exchanges, and possesses more capacity than ever for trans- or rather supranational thinking and cultural transformation superseding artificial distinctions of Asia and Europe”, the M HKA website says.

The ‘Eurasia’ exhibition wants to show us how our perceptions of the world are in flux. “Once the harbinger of globalisation, the Silk Road was the lifeblood of cultural and economic interaction between ‘East’ and ‘West’ for almost two millennia.” 

“The conquering of the Americas then made the world and apprehensions of humanity bigger. And now, following the rapid failure of the unipolar world and related ‘new globalism’ after 1989, and with a new balance of power emerging, Eurasia once again becomes a new horizon. In contrast to nation states, Eurasia is ambiguous, home to a growing number of new modernities and spheres of influence. We can become aware of the historical notions of Eurasia, Eurasians and Eurasianism, in all their utopian and dystopian forms, but we should also look to seize their futurity.”

The exhibition ‘Eurasia – A Landscape of Mutability‘ seeks to map innovative practices and exchanges that reflect the plurality of cultures, collaborations and conceptions of Eurasia, with all its innovations and frictions. Inspired by the artistic imagination of artists, it will consider Eurasia as a landscape of mutability. 

Tunnel vision.

“How has Eurasia inspired artists and thinkers historically, and how has this varied across the supercontinent? What can be its artistic potential, and what spaces for speculation does it offer? What new networks of exchange and mutability can be established? And what creative friction can be found at its parameters?”

“With references ranging from the exchanges between Nam June Paik and Joseph Beuys, whose long-term dialogue was titled ‘Eur-Asia‘, to the most famous travelogue of the Medieval era dictated by Marco Polo to Rustichello da Pisa, the lyricism of Marina Tsvetaeva’s poetry, the influence of the artistic and intellectual community of Santiniketan, the epic of Gilgamesh, textile and mercantile histories, and the machinations of George Orwell’s ‘1984’, we look across the contemporary Eurasian landscape. We consider the work of artists who reflect the mutability of culture, and who have developed experimental practices for inventing new forms of communication and circuits of exchange”, the M HKA says.

The visit

The exhibition is found upstairs at M HKA. Works by many artists are scattered around. Don’t forget to pick up the brochure before you get in. Read everything or just immerse in the artworks from everywhere in Eurasia.

I was lazy and I had Thanh telling me what I needed to know. Many dispayed artworks have a political and/or societal engagement. I appreciated seeing art from countries we often forget exist. Asia is more that Korea, China or Thailand. It’s also a myriad of Russian republics such as Dagestan or Tuva

After spending some two hours there, we had tea on the rooftop terras. The café features a mural by Keith Haring.

Keith Haring’s mural.

Face and nose covering masks are necessary, but book your time slot.

About 

‘Eurasia – A Landscape of Mutability is part of ‘Our Many Europes’, a project of the confederation L’Internationale. The exhibition is curated by Joanna Zielińska, Senior Curator, M HKA and Nav Haq, Associate Director, M HKA. Exhibition architecture: Samyra Moumouh.

De Cinema at De Studio is hosting a film pairing. 

M HKA’s rooftop café.

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